Sunday, February 14, 2016

Complacency is the Death of Romance: 15 Ways to Not Take Your Partner for Granted

Today is Valentine’s Day, and though I wrote this entry a week ago, I waited to post it. I’ve never really understood why Valentine’s Day is such a thing, why people buy into this theory that they need a specific day to be romantic and display their love. Despite being based on a pure sentiment, the day itself is contrived, it’s materialistic, and it’s unfulfilling. Valentine’s Day, for me, detracts from what makes truly great relationships shine. 

It’s simple: If you care about someone, love them even, then show them every single day. Not by grand gestures but by simple things and the way you treat them.  (Grand gestures are ok too) Romance, seduction, flirting, and courting our other half are essential parts of any relationship and should be ongoing throughout, not delegated to specific days.  

The death of any romantic relationship is complacency.  It’s so easy to do (in fact it’s harder to not let it happen) but happen it does, slowly building up before it overtakes the entire relationship. There comes a point where we stop appreciating and trying and start taking our significant other for granted, which can lead to a myriad of destructive choices.  Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it, but if we’re at the receiving end, the feeling is overwhelming. We feel under appreciated, we crave attention and long for the way things were before we got so comfortable. It’s dangerous on both sides, for feeling rejected and unloved drives us to deep levels of unhappiness which can cause us to act out, whether it be for attention or simply to feel loved again.

It seems that in every relationship I’ve ever been in, or been privy to, there is always a time where someone says the romance has fizzled out, that “He doesn’t flirt with me anymore” or “She doesn’t appreciate everything I do for her/us” comes in, and with that, resentment and a yearning to feel validated and desired.  It can break our heart, our spirit, and our desire to try.

Now, we’re not na├»ve enough to believe or expect that long term, stable relationships can operate as they did when they just started out. That would be unrealistic and frankly unhealthy. Naturally, as relationships progress, the stardust of the intoxicating honeymoon stage settles and shifts into a routine. The real, every day life. In many ways, the stability of this is wonderful: we know who were are and where we’re supposed to be, but it doesn’t change the fact that we all want to feel like the person we’re sharing our life with feels as lucky to have us as we do them.

I’ve been speaking to both men and women about this. As usual, there seems to be a disconnect. In fact, it’s a wonder at all that we’re able to sustain relationships, when the way we think can be so different. The only thing that we have in common, is that we have the same fundamental needs and desires, it’s just the way we want them to be expressed comes in different forms.

The more I spoke to people the more I realized how easy it could be, if we stop thinking about it from our perspective and start considering theirs. That’s the crux of the issue, I think, the misunderstanding of what the opposite sex wants and needs to feel valued.

It’s very easy, as a woman, to complain that once our man has caught us, that he stops trying. We recount the early days when he flirted with us and complimented us. When we’d blush and giggle. We no longer feel like we’re being seduced, but instead there is an expectation that we’re theirs and that’s a given. We love them, so they don’t think we’ll leave them. We don’t want to leave them but we want them to want us. To find us alluring, and magical and be slightly in awe of the fact that we reciprocate their feelings. We feel that once we’re established, these things stop, and they stop making us a priority.

 In our minds: we’re easy. We just want attention, appreciation, and affection. We want flowers because it’s Tuesday, not because it’s Valentine’s Day. We want you to tell us that we’re beautiful and that you love being with us. We want you to kiss us like you’ve never kissed us before and love us like we’re being reunited after months. We want to feel considered, not like an after thought. We want you to notice our new outfit, or that we cut our hair, and just randomly compliment something about us. We know you see us all the time, that we can be annoying, and deep down we know you’re with us because you want to be, but that doesn’t mean the reminders aren’t valued.  When we don’t get these things, we act out, become disenchanted and unhappy.

Now this is our fault too, as I’ll highlight below because women also stop trying, though, like men, we don’t realize it as comfort and complacency creep in.

I’ve been told, are not as complex as women, though I know many who will disagree. A friend of mine (a man) told me the other day that “Men are easy, we just want our partner to keep trying, to have sex with us,  to need us, and to be nice to us.” Which sounds almost identical to what women want. So where’s the issue?

When we first start dating someone, we tend to make an effort: with our appearance, our demeanor etc. We style our hair, wear flattering outfits, and compliment the man we’re with. We’re appreciative of the little things he does to show he cares and we mention it. We thank him for things like, picking up the milk, or making us a cup of tea in the morning…until we stop. We stop recognizing that those are very nice things, thoughtful things, and we start expecting them. “Thanks for the coffee” turns into “You didn’t make my coffee?” or “Ugh this coffee is too strong/sweet/milky” We stop asking for their help and start resenting when they offer advice.  Instead of thanking them for being considerate and trying to make our lives easier, we pick out the things they’re not doing or saying.

This is a huge mistake. Just like men can’t expect women to just “be there because they’ve been won over” women can’t expect men to continue their practical displays of affection because “that’s what they always do.”

 We feel comfortable with them so we go from making an effort to not even brushing our hair. We want to feel desirable yet we fail to replicate the things we did to attract them in the beginning. (Now I am not suggesting, by any means, that women walk around like Barbie dolls. Makeup free and yoga pants are great, and if you can’t be comfortable in that with your partner, I think that’s sad. It’s also unrealistic, job, life, kids, come into play and their simply isn’t the time to primp every day.) But sometimes it needs to happen. Sometimes we need to make the effort to show that we want them to find us attractive.

So here are some simple rules to not take your partner for granted:
  1. Every day, think of something you love about them. Tell them.
  2. Regularly do something considerate for them
  3. Thank them for the little (and big things) they do
  4. Express feelings. Because we think so differently, and we assume that once someone’s with us that they should be able to read our minds or “just know.” They can’t and they don’t, and because of this we become angry and resentful. Talk to each other. And listen.  REALLY listen. Maybe you won’t understand why someone feels a certain way or needs something, but if it’s important to them, and they’re important to you, it’s worth it to try and understand and more importantly, to actually do it. There is nothing worse than having to tell someone the same thing over and over again.
  5. Let your partner be your partner. This sounds so basic but we often shut people out: maybe we’re trying to protect them, or be the strong one, or don’t even think about it, but everyone wants to feel needed, and they want to feel like they’re on the same team as the person they’re sharing their life with. Let them in.
  6. Go on dates. Real ones.  Make a plan for this, maybe it’s once a week, once a fortnight, or once a month, but have the time set aside and do it properly.
  7. Break routine.
  8. Call/text/email  them for no other reason than to let them know that you’re thinking about them.
  9. Kiss. A lot.
  10. Have sex. Even if you’re exhausted or not in the mood. And be present in the moment.  A huge part of having someone finding you desirable is for you to desire them in return.
  11. Stop complaining. No one is perfect, and that doesn’t mean letting everything slide, but nitpicking is unsexy and often times unnecessary. It’s easy to do, and easier to lash out on those closest to us, but is highly damaging.
  12. Give them space. Everybody needs space.
  13. Stop being selfish. Just think about it from their perspective…how they might feel, what they might want.
  14. Never stop seducing them
  15. Have fun with them. Laugh. Stop over-analzying and being serious all the time, and just have fun

Now obviously, I’m not married. But I have more married friends than single ones, and several serious long term relationships under my belt, and an interest in human psychology and relationships in general. I ask people questions and I listen to their answers and am not surprised when I discover that, generally, we’re all the same. I know that no relationship is perfect and that you can’t actually make a list of rules and expect for life to not come in and affect them. However, I also know that relationships require maintenance, they can’t just survive on past sentiment, but instead need an active approach to stay fresh and be reminded of why we got into them in the first place.

There is no worse feeling in the world than feeling like the person we love is taking us for granted and that we’re not special anymore, and unfortunately, the balance between routine and romance is a difficult one to navigate. But people do it, and I think the first step is awareness, followed by taking steps to ignite sparks, appreciate, focus on the good, and truly love someone for what they bring to the table vs what we wish they had. People, for the most part, respond to positive reinforcement over criticism, those who feel appreciated tend to work harder. If we feel loved, we give love. If we feel happy, we make those around us happy. It’s simple and highly complex at the same time.

The bottom line is this: just because we won someone over doesn't mean we automatically receive the benefits that come with them loving us. We have to work, to try, and appreciate.

Good luck and happy Valentine’s Day.

Thanks to everyone for the input and to J who repels the very notion of complacency.