A number of people I know are going through relationship breakdowns and breakups. As I contemplate their painful transitions, I can't help but see the flipped reflection in my own life.
I am a very lucky woman. I met the love of my life very early: I was just approaching my nineteenth birthday (we'll just skip over mention of his age - save that discussion for another day). We recently celebrated 23 years (whew!) of love, laughter, and occasional creative contemplations of murder, and we both feel truly blessed by the depth of the bond we have: We are best friends and lovers.
I have learned what I know to be true in my heart, what I need and what I want, and to stand up for how I deserve to be treated, and even more important, I am learning every day (practice, practice, practice) to convey and request all that without blame or recrimination. I have also learned that a couple can indeed be independent together. I'd love to share a few more things I've learned - you may find them helpful, or not. I cannot claim consistent application or great proficiency in these skills, but I can vouch for their efficacy when applied to relationships.
1. Take the time to come together at night in peace and share your experiences of the day, what's been on your mind, what you're looking forward to tomorrow. If you are fortunate enough to have a few moments together in the mornings, share your dreams of the previous night.
2. Enjoy each other. Remember to laugh together every day, especially at yourselves and especially after a fight. Avoid teasing one other in a contemptuous or sarcastic manner- that kind of verbal sparring disguises judgment and disdain beneath a cloak of humourous banter. No one should need to keep a thicker skin around their life partner. They are your safe place.
3. The cliche about not going to bed angry - it's important. I've blown that one and paid for it miserably at least once a season: it merely leaves us both unrested and sore in both body and heart, and we sheepishly make-up the next day anyway. Better to skip the overnight suffering.
4. When you find yourselves at an apparent impasse, you can both get your needs met if you learn to really listen. Your positions may seem unresolvably opposed, but they're probably not. Remember to ask: do I want to be happy or do I want to be right? Nine times out of ten you'll answer happy. Just look inside yourself to find why the issue at hand is so important to you and share those underlying feelings. Ask your partner to do the same in return with compassion and trust, with no judgment of each other's feelings - they're all valid at the time you feel them. You will discover some very creative ways to compromise if you reaffirm to each other that you're on the same team, and you may both surprise yourselves by reevaluating whether you really want what you thought you do.
Oh, yes: Knitting content. Ahem. I also know from experience that no matter how kinkily tempting they may be, dairy products and sugary substances DO NOT belong in the bedroom. Substitute some of Knitty's homemade candy lingerie instead. Get a bag of red candy laces, and this knitting pattern from Kitty's naughty summer 2004 issue 302 calories (Has anyone actually tried this one? Please comment!)
Feel free to use or ignore any of the advice above - except the caveat regarding dairy - trust me on this one!