Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Major Key to Happy Relationships

He left last Thursday morning. The nights are the worst. He used to read in bed, scratch my head, and I would massage his foot. Those were the good times. Now, I am left alone in a king bed, still sleeping on “my side”, not daring to sleep in the middle lest I get used to it.

But this is good.

He’s off for a week on one of his rafting/canoeing trips exploring rivers and canyons he hasn’t been to yet. He is having a swell time.

Me, too. I have breakfasts and lunches with friends and watch movies and TV shows he hates. And I can scatter the contents of drawers I am reorganizing all over the place. He hates messes. And I hate having to clean up a project before I finish it. See how perfect this is!

One absolutely critical key to having the kind of relationship we have is that we have our separate interests. We each give the other space to pursue those interests. We’re kind of a two-circleVenn Diagram.

He has his interests and pursuits. I have mine. And there are a whole bunch of things in the intersection that we enjoy together. (Sorry I couldn’t figure out how to draw a Venn Diagram, and none of the onlines ones I found could be copied here.)

Research and common sense articles about what makes relationships work almost always include this one: You are happier together if you are both strong, independent people who function very well without the other.

If you are clingy, desperate to mop up every drop of her attention, it will wear thin. If all you can talk about are the experiences you’ve shared, you are boring. She’ll be outta there!

If she clings to you, smothers your individuality, controls your movements and interactions, you’ll feel stifled. You want to say to her, “Get a life!”

The most successful people in life and in relationships are those who can go off on their own and develop side interests, skills, hobbies, and friends. Then, when appropriate, and you rejoin for a shared experience, you have things to talk about and demonstrate.

When I was in high school, prepping for my first date, I distinctly remember the panic I felt when wondering what we would talk about for three hours! (That’s why so many first dates are at the movies. Pressure is off for most of the three hours.)

Then my mind went to THE FUTURE. Someday, I’d likely marry. As I intended to stay married, I started wondering what ever would we find to talk about for 50+ years? Funny, eh? Only it wasn’t at the time.

I didn’t realize then that my own insatiable curiosity about learning, my wide-ranging reading interests, and my basic personality which caused me to seek crowds of different kinds of people, were two of the reasons I would never have trouble carrying on conversations over years of being together.

It was that strength of identity, among other things, that got DH’s attention. He had only been with dependent, clingy women, so I was a relief. He didn’t have to babysit me at parties. In fact, he’d come looking for me after a while just so we could have some time together.

There’s a caveat (isn’t there always?) with being independent and self-confident. IF the couple doesn’t make time for togetherness, plan shared experiences, allow for quiet reflective time in one another’s company, they may grow so far apart that they no longer remember why they got together in the first place. You’ve heard of the fear when couples contemplate the “empty nest syndrome”. They wonder, just as when they were teens, whatever will they find to talk about.

So, go off. Explore your interests and ideas. Develop new skills and hobbies. But be sure to plan frequent date nights and to have togetherness routines like a before-dinner glass of wine each night. Be the strong, independent, interesting person you can be. And then share your growth with the one who brings the most color to your life.

Next week, Romance Righter hosts J.L. Greger writing about “Relationships Sell.”  Please stop in to see what she has for you!

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