Someone told me the other day that they know a man who was married for many years who, after years of being nagged by his wife, began to hate the sound of his own name. To me, this is a tragic story and one that made me think about my own relationship. According to a neurological study on gender, women notice detail more than men do. These two points may seem unconnected but hear me out: If women notice detail more than men then surely in the home environment, women will be the first to notice the dirty dishes, the clutter on the dining room table or the clothes lying on the floor.
This doesn’t in any way excuse a man’s untidiness (assuming he is untidy – I know some men are so clean and tidy it terrifies even the Swiss government) it just means that women should be more patient and allow more time for a man to notice the untidiness and do something about it.
So that’s where my first point comes in. If you, as a woman, need to point out something that needs some attention, perhaps once is enough. And then bite your tongue, be patient and have faith in your partner. Too often if our partner doesn’t react quickly enough (because we noticed it long ago and it is therefore annoying us greatly by this point) we begin to remind over and over again until it becomes nagging. This can build resentment in a relationship. Such a small thing that can have big consequences.
To nag: to remind someone to do something repeatedly so that is becomes an annoying complaint
To hear someone out: to listen to their whole story/opinion
Clutter: a collection of stuff lying around in a disorganised way
Bite your tongue: don’t speak when you really want to express your opinion
Resentment: a sense of anger and bitterness because of something someone did to you
New Year relationship resolutions
When a new year dawns, we start to reassess things in our lives and our relationships are not exempt. It’s a good time to reflect on our relationships and in particular on what works and what doesn’t.
So what are some things we can think about changing?
- Be more grateful for your partner. Try to notice and appreciate what is special about your partner. So often we take these things for granted. Treat your partner like you would a good friend.
- Show more interest in your partner’s life, work and interests. Learning more about your partner will help you to appreciate them more and they will appreciate you more if you show that you care about them and are interested in their happiness.
- Be more understanding of my partner’s faults. This also means accepting that you make mistakes too. Praise more than you criticise.
- Have more fun together. Having fun together consolidates the sense that you enjoy being with each other.
Thank goodness for a new year to shake up our relationships before they go stale. There’s lots to do to keep you busy this year. Best you get moving.
Dawn: the time of day when the sun rises/the beginning of something
Exempt: excepted/excused/not included
Take for granted: just accept that something is true without appreciating it
Consolidate: makes stronger/make more secure
Shake up: change dramatically
Stale: to be old and not fresh (often used of bread)
So as the New Year approaches, it’s time to reflect on our lives and that inevitably means it’s time to reflect on our relationships. I know that many people at this point in the year can OVER-reflect and end up ending a relationship but I would caution against that. Yes, this time of the year can make mostly hibernating emotions emerge and consequently make us rethink our lives, and I absolutely support that. Do as much or as little thinking about your life as you want. It can so often lead to good things; improvements, self-growth and progress. Make decisions about what you are going to do in the year BUT hold back on acting on those decisions until the excitement of the season and the emotional upheaval that so naturally occurs this time of year have settled down.
So often we make decisions and act on them when we are not in the right frame of mind and in the cold light of day we can suddenly regret them. If you still feel the same about those decisions on, say, the 14th of January, then go ahead and act!
Emerge: appear/come into sight
Hold back on: resist/try to delay doing something
Emotional upheaval: emotional confusion/disorder
Settled down: calm down
Frame of mind: mood/mental state
In the cold light of day: in reality/after any drama has passed
Inevitably: something that will naturally happen
End up: result in
If you are single and you don’t want to be single, you can either actively look for a partner or sit back and wait for him or her to make an appearance. So you can make use of dating websites, speed-dating, or other activities that have as a goal finding a partner. Or you can just put it out into the universe that you want someone and then wait for the universe to deliver.
Those are the two options we have, right? Well maybe there’s a third option. Maybe there is something in between the active and the passive routes. How about just getting active in your life and exposing yourself to more opportunities where you could meet someone with similar interests and values. If, for example, you join a sports club or society or start a hobby that you are interested, you are likely to meet like-minded people which could lead to a relationship. You can also say ‘yes’ to any invitations. You can never tell where any of these will lead.
The added advantage of this is that even if you don’t meet ‘the one’ or even ‘a one’, you will meet new friends, have fun and feel fulfilled. And who knows who they might introduce you to? In this way, you will not be actively looking but you also won’t be not looking.
Like-minded: someone who thinks in the same way as you/has the same values and interests as you
I think one of the bravest decisions in the world is to leave a relationship that is not good for you. First of all, it takes an enormous amount of courage to acknowledge that the relationship is not good for you and to identify the ways in which it is not allowing you to grow in the right direction. Or the ways in which it is inhibiting any growth at all. Then it takes incredible strength to actually surrender to that decision to leave the relationship. A decision that will at least to some extent uproot your life, cause pain and loneliness and leave you feeling lost and sad for an indeterminate time.
And to make that decision and recognise that that is merely the beginning of an extended period of heartache is the most difficult and vital thing you can do for yourself. Once that period is over – and it will be over – you can reflect on your bravery and personal power and be proud and at peace.
People who make these decisions deserve respect, admiration and love. It’s not even necessarily about anyone being a bad person. Just two people who are bad together. It happens.
Acknowledge: accept that something is true/real
To some extent: at least a little
Uproot: (literally to pull a plant out of the ground) to change a life a lot by making sudden changes
Indeterminate: undefined/not exact/not clear
There is a song in English with the line, ‘Don’t go changing…’. In fact, there are many songs in English asking the person not to change. And I get it. It’s all very admirable. If you say these things to your partner what you are saying is that you love them just the way they are.
However, can we really suggest they never change? Isn’t change inevitable? If we are never changing, then surely we are stagnating? After all, we can always improve who we are. Ok maybe I’m overanalysing but it did make me think that we need to be understanding and flexible in our relationships. We should encourage positive change and make room for it in our relationships. If we accept that both of us will change over the course of the relationship (perhaps only in small, subtle ways), we are more likely to grow with the relationship. Assuming, of course, that the change is good for the person you care about.
I guess my point is that, getting into a relationship with someone and then getting upset or being disappointed because over time they have changed, is unrealistic. Stay close to your partner. Stay connected. Change together.
Stagnating: staying the same for so long that you begin to decline/not improve or make progress
Subtle: small, almost unnoticeable
As men and women’s roles change in society, marriage is changing too. Men and women are getting married later and it is perfectly normal, acceptable and even often expected that a couple will get married (for the first time) in their thirties. To me this is a good sign. I feel that for too long, people have been getting married for all the wrong reasons. One of those wrong reasons is that the need to conform to societal expectations – the need to not be ‘left on the shelf’. Getting married in your thirties used to mean that you were at risk of being looked down on and pitied and people would sometimes therefore take whoever came along to avoid this.
But as it becomes more and more acceptable to have children even in your forties, and the societal mind shift that marriage is not necessarily the ultimate goal of anyone over 18, the urgency to get married early weakens. We are now allowed more time to think, to decide, to find the right person and not settle for Mr or Miss ‘good enough’ and since that can only end in an unhappy marriage in years to come, to me the time and space to make a good decision is welcome.
To be left on the shelf: to not get married because no one wants you
Look down on: disrespect/think that someone is not as good as you
To pity: to feel sorry for in a negative way
Would you be ok with a friend of yours dating your ex? I did an informal survey on this and it turns out the results are a bit split. Interestingly, it seems that woman would be more against this than men. That got me thinking: would I be ok with it?
I guess it depends on a couple of things. Firstly, do I have still have feelings for this person? The relationship must have ended long enough ago that both of us have moved on. A lot. Also, did the relationship end particularly badly? Are we still on good terms? If my friend wants to date my ex, that means I’ll be seeing him more often. Can I handle that? Of course the average break up is never a fun, friendly affair, but now, a long time later, are we able to move past any hurt? Is it now obvious to us that the relationship wasn’t meant to be?
I think it would be extremely important, if you want to date your friend’s ex, to get permission from them first. Going behind their backs would amount to betrayal and possibly lead to all sorts of difficult situations. I know that exes are not our possessions, but having them back in our lives can make things awkward and hurtful if not done right.
Ultimately: be honest. Be sensitive. Be realistic.
It turns out: to happen in a particular way – often a way that you didn’t expect
To be on good terms: to have a good relationship with someone/to not have any bad feelings towards someone
Awkward: emotionally uncomfortable
There is a quote in English that goes: ‘Absence lessens half-hearted passions and increases greater ones. As the wind blows out a candle, yet stirs up the fire.’ So then if we don’t really love someone who is far away, we forget them quickly and if we are away from our true love for a long time, we only love them more, right? Well, sort of right. I agree that if you really love someone, you miss them more each day. But let’s also be honest. A long distance relationship for too long does not work. If you are trying to maintain a relationship indefinitely, from far away, at some point, that person stops being a part of your everyday life. Once that happens, it’s easy to drift apart. It’s not a failing on either side, simple a natural human response.
Eventually, you will realize your needs aren’t being met and start to wonder what the difference is between your relationship and a pen-friend. I’m not suggesting that all long distance relationships are doomed to fail but I am suggesting that if you want to try and make a long distance relationship work, you need to approach it realistically and pragmatically. Then you may have a fighting chance.
Indefinitely: without end
Drift apart: to feel less and less emotionally close to a person
Doomed to fail: destined to fail/definitely not going to work
Does anyone write love letters anymore? I’m guessing there aren’t many of the pen and paper kind around but maybe love letters have taken on new media. Of course, I guess it depends on how you define a love letter. Is an sms proclaiming your love for someone considered a love letter? Or is that just creepy? How about an email? Or a voice note? Maybe even a PowerPoint Presentation?
Surely someone, somewhere is still sending love letters in whatever form? Or is it a dying art? If so, isn’t it time we resurrected it? Admittedly they can be a little weird if unwelcome but done the right way and from the right person, love letters can be amazing affirmation of a relationship. Even and especially in a long-term relationship.
I must say, I am obviously a little old school, but there is something about a piece of paper that you can keep tucked away in a book or in your pocket that just feels so much more real. It’s tactile and personal. But then maybe I just need to join the 21st century.
Proclaiming: announcing or stating publicly
Creepy: something a little scary and weird
Dying art: a practice/convention that fewer and fewer people are using
Resurrect: rebuild/bring back to life
Tactile: you can touch it
Couples who laugh together, stay together.
They say laughter is the best medicine and it is certainly valuable in any long term relationship. Done the right way in a relationship, laughter can:
« help form a bond between you and your partner because you are sharing something (like a joke);
« (if done sensitively) help you deal with differences in your relationship
« put things into perspective – it can help you see problems in a different way
« help you through tough times
« and most importantly for me, diffuse tension – when things could suddenly get out of hand, a well-timed joke can stop it from happening.
Obviously, we need to be aware that we are not laughing at our partner or using humour to cover up what’s really going on. Honesty is still essential.
But laughter can add so much to your relationship. Time to crack a joke and get laughing!
Diffuse: make weaker
out of hand: not under control
crack a joke: make a joke
There is a famous prose poem called ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann which is full of wise advice and includes the line, ‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter’. I think this is especially true in relationships. It is so easy to compare what we have and how our relationships work with those of the people around us. But here’s the thing: we are different people. Comparing your relationship to that of another couple – no matter how similar you think you are – is really comparing apples with pears. Just not the same. Expecting to be able to create something similar with 2 people who are different is just setting you up for failure.
I think the answer is to think about your relationship from your own perspective. Stop worrying about everyone else and ask yourself, ‘Am I happy?’ If so, why change anything? If not, doing it someone else’s way will not make you happy. In that case, ask yourself, ‘what would make me happy?’
Anyway, for all you know, those people you are trying to imitate may very well be trying to imitate you. Don’t become vain and bitter. Just be you.
And while you’re at it, read the full poem at: http://mwkworks.com/desiderata.html
Prose poem: a longer poem
Vain: (negative) think you are beautiful/better than others
Bitter: angry and resentful
We are all so grateful when we find someone who can put up with our moods and crazy idiosyncrasies. I know I can be especially moody sometimes. My partner has learned to deal with this (ok, it doesn’t always come naturally – sometimes it takes work) and now knows that when I get like that, he must just let me be. At first he took it personally, and now he handles it like a pro.
So I have this thought. Maybe, when we meet someone who doesn’t ‘get’ us, it doesn’t mean that it’s a deal breaker. Maybe they just need a little time to learn about us. In the same way, it has taken me years to be ok with the fact that my partner goes quiet when something at work is stressing him out. It’s not me. And in fact asking if it is me, aggravates the problem until it actually does become me. I am glad we both put in the time and effort. And in a weird way I have enjoyed the challenge.
My point? If you really see potential in a relationship but have some issues, don’t necessarily give up. Two people can find a way to work together and enjoy it.
Idiosyncrasies: The (often strange) little things that make us who we are.
Pro: Abbreviation of professional
Deal breaker: Something that means that you want to end the relationship/something that you will never put up with
Aggravates: makes worse
When two people are in a relationship, it’s important to remember that TWO people are in the relationship. And two people cannot be expected to always have the same views and opinions of one person. So inevitably, friction, conflict and disagreements will occur. In fact if they don’t occur, then something is wrong with the relationship.
But how these issues are handled is vital and can determine the long-term success of the relationship. In a fight, try to stay in control of yourself. Avoid immature and abusive behaviour. You have a right to your feelings and a right to express them, but you need to give those feelings a voice in a constructive and not destructive way.
Always be aware of your intentions in an argument. Are you trying to be vindictive or do you really want to resolve an issue? If you need to win, then your relationship becomes a competition and your partner will have to lose in order for you to win. But this is not a competition. It’s a relationship – it’s a team effort.
Inevitably: it will certainly happen
Friction: when 2 things rub together and cause static electricity (when people disagree and get angry with each other)
Vindictive: wishing to hurt the other person
So you’ve been with your partner for long enough for all those fabulous feel-good chemicals to have worn off and now you love your partner but that mad desire has dwindled. First of all, it’s normal. Second of all, it’s important – we’d never get anything done if we were constantly wandering around filled with giddy romance. I sort of have this theory that those chemicals last as long as it takes for you to actually fall in love so that the love is there to pick up where the chemicals left off.
Anyway, however you look at it, the relationship changes over time. It can be good or bad depending on the relationship, the people involved and their intentions, desires and commitment. But even if it’s good, it still takes some adjusting to. Suddenly that cute thing he used to do is no longer obscured by your romance glasses. Suddenly it’s annoying.
Suddenly you’re not saying so many ‘me too!’s and differences are more exposed. But those differences can be amazing. They should be embraced. Not only do they add interest to the relationship, they help the other person to grow and develop. You have a choice here: get annoyed by the differences and move on, or embrace them and learn more about yourself and how you work in a relationship.
So much of the future of a relationship is up to you. Go on, enjoy the change!
Wear off: to become less and less over time
Dwindle: to slowly become less and less
Adjust: make changes to fit something better
Obscure: to hide something/make it difficult to see something
After years of relationship experience I’ve realised one of the simplest ways of increasing harmony between the two people involved. I’m not saying I’m always very good at it and I’m not saying it’s always easy. But it is a simple concept.
Just be kind.
Something happens in a relationship where two people are involved long-term. We get comfortable (good), we get honest (good), we get mean (not good). As we relax and feel comfortable with our partner, we can forget that they are on our side and start to take out our frustrations on them. In a way it’s a kind of backhanded compliment: after all, you have to trust someone to be that ‘yourself’ with them.
But maybe it’s time to reflect. Would you treat your friends the same way? So why treat one of the people you love the most in the whole world without kindness and its consequential cousin, respect? And then expect them to be kind back? In the end, as the golden rule dictates: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
So, I repeat: just be kind.
A backhanded compliment: a compliment that seems to be a compliment but is also negative
First dates are an exciting and nerve-racking part of being in the dating world. Planning a first date can be a lot of pressure. If it has fallen to you to plan the first date, here are some ideas to help inspire you. Remember to think about the person you are going with and what they might like. Allow time for conversation but with a minor distraction to give you something to talk about and take all the focus off the pressure of maintaining that conversation.
- The classic dinner and a movie combo is usually a reliable option.
- How about bowling and maybe a slice of pizza? Friendly competition.
- Or a hike – just be sure your date is the outdoorsy type
- The theatre – a little classier and original than a movie and something to talk about at intermission
- Play tourist in your own town – do all those things that usually only the tourists do
Or go to a music show, art gallery, the driving range or the aquarium.
So in a nutshell, something you think they would enjoy/are interested in which will give you a chance to get to know each other without the pressure of the focus being completely on your (hopefully) blossoming romance. Have fun!
The funny thing about our partner’s habits is that they seem so endearing in the beginning. It’s those little things that he/she does that makes them who they are and makes you love them. Then somewhere along the line – maybe just as a consequence of time, maybe a consequence of the initial excitement of the relationship wearing off – those exact habits become the very things that annoy you; the very things that cause arguments.
So how do we handle these? I guess there are at least three things to think about here: first, just remembering how much you used to love those little quirks can help ease your distress and annoyance. Second, relationships are all about communication: nice, diplomatic, kind communication. If something annoys you that much, isn’t it worth asking your partner to stop or do something different? Assuming it’s possible and/or reasonable? Very often, people don’t realise something they do is annoying and can mitigate it to an extent if asked. And thirdly, never ever forget that you too have habits and quirks that might annoy your partner. Nobody is perfect. And we wouldn’t want anyone to be perfect either.
Endearing: something that makes someone like/love you
Wear off: become less and less over time
Quirks: strange/funny little habits
Ease: to make easier/less stressful or uncomfortable
Mitigate: make less
At a conference of sociologists in America in 1977, love was defined as "the cognitive-affective state characterized by intrusive and obsessive fantasizing concerning reciprocity of amorant feelings by the object of the amorance."
The only thing I get from that is that I don’t understand it. Just like I don’t fully understand love. And why should I? I know for centuries, people have been trying to define love, but why? How will having a definition enhance our experience of it? In fact, it might do the opposite. Do we need to be able to define, categorise or otherwise label and classify it? Isn’t the appeal of love, the mystery of it? And the personal experience of it? How you experience love may be very different to how I experience it but we can agree that it is a great experience – and we may be able to compare stories. But would you be able to tell me exactly what it is? Me neither. And that’s ok. It’s a common understanding that connects us as humans. Trying to put it in a box removes the aesthetic and injects and anaesthetic
It’s just love. And when I use that word, you know what I mean. That’s enough.
The appeal of: the nice parts of something that attract you to it
Aesthetic: artistic/emotional sense of something
Anaesthetic: a drug used to make you unconscious for an operation
If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, you may find that you have fallen into a routine. Perhaps things have become a bit boring. Time for a little makeover. Now don’t panic. I’m not suggesting you go to great,exhausting lengths to overhaul your relationship. It doesn’t necessarily require much more than a few tweaks – a couple of things to make your partner feel loved, cared for and thought about.
Try leaving your partner a little love note after you’ve left for work, or surprise them with a date. Perhaps organise an evening in – movies, popcorn, cuddles. Do one of your partner’s chores without being asked. Think about what your partner likes and go from there.
The important thing is to make them feel appreciated. It is so well worth the effort because as they say in the classics, what you sow, you shall reap.
Overhaul: to improve something dramatically
Tweaks: make small changes to something
Cuddles: be physically affectionate/hold and hug someone for a longer time
What you sow, you shall reap: what you do today will affect tomorrow