Monday, March 1, 2010

The Thoughts of a Formerly Single Man in a Relationship

Well, my fellow saboteurs, here's the official announcement (in case you missed all the subtle unofficial ones):


Yes, I know! Four years of blogging various dating experiences, myriad women of intimate persuasion and, of course, the not-so-occasional tragic happenstance of being dumped. But now, I finally found, to quote Bill Hicks, "one very special woman... or a bunch of average ones" (we're still not sure about that split-personality disorder) that has made me a very happy, and very... discombobulated man.

After various requests by my girlfriend for her very own blog-post (I know, such bad form to bully me into writing about her when I'm perfectly capable of doing so quite by accident) I have created this... compendium of the various tactics -- intentional or otherwise -- by which I have managed to snare/ensnare the heart of my dearly beloved, who even now demands still more stories like she the prince and I Scheherazade.

(Ahh, but Love does strange things to a man. Makes him blind in pieces, like Percy Sledge always sang, "when a man / loves a woman / he'd give up all his comfort / sleep out in the rain / if she said that's the way it ought to be", and so I write to you facetiously, because the truth is I am very much in love.)

Here are the methods to the madness of my relationship:

1. Honesty.

Obvious? Obviously. But still so under-practiced. Many a lover has failed to understand the genius of just telling your partner when stuff happens. I mean, I'm guessing at least half of all little fights could be prevented if you just said that some random guy/girl was hitting on you in the first place! (Just as an example.)

Honesty is the best policy because it doesn't offer excuses, only truth. It doesn't complicate things, doesn't confuse them, doesn't make them ugly by pretending to be beautiful. It shows our flaws or mistakes as small things, like shadows play monstrous at night but disappear by day.

Above all, I value being honest whenever talking with my girlfriend because it stops problems from coming up before they even start. Nip them in the bud, so to speak. Besides, who wouldn't want to tell their lover anything/everything? I mean, isn't that the point? You finally got someone who has to listen to you, if only because they want you happy enough to do the same.

Which leads me to my next point...

2. Conversation.

If you can't talk to your lover, then you might as well just give up now and save yourself a whole lot of heartbreak. Sure, there are romantic examples in the annals of high-falutin literature where couples said barely a word to each other (I'm thinking of Jonathan Safran Foer here, or Salman Rushie) but that's not even true, because they were talking. They were just doing it by other means.

You need to be able to talk to your partner. Because when those wrinkles and kids come, when the passion lulls or the excitement dulls, you're going to have to pass the time somehow. "How was your day darling?" only goes so far... You can't build a lasting relationship on pleasantries. You need to be able to rant and rave. You need to be able to confide and laugh. You need to be able to debate and philosophize. You need to be able to share the thoughts in your minds.

And you'll be surprised, if you just try, that when before you wondered, "what will we talk about for the next 45 to 50 years?" now, suddenly, there's not enough time in the day to share! All you need to do is open up and trust the other person to listen. (Which they had better if they want the same. And on to my next point...)

3. Reciprocity.

This is the Golden-Rule with a twist.

Don't do anything to your partner you wouldn't want them to do to you. But also! Definitely do to them what you want them to do to you.

See what I'm getting at here?

You want a massage? Give one. You want some breakfast in bed? Make them some. You want an ear or shoulder to vent with? Listen first. You want a little something extra sexually? Ye must give if ye are to receive!

There's more to giving than just these small gestures though. It's about sharing yourself and letting your partner share with you. It's about the simple exchange of your personalities, so that each is indebted to the other and neither feels neglected. It's about the action as much as the sentiment.

I cannot stress the necessity of being as fully committed to the relationship as your lover. And nothing makes this more obvious than reciprocity. It's those little actions which speak louder than words that make people realize you're good to them, and so they'll be good to you to keep getting what you're giving.

4. Avoid cliches.

Don't go through the motions of past relationships. Don't buy the same bouquet you bought for your prom date. Don't take your dates to the same place every time. Don't reuse the same pseudo-romantic lines from your ex-whatever!

This might be difficult for you non-creative types (which are something like 80-90% of the population) but you'll have to actually try to be new and original for the person you're with. Don't treat them like a replacement, complete with the same conversations you gave your last partner. Treat them like they're special and unique -- because they are -- and maybe you'll realize that this is a new thing, not an old thing with a different face.

Example: I write my girlfriend poetry, which she loves. But I don't write her the same poetry I wrote the last girl. I might have similar feelings, but not the same. I might have similar experiences, but not the same. She might be a girl, but not the same girl. Get it? We all go through similar things when it comes to love, dating, and relationships, but not the same thing.

Embrace the characteristics that make your lover who they are, that make you attracted to them for who they are. It might be difficult not to feel like you're rehashing old ideas, because how many ways can you say, "I love you"?

Well, you'd be surprised. Because there are quite a lot.

5. Never go to bed angry.

This is an old-fashioned idea I got from my mother. (So I know it's good! Even though many people would disagree with me.) It basically means never let anger, frustration, jealously, or other emotions simmer beneath the surface of your relationship.

Sure, we all have ugly feelings now and again. We all get pissed, say things we don't mean, act ways unlike ourselves. We all make mistakes. But! If we allow those mistakes to go by without addressing them, without talking about them, without closure or acceptance, or better yet understanding, then the relationship will boil over eventually. And it won't be pretty.

For my part, I tend to obsess over making sure things are "good" after a fight, because I know (and this is my sexism coming out) that women tend to let things slide for the present and save them later on to use in the future. It's almost like they're saving ammunition for World War III.

And it makes me feel better knowing that when I go to sleep, my girlfriend and I are comfortable next to each other in bed. I like knowing that I can close my eyes. Because whatever shit we have, we can work it out, and leave it in the ever-present pile of hers&mine. Because we fucking love each other enough to grow-up and get over it.

It doesn't mean you can't take time out to think, or go off by yourself to lose some heat, because that's important too. But if you calm down and forget the whole thing happened, well, shit, don't be surprised that the same issue is coming up again!

So when I say don't go to bed angry, I mean don't let the little -- and sometimes big -- things that come up in the relationship grow because you don't want to/know to/have time to deal with them.

Anyhoo, overall I'm happy to be in a relationship.

It's been so long I realize just how much I forgot about being a boyfriend. I'm beginning to notice that sometimes it takes getting used to when before I was always by myself to do whatever I wanted. Now I have a responsibility to this other person, and while I love it, I'm still often confronted with how... accustomed to bachelorhood I'd become in the interim of four long goddamn years.

Sometimes it's difficult to imagine the days ahead, or if they'll even come -- and sometimes I look at the whimsical future and smile, because the mutual love between her and I is comfortable in ways too subtle and complex for me to even begin to comprehend.

For the most part it's always the basic things which prove the most surprising, and often difficult. The story of how we met. Anniversaries and gifts. Meeting the parents. Fighting off flirtatious women without my girlfriend killing them. Stuff like that.

I am particularly stubborn about the issues of leaving my toilet seat up. While my girlfriend loudly complains about my habit, referencing dramatic claims of endangering her ass, which might -- somehow, mysteriously -- fall into said waste-receptacle, as well as numerous precedents of gentlemanly conduct, I am still unconvinced.

For one, it's my toilet! I pay the bills for it. I maintain and clean it. Hell, I'm the one most often pissing in it. I say by my rights of ownership and current rates of use, I'm entitled to rip the toilet seat off and wear it around my neck for all I care.

For two, why is it assumed that "toilet seat: down" is the correct way to leave it? As I recall, toilets have no default position. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, there are no rules per se governing the location of toilet seats in relation to their horizontal/vertical position.

These codes of conduct are (I believe) a conspiracy by feminists to enslave man to the banal task of repositioning seat-covers so that we may be more easily moved toward compliance with the overall goal of world domination by the female gender!

But back to my relationship.

(For more about the on-going Toilet Seat Debate see [this website])

Aside from this small/HUGE issue, we are basically happy. No sexual grievances, or public embarrassments (minus her snide comments that I walk funny). No conflicts of interest, or feelings of being misunderstood.

We even fart in front of each other! (Sorry baby, but you do!) Which just goes to show you that women have the same pipes as men, only different faucets.

Yes, I'm quite content in this situation of entanglement with a beautiful woman who is like my best-friend, only we get to have sex! She's amazing and wonderful and constantly surprising. We couldn't be better off together than Odysseus and Penelope.


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