Relationships, marriage; same sex or whatever you choose – staying together for the long haul is hard. No, it really is. Staying married for nearly 25 years is the hardest thing I’ve done and I’ve done a few scary things in my time. Why am I still here? Love I hope; certainly the beloved off-spring, not to mention a hideous financial entanglement. Not that I’m claiming transcendental happiness or anything approaching the idyllic married state but I’ve observed a thing or two over the years and I think there are a few key factors, most of them, curiously enough, beginning with F.
1. Fighting/falling out. Once the ‘honeymoon’ is over, when the bliss edges back and the reality of him/her and a future together kicks in you are going to fall out. It’s inevitable. It’s not so much that you fight or disagree (you actually should, otherwise you’re probably a sheep), it’s more about how you fight and how you make up. We all say things in the heat of the moment, we threaten and bluster and cry. But we must not hit – either physically or below the belt. That sort of fighting is corrosive and is what kills the love and respect you need for each other to keep it together.
2. Forgiving. You have to learn to forgive each other. Saying sorry helps, but you have to mean it. You have to be able to let go of the argument, the hurt and the upset. It takes time but it has to be let go – genuinely. If not it will just keep on rearing its ugly old head every time you fall out. Accept the weakness and humanity of your lover – you want them to accept yours, after all. Forgiveness means you accept them as they are – weaknesses and foolishness and all – love them anyway, and are in the midst of an adult relationship that can sustain attacks on its battlements without letting the walls cave in, leaving the edifice to crumble to ruins. But if you can’t forgive, and there are somethings that are unforgivable – different lines in the sand for all of us – you must go; don’t stay and be miserable, infecting your children or your own life. To re-state – forgiveness must be genuine to work.
3. Forgetting. You must do this and not do this. You must forget the hurt and the unkind words from your battles, otherwise they eat away at you and undermine you, and the relationship. Forgive and forget goes together for a reason. You do need to do both – its the twin peaks of starting again after the fury of the fight. But there are things that cannot be forgotten! Yes, birthdays, anniversaries, allergies, favourite colour, dress/shirt size, your song, how you met, etc. These things you must know, commit to memory because they show you care, you’re paying attention, you know what’s important to your lover. Write things down if you’re hopeless at remembering. It’s not worth the distress of your lover if you forget their birthday, your anniversary and then make up with the wrong sort of chocolates, you’ll just end up falling out and finding it very hard to be forgiven!
4. Fucking. Well, yes. It’s central – no matter how old you get, it’s the heart and soul of it all. Do it as much as you want, whenever, but perhaps not where-ever, anymore. Do not read anything about Sting and Trudy Styler ever. Always remember how much you lusted after their body when you were first together, and how nice it is now that you’re not quite as fab as you were that you’re still wanted, still desirable.
5. Friends. Keep your own. Do not immerse yourself so utterly in your lover that you jettison your own mates. Especially don’t get rid of yours and take up his. You need your friends to be your old/true self with, to do things with that you can’t do with your lover. You need your friends when you fight and need someone to help you back to the path of forgiveness, or to tell you when it is really and truly over. You also need to be friends with your lover. Lust and passion fades but friendship endures. Being friends as well as lovers is one of the big secrets to staying together.
6. Finances. What kills relationships? Sex and money. You need enough of both to keep the relationship boat afloat. Being without enough money destroys the passion, kills the love. But what do you do? Shared finances, separate accounts but agreements on shared payments? It’s very tricky, both can work, both can fail. For my money, you need some independence here, you need to agree on big ticket items and you must talk about money on a regular, sensible basis. Once you lock in formally to each other (marry) you carry their financial burdens as yours. Divorce is messy, costly and you will lose. So face up to being an adult and talk about money – preferably after sex, when you’re both chilled and bathed in the glow of love, then you’ll avoid another fight and manage to keep your ship of state steaming ahead out there on those stormy waters.
Helpful? Hope so.