I’m gonna get a little long-winded and sappy today guys, so bear with me. If any of you follow along regularly with this column (Hi, Mom!) then you know that 6 month ago my manfriend and I decided to leave the East Coast and move to Hawai’i where we would pursue a shared creative dream (form a production company, write/produce/direct feature films) and live together…for the first time.
That’s right, our first shot at cohabitation also coincided with moving thousands of miles away from everyone we know, and starting a business together while working—wait for it—from the 800 square foot studio apartment we also live in. Totally nuts, right? Social isolation + fresh cohabitation + seriously stressful project = disasterland, right?
It could be, and we knew that coming into it. The last serious relationship I was in ended after cohabitation began. I often attribute the failure of that relationship to a loss of a once shared vision–the vision of what made it good in the first place. It wasn’t a bad relationship. It was a healthy, loving one. But it lost, at risk of sounding like a hunk of gouda, that “sparkle.”
I think many of us—especially my generation—seem to think that the “sparkle” in a relationship should come naturally, as if we’re entitled to it. And if it’s not there, or it isn’t there anymore, then you move on. But relationships, the good ones, take a crapton of effort.
And so I’m working. One thing I have been working on lately is the ability to laugh at the little things. I’m an Aries, and a major type A girl. I like to get things done, and I’m used to them being done my way, because in all honesty I’m usually the one doing ’em. I think this is probably an exhausting personality type to maintain a relationship with. To anyone who has ever dated me: Good freakin’ job. And, uh, sorry for all of the anxiety-driven tantrums. My b.
So I’m working on letting go, and not only choosing my arguments, but laughing at them.
A good example of this happened while prepping dinner the other night. My boyfriend, P, was frying up some veggie burgers while I did the dishes. I was annoyed (over something little) and he was annoyed (over something little) and we were cranky at each other. He asked if I wanted to role play.
No, not the sexy kind. He wanted to be me, and he wanted me to be him. And then he wanted to have a conversation about why we’re pissed, from the other person’s perspective, to try and gain an understanding. That sounds sort of dangerous, I thought. I could only imagine how hurtful his impression of me might be. Ah but there was a twist, you see! P said we had to do the exercise in song.
P loves to sing with an enthusiasm that is almost child-like in it’s genuineness. If he is making a peanut butter sandwich, he is probably singing out loud about his PBJ. He sings about the geckoes pooping on the counter, about the weather, about his excitement over upcoming social plans. He sings all of the time, without realizing it. His life is narrated in song.
I don’t like to sing much, because it makes me self conscious. But I was excited P was making an effort to fix the foul mood, so I went along. We did the exercise, and within minutes, we were howling with laughter. When set to music, our problems seemed as trite and ridiculous as they really were. For an unexplainable reason, P picked How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria as a tune to argue to, so that made the entire thing funnier.
I’m not saying you all need to go sing songs about why the laundry didn’t get done or who spends too many hours on Tumblr. But I think we gained some much needed perspective on what really does not matter at all, not in the long run, which is important if it’s the long run you’re aiming for.
Some little things, however, do matter. Not the little annoyances, but the little joys. Not to get morose, but sometimes P and I sit around and talk about what we would miss most if things didn’t work out. This usually happens around 2 am when I can’t sleep and am being neurotic. (Again, to all my exes, I commend you.)
It’s usually when a relationship is over that you have time to cherish the small things—a dimple, a certain way someone smiles, their penchant for absentmindedly serenading the geckos. Those are the things you end up missing, but they probably weren’t the things you paid attention to when the relationship was still alive and kicking.
It’s important to appreciate those little things while they’re still around. I think a combination of savoring the good moments and disregarding the bad ones (the ones that don’t really matter) will help solidify a long-standing relationship. Finding that combo can be hard, and you might need to sing a song about the hair on the bathroom sink to get there. But don’t forget to laugh. Because if you don’t laugh at yourself, I am sure someone else will…
I originally posted this article on www.ieatgrass.com. Check out that site, cause it’s pretty cool.