Long-term Relationships: Holy Grail or Crying Shame?
I was in a restaurant abroad with a group of girlfriends, some old, some new when the subject of partners came up. Only one member of the group knew I’d been in the same relationship for over fifteen years, since the age of 18. The reaction of the others was unexpected. There was a unanimous dropping of jaws, followed by “you poor thing”, and “why?”
Fortunately, I have a sense of humour, and found their responses hilarious, but it got me thinking. Is monogamy the Holy Grail, or, as my friends saw it, a crying shame.
As a female growing up in Trinidad, I found the whole marriage thing very confusing and contradictory. At school, the pressure was on to study and to avoid the opposite sex. The same pressure came from my mother whose only desire for me, it seemed, was to have a career, and not get pregnant (usually said in the same breath). Yet any male within three feet had to have ‘serious intentions’.
Then there was the whole mistress thing. Ah not naming names, but ah knew a lot of people who were horning dey wife. My mother said, “That’s just the way men are”.
So seeing all that confusion, frankly, I was not too keen on the whole marriage thing. But life has a way of playing tricks on us, and nearly every fellow I went out with asked me to marry him, and eventually I got a vaps, and, with no thought or much planning, I got married. And no, I wasn’t pregnant. I’m just a big fan of not over-thinking things.
Now, I’m quite a few years down the married road, and this monogamy, long-term relationship takes a lot of work. As I lean on my side of the fence and look over at what’s happening on the other side, the high of new relationships, the devastation of divorce, the bliss in a successful second marriage, I contemplate the pros and cons.
Some would say it’s like comparing a well-worn, old pair of shoes to a brand new, to-die-for pair of heels (that if you ask me could pinch your feet too much). Others would say it’s like having the same meal every day, for the rest of your life. I think if either is your view, then a long-term relationship isn’t for you.
A long-term relationship needs willing participants on both sides, as it’s not plain sailing and you do have to compromise (yuh hear that Kim Kardashian). Another important point people in a long-term relationship often forget is that fairy tales are based on fiction, not reality. So when your knight in shining armour turns out to be a real person with all the associated human traits, that is not a reason to end the partnership; that’s when the work begins.
Now, of course, any relationship should not be just work; there are many bonuses to a long-term relationship as well. The relaxed feeling you get with someone you know so well, them knowing what you like, you knowing what they like and the lack of pressure. Ok; you still have to make an effort, but not all the time. You should be able to relax in front the TV in yuh headscarf, curlers and no makeup, and know they won’t run away screaming. If you go out to the cinema, new restaurant or a lime and it stale, you don’t feel awkward; you both just chillax.
That’s not to say you should take the other person for granted, so make sure you avoid falling into a rut. Mix it up sometimes; surprise your partner.
You are going to have good days and bad days, but as long as the good days outweigh the bad, and you both want to be in the relationship long-term, then good luck.
For those ladies who feel ready for a long-term relationship, this is a leap year, so now is your chance.
It isn’t for everyone. As a girlfriend of mine said, she knew it wasn’t for her when every time she saw her husband (now ex), she wanted to stab him. Definitely time to move on, and quickly, at that point.
Some people see marriage or a long-term relationship as an obstacle to their careers and life. They feel they would be held back, and in some cases they may be right. Not every partnership allows both individuals to flourish. But there are the lucky ones whose partners fully support each other and the relationship is symbiotic, with satisfaction on both sides.
Remember, in any relationship, thoughtfulness goes a long way, and thanks costs nothing, but it’s worth a lot.
For those who feel you’re missing out because you’re married or in a long-term relationship, whether male or female, maybe the relationship isn’t right for you. But before you act in haste, consider what you are losing by not being in a long-term, loving, committed relationship.
As a friend said, “I love being in a long-term relationship. Who else would I have to watch Star Trek re-runs with?”
I think, for me anyway, that sums up the comfort and closeness that differentiates short-term highs from long-term happiness.