If no one ever told you how important it is to maintain your relationships, then I’ll take this opportunity to do it.
Maintain your damn relationships.
Think about it like this: If you ever owned a vehicle, you know the importance of upkeep. You have to get oil changes, new tires, keep it gassed, buy the occasional brake pad, replace the occasional windshield wiper. To keep that car running as smooth as possible, you have to put in time, effort, and resources. Otherwise, it’s going to konk out on you, and then you’ll be at the bus stop looking stuck, ’cause your ride is gone and you can’t afford an Uber. Or maybe you can, who knows? It doesn’t change the fact that in this scenario you’re screwed if you don’t do any maintenance on your car. And you wouldn’t be able to blame anyone but yourself.
Relationships work the same way. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking friendship, romantic, or familial. A relationship is a relationship, and the general rules apply (for the sake of this writing, we’ll touch more on romantic relationships). Now, what is the biggest rule?
Don’t let your relationship die because you can’t be bothered to put in the work. If you choose that path, do not be surprised when a last minute ditch effort to salvage your relationship doesn’t work. Believe it or not, but these things do have expiration dates.
Listen, I totally understand the romantic notion that love is more than enough to conquer all obstacles. It’s sweet and full of frills, fluff, and everything we were ever taught by Disney. But it isn’t real life. Good men and women exist, yes. But Prince Charmings and sweet princesses waiting for rescue do not. If you desire a “happily ever after,” prepare yourself to work for it, and even then life may throw you a curveball or two. So that whole “Romeo and Juliet” type of romance and love, yeah, pretty naïve, and if you’re over the age of 12, you’re too big for that. Just sayin’.
The Honeymoon Phase
If you’re lucky enough to connect with someone who loves and respects you and you reciprocate those affections, give the relationship a try. Just understand that the honeymoon phase will eventually dry up. It doesn’t always mean that something is wrong or that your partner is bad. Don’t misunderstand me. For argument’s sake, let’s say this is a good relationship. No abuse, no cheating, no games.
The honeymoon period will still dry out. Trust me.
Anyway, once you stop feeling butterflies in your belly when you hear his or her voice and the sex has become a way to ease a physical ache without that pesky intimacy, what do you do next? How long do you continue to monotonous routine of a scheduled existence with another person? If your answer is to just ride it out because you love him or her, you’ve already messed up.
Think about the car for a second. When you drive it off the lot, it runs perfectly. However, once it begins to make a little noise, do you continue to ride it out because it once worked perfectly? Hell no. So why do you treat love that way?
Look, some things you can’t ride out. When his check engine light comes on, it’s because he needs something he’s not getting. When her check engine light comes on, it’s because she’s tired of the same routine. Maybe there are other problems; it doesn’t matter. The point is, once you realize there is a problem, speak on it and seek a solution with your partner. Don’t wait for the problem to evolve into an issue.
Note: Problems have easy or known solutions. Issues are more complicated with no real discernible answer. You…you don’t want issues.
Closed mouths don’t get fed. You should aim for true communication with your partner, don’t just talk to get your point across. Listen. Engage in dialogue. Don’t just make angry or indifferent noises in their general direction. That seems to be an ongoing thing I’m noticing. A whole lot of couples don’t know how to speak to the person they say they love. Well, for starters, effective speaking requires active listening. Begin there.
Love vs Like
That brings me to another point. Aside from communication issues, a lot of folks love their partners but don’t like them. Or they really don’t know them. Either one is sad as hell.
Here’s the thing. You can love a person, but not like them. Don’t believe me? Think about a relative or close friend you love to death from afar but can only handle in small doses up close and personal. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.
See, a lot of us tend to fall in love with the representative we meet during the honeymoon phase. That image, the potential of a person, is who we latch onto. But how often do we take the time to get to know our partners after the initial thrill is gone? A lot of times when we realize we love a stranger we may not like, it’s because the love we had was a thin from the start. Love isn’t always enough. You got to like ’em too. And guess what? If you maintain your friendships through common interests, open communication, and quality time, doesn’t it make sense to do the same with your partner? You would think…
Relationships take work. They require time and consideration between two willing parties. Some days you’ll have smooth sailing, and other days you’ll need some maintenance work. That’s just how it is. There’s no such thing as riding the relationship out without putting your hand to plow at some point. But don’t wait until the last minute to decide it’s time to put in work. Waiting until the eleventh hour to give some consideration to your partner looks like you care…in theory. In reality, it looks like you’re only doing maintenance out of obligation, not a desire to truly fix what needs to be fixed. By then it may be too late. You know, lack of faith and trust and whatnot.
If that happens, don’t be mad at the next person your ex partners with. If you won’t play with your toys, someone else will, and they’ll appreciate it, too.
In order to have healthy relationships with any longevity, you have to put in the work. You have to maintain what’s yours. Otherwise, you’ll lose it.