The only thing better than a good relationship is a slice of sweet potato pie making its way into that relationship. This is unassailable gospel fact. And a good relationship results from knowing how to come together and when to leave each other the hell alone.
In other words: respect that although ye be two, ye still be one and one.
Consider a relationship a parlay of snuggly pirates, each of you swaggling bits from each other’s ship, but sailing so closely it might as well be one boat. There will be times, however, when the dividing of attentions is just as vital as divvying gold booty itself.
This is nothing you can’t handle. It’s natural. We can run through them quickly and easily so you can get back to the sweet booty.
The first thing you have to make space for in any relationship – and that counts for saying hi to the mail carrier at the curb, nodding at the checkout clerk, getting married after eight years of courtship – is family.
Good family, bad family, doesn’t matter. The F word is omnipresent and all-reaching. Reunions (whether you want to or not). Holiday gatherings (whether you celebrate or not). Random stopping-bys because they: a) were in the neighborhood; b) had to pee; c) need money; or d) heard you were cooking.
Your loved one’s family will be like the humpbacked whale off the ship’s bow: sometimes majestic, sometimes incredibly large, ungainly, smelly, and loud.
Your loved one will have to tend to this whale from time to time. You’ll do the same with yours. Both of you must deal with this. You must accept that family will sometimes come between you, through you, and among you.
Doesn’t matter where they come from. Could be yours alone, could be your partner’s, could be the issue of your union, might be the scruffy neighbor kid from down the block.
Kids are inescapable in this life. They are time-consuming. They will pull you as far from notions of romantic bliss as is possible to be pulled across all the oceans of Earth.
If you’re not prepared to accept that there are times your loved one will need to deal with some permutation or other of a child (son, daughter, niece, nephew, godchild, classroom, random orphan), then you’re not prepared for a relationship.
Because there are times, rightfully so, when a child will supersede all else, up to and including the dinner reservations and Stevie Nicks tickets you hoped to make a grand night of it with.
Deal with it, not against it, and you’ll experience new levels of fulfillment within your relationship.
Friends are a weird amalgam of family and children, taking double berths.
Accept that they’ll spill out of their berths into the cargo hold and all decks, where you must navigate your way around them and do so with a smile.
You must accept that your loved one will disappear, sometimes for days (called the “Friends Trip”). It is not necessarily yours to know what goes on during these afternoons or nights out (good friends don’t let friends do mornings). If you know your loved one’s character and that of their friends, you should be absolutely fine.
4. Solitary Needs
There will come a time when your loved one sets sail for an island. It will be uninhabited. This is not a fortuitous coincidence demanding you join them for naked tango on the beach.
Your loved one needs alone time.
Repeating: your loved one needs alone time. Make space for it. You need alone time. Having space to fully exist separately is just as important as coming together as one. This doesn’t mean they don’t want or need you. They do. Just not all the bloody time.
Also, they need to continue finding themselves, and oftentimes the buried treasure of self is found during moments of isolation. Treasures of this nature are benefits to you both.
It is unfortunate that being pirates du amour does not come with a 401K. Your loved one has to work. You have to work. Work might entail staying late on occasion, or even weekend trips to the office. This is not the end of the world.
This is where you get to be supportive, maybe even helpful enough to assist them at a task so that work cuts into amour time as little as possible. You could accompany them off-ship to the office to make copies while they do more intensive work bits.
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You might be a morning person. They might need you to shut up until no earlier than ten. You might enjoy Adam Sandler in anything he does. They might die a little inside if they don’t get to an arthouse premier at least once a month.
Relationships are a swirl of needs that don’t always align.
Making space for your loved one’s needs means making compromises (an Adam Sandler movie won’t kill them, and you could do with more expressionist cinema in your life), making alterations (look in the mirror; are you wearing black? Do you always wear black? What are they wearing? Bright colors? Color feeds their spirit. Wear a red shirt once in a while, for goodness’ sake!), and even accepting that you may not always be the fulfillment of your loved one’s needs.
7. Disappointment And Discord
This is where you sigh. This is rainy day, barnacle-encrusted suck of relationships. It is as unavoidable as family, and certainly nothing to overly fret about.
These are the times you agree to disagree and return to your respective pirate ships to communicate by smoke signal if necessary. But communicate you will, because otherwise the space between you will grow from necessary distance to wild chasm to view from the other side of the world.
Any relationship has to be willing to give itself the grace of a time-out so that all involved can see that the whole is still greater than separated parts.
You might share beliefs, but you might not, and even within shared beliefs there are differences.
In the old sailing days, there were those who thought the world was flat, yet love still existed among them and more seasoned captains. You must make space for beliefs which, on the surface, might not seem to include you.
Eventually, you realize that even if the world is flat, together you sail ‘round and ‘round it.
9. Extracurricular Passions
The fact that your loved one “had a life” is likely one of the things that attracted you to this person. We love a sense of individuality and independence in those we invite to be close to us.
Well, now that you’re together, they still love scaling the crow’s nest, fighting octopi, tennis on Thursdays, and learning new languages if for no other reason than to add to their supply of swear words.
Your loved one has interests outside you, and you should make space for that.
More so, you should encourage it. A loved one with interests is usually a happy one.
10. The Two Of You
A couple. A friendship. Familial bonds. Any relationship has to make space for togetherness.
All parties must realize that the unit functions best when it’s able to coalesce after the day’s obligations have been met, be they professional or pleasurable, and enjoy the sense of sailing waters together.
Should we want our partners’ undivided attention all the time? Of course not. Not unless we’re narcissistic enablers of folks battling low self-esteem. Any relationship is a combination of coming together and being apart, of respecting boundaries, obligations, and the inherent joys of individuality giving itself to duality.
Which is a hoity way of saying two ships in the night have more to talk about when spotting whales than one solitary ship sailing all the oceans blue. Yo ho!