Far from being an expert on relationships — very far indeed — I cannot help wishing I had known many of the things I have learned over the last few years. Time changes us all, not just our bodies but also our minds and attitudes. Someone once said that the only constant is change. Personally, I have found this to be absolutely true. Some very hard and painful work over about fifteen years has allowed me to realise my mistakes and in most cases to make amends as well as I can. Perhaps, in common with most of humanity, I suspect, the more important errors of my life have been in the relationships I have had. Here are seven things that I may be too late to change but, had I known then what I know now, I would have done differently:
1. Idealizing your partner
When we fall in love we commit a common mistake: we create an ideal partner. The adrenaline that goes through our system during the first months of a relationship makes this almost inevitable, but let’s not forget to love him or her exactly as they are. The next error after those first months: we want to change our partners. If we fell in love with a person, why do we insist on changing them?
2. Neglecting yourself to make your partner happy
Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But that is what many people do. We do not allow ourselves to grow because we fear our partner won’t follow us. But why should they? Grow and allow for growth. Be yourself, always.
3. Love is better demonstrated, proved, than said
Indifference is love’s worst enemy: it’s the opposite of love, in fact. If he or she can’t utter the words ‘I love you’ and mean it, then he or she should show it. There are millions of ways, only one of them is manifested with gifts or flowers. ‘Being there’ for good or bad is probably the most effective.
4. Sharing is communicating Whether you share watching a bird on a dewy morning at sunrise, or information about work, or something that is bothering you or you’re delighted with, or the kids’ education … make sure you talk about it before taking unilateral action. And respect your partner’s opinion. That does not mean giving in. It is much better to convince each other about things than to fight about them when it’s too late.
5. Living together: the real test Seeing each other for a few hours a day or going out together of an evening, is hardly the same as living together. Many couples will tell you that, even though the relationship has been great until now, everything changes when they begin living together. Many of them break up soon after. The best way to ensure that life together 24/7 works out is to honestly discuss each others’ aims and objectives, well in advance of anyone moving in.
6. Get over your ex before plunging into a new relationship Some relationships are like a virus. They get inside you and are hard to get rid of. Be realistic: if you haven’t really forgotten your ex, the new relationship may be no more than a balm, so do not make it more than it is. It’s better to rely on your friends or family before embarking on a new relationship.
7. Sex IS important but it’s not the only thing You’ve heard this before. It’s almost a truism about relationships (‘Truism’ comes from ‘true’). Certainly at the beginning (often called the pink cloud) those long nights of conversation peppered with intimacy are lovely. Sooner or later, though, the pink cloud disipates without our even noticing. Reality sets in. This is why it is preferable to get to know a potential partner before jumping into sex. Mature people (that is, people with a sound mind) already know this. I’m not sure the present couple of generations know this, in its majority. They will learn.
(Hey, what do I know? I’m just a Grand Old Fart)
(C) Alberto Bullrich 2015