You're 29. You adore comics. So does he! You work in finance. So does he! You like traveling to India, hazelnut coffee, downhill skiing and big hairy dogs. So does he! When he comes over with a tray of brownies that he baked and says, "I love you," you say, "I love you, too!" Because you love him, right? In fact, you might go around telling people that he is the best, you two are so good together, you've been friends for so long, it's perfect...etc.
Now if you could just stop talking, you might observe your exterior self doing some troubling things. Like waiting to eat the brownies he baked you until they are too stale to chew, forcing you to throw them out. Like failing to stock weird, dark beer in your fridge, even though you know he loves weird, dark beer. It's not that you don't think of these small gestures of love, it's that you don't execute them. Why is that? Observing your own silent movie is just as crucial as watching his, maybe more so. Oddly enough, being misled is usually less painful than misleading yourself.
Lesson #4: Don't Excuse Bad Sex
There are times in life when sex is bad—and so many different ways in which it can be bad. There's clumsy, embarrassed, first-time sex. There's too-tired-to-have-sex sex. There's after-fight sex that you think will fix things but doesn't because you're both still too mad. There's sex in the in-laws' house, which makes you feel guilty and paranoid over breakfast the next day. There are bungled shower attempts and misinterpreted fantasies and times when kids walk in, their little faces frozen in mute horror.
No one in their right mind will insist that these are indications of a wonderful relationship. But they are also "every once in a while." They are not "every day." They are not "every week." And they are not the "once-a-month" sex that you acquiesce to because after a while, it's just so uninspiring or uncomfortable that you give up on the activity. No matter how handsome, funny, honest, smart, kind and sexy a partner is, bad sex isn't something that you can live with it. Fix it or face up to the possibility that you may need a new partner.
Lesson #5: Own Up To Your .000001673928 Percent
When you're talking to yourself or your friends, your relationship dynamics seem really clear. Because...every single piece of evidence points to him being the one to blame for the house being a wreck and your being overtired. At night, you do the cooking and cleaning and the homework and bath for the kids. He eats! That's what he does! He eats! And then he reads a book to the kids and turns off the light. In other words (which are really the same thoughts), you are the giver. He is the taker. He is the problem.
Except that that's never exactly true. Be it the uneven division of labor or the non-effective way you two communicate or the reason why you never have real date-night plans and always end up at the crappy franchised "eatery" on the corner, your partner is never 100 percent to blame. He can be 98 percent to blame (for his affair with his employee) or 77 percent to blame (for the fight you two had about the budget) or 2 percent (for the horrifying mold that grows in the bathroom grout due to splashed tub water), but 20 or 30 percent...or maybe just .000001673928 percent belongs to you. If it didn't, if the proportions were really 100 percent wrong to 100 percent right, then nobody would remain together. Common sense—and math—wouldn't allow it. That sliver of responsibility you bear for the problem you two face is a figure that, when examined with brutal, crucial honesty, can be use to calculate a solution.
More Lessons in Love