Grumpy and I have had a bumpy road at times. We had a few years where it was a daily struggle to stay married, and the prospect of splitting up loomed heavily on the horizon.
We made it through those days, and staying together seems to be the only option for us, as the muck and misery we shoveled through in those years brought to the surface just about everything that could possibly tear us apart.
So, 12 years in. I’ll share a few things that I have learned. Please understand, that my lessons may not be at all relevant for you. Everyone is different and handles their lives in a unique way.
- Nicknames: pick them and use them.
Phteven calls me baby, as I do him. I don’t even have a “real” name as I’ve always been Dee to him. Together we are known far and wide as the Happy Hobbits. We own a ski lodge deemed the Happy Hobbit Love Shack. We joke with our tall friends that they are Ents. Gives us plenty of scope for geektastic parties and funny quips as we walk the world together. The real fun in our relationship comes from the nicknames I give to my husband… He is Grumpy. He is Phteven. He isn’t really even Steve or Steve West to our close friends, as his nicknames have attached themselves so firmly.
- Angry is fine… But fight fair
You will fight. There will be times when not a single other being on the earth hurts you or upsets you more than your life partner. Honour these times and do what you need to do to cool down enough to work through the issues. Taking some breathing space is fine, but so is having a good old fashioned yelling match. But remember, you know your partner’s most intimate vulnerabilities so do not throw these at them to hurt them no matter how angry you get. Fight fair and focus on the issue.
- Grow Together
Turns out I meant this metaphorically as well as literally. We have piled on pounds and stocked up on experiences beyond my wildest dreams. Things I could never have imagined ten years ago have become normal. Our four children have sucked out of us any desire to stay out on booze-fuelled adventures. We aren’t entirely different to the people we were when we met, but we have learned from experience, that we know far less than we think we thought we did, and we learn as we go. The coolest thing about all of that is that we are figuring things out together and building an extensive portfolio of shared experiences.
- Speak What You Want/Need
When I want something I ask. So does Grumpy. “TAKE THIS CHILD NOW!” can be instantly accommodated, if only you ask. Small needs like nookie, or food, changing the baby, unloading the dishwasher etc., can be handled on a case-by-case basis. Bigger needs and wants that involve spending large sums of money, changing careers etc. require a bit more research and discussion. My point is: If you do not make your needs known, it will be hard to meet them. If you do not tell people what you want, how are they to know? Speak your needs and wants plainly and be okay with compromise.
- Want the Best for Each Other
Giggles and glee from my Grumpy make me giddy. His happiness tickles me all over, so I will go to great lengths (organize ridiculous parties, drag my fat bum to the gym with him) because it makes him happy. He tolerates romantic comedies, loud cackling girly catch-ups, and countless kid friendly activities because he knows how much all of that stuff means to me. He also sends the kids and I around the world regularly. We always find a way and I try to keep the spending under control. Grumpy is reminded regularly that aside from the travel, I am genuinely low maintenance. He doesn’t always agree with this assertion, but whatever. He makes me happy and I make him happy, and it usually takes just a little effort or sacrifice.
- Jealousy is Boring
Seriously. Even the most dedicated of couples stray mentally from time to time. Own it. Phteven and I are probably a bit weirder than most, as we feel genuinely flattered by the other being flirted with. Neither of us are cheaters, and this extreme level of openness means our personal barometer can sense when we’ve crossed a line – we know we’ve gone too far if we can’t share with the other. This level of openness and honesty is not for everyone, but it’s how we roll.
- Parent as a Team
Parenting is an immeasurably huge part of your life from the moment you find out you’re pregnant. You need to have synergy in your strategies of everything from discipline to down time with your children. Your heart will break and you will go through some of the stickiest and scariest stuff in your life when you give your heart to the little people in your life. This is not always going to happen, as you will disagree on how to raise the kids sometimes, but if and when this happens, I implore you to discuss it out of earshot of the children, and then head back into the trenches of parenthood as a united front. It creates more stability for the kids and teaches them that they aren’t going to be able to play you off against each other. A united front is practically impenetrable by little people, so work hard to sustain this.
Have a lot of sex. Shag in the shower if you can’t get alone time away from the kids anywhere else in the house. If you already shag regularly, then do it more. Seriously, sex is good for the skin, brain, heart, mind, body, soul and your relationship so make sure you engage in an ample amount of slap and tickle. Also, do the hand-holdy, passionate-kissy, gross-the-kids-out cuddly stuff from time to time.
This deserves a blog unto itself. You must laugh. Laugh together, at each other, with each other. Laughter diffuses difficult situations, brings you closer and makes you feel less afraid of things that are scary. Sometimes I find Grumpy’s humour gross or inappropriate, and the things that send me into fits of hysterical laughter often confound him. But we laugh long and we laugh often. We laugh at stuff that has hurt us in the past and it takes away the sting. Laughter must come with respect. Make sure you are not being hurtful or trivializing something your partner feels strongly about. Just use good judgment, and know that some days things are funnier than others.
If something is bothering you, then ask directly to gain clarity. I’ll knock out a curly question on a Tuesday at 11:00am no problem. “Do you still Love me?” can be thrown at Grumpy without warning, when I am feeling that he’s reaching the end of his rope with my crazy. If I am not sure about something, rather than assuming, I ask. As does he. We ought to ask more questions though I suppose. After this many years together we seem to be able to read each other’s minds. This is not a fail-safe ability though, so it is always good to check in with your partner if you are ever unsure about anything.
- Dream BIG
You must have things to look forward to. You must have goals. These can be practical goals, like buying a home or a rental property. Or they can be lofty and somewhat more hedonistic goals, like taking a childfree trip to the Coromandel together. They could also be massive BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) like changing the world, or, I dunno… Rolling out the largest fast charging network in the southern hemisphere. The point is not the goal itself, the point is believing in it together, working towards it as a team and cheering each other on in good times and in bad.
- Be Grateful
Say thank you. Feel grateful. Remind your lover that you chose them and you continue to do so in good times and in bad.
I could of course continue blabbing for pages. I’ll leave it there for now though.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. Whatever cycle in your life and relationships you are in, single or celebrating your 70th wedding anniversary, I wish you strength and comfort on your journey. And Love comes in many forms, and sometimes when you least expect it, so be vigilant if you are looking, and be resilient if you have found it.
Have a great week.