Is a low-maintenance relationship possible? According to Steven Lake, it is not only possible, but preferable.
Notice I said low, not no. Relationships are like a complex machine with many moving parts. Maintenance is a must, not an option.
Regular maintenance, like putting fresh oil in the motor of your car, will keep it purring along for years to come. My manufacturer recommends putting in fresh oil every 3,000 miles. Sounds like a lot but my motor is running perfectly six years after buying the car.
The point here is that regular attention to the complex machine called “your relationship” helps avoid the build-up of unwanted dirt and grime which leads to break-downs.
This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how many couples get caught up in the daily grind of work, bills, and kids. Thinking about the relationship plays second fiddle to the game of survival.
And yet, if we don’t pay attention to our primary relationship, it will suffer. This I know both personally and through my practice as a psychotherapist.
Lest you get depressed, low maintenance relationships are possible. Ideally, you think about creating one before getting into a relationship. Way less work.
If you are in a relationship, changing over to a low-maintenance relationship (LMR) will take both partners defining what constitutes a LMR, and consciously working towards creating this state of bliss.
Here is the #1 way to have a Low Maintenance Relationship:
Find a Low-Maintenance Person (LMP)!
If you do this, 95% of your work is done for you. I have had high maintenance partners and low maintenance partners. Low is way less effort and much more fun.
You may be asking, what does a low-maintenance person look like? Here are seven qualities I have found in LMPs.
In other words, they can live without you. They want to live with you, but don’t need you. There is a big difference.
2) Lived on their own at some point in their life.
If they are coming straight from living with their parents, not a good sign. In some cultures this may be hard to avoid, but it is something to take into consideration. Are they used to being taken care of?
3) Don’t complain about others.
If they complain about others it will be only a matter of time before they start complaining about you.
4) Have friends – good friends.
This is a telling feature. If she or he has friends, it means that they will not be relying on you for all their psychological and connection needs. This will be a big weight off your shoulders.
However, you must be able to share your partner with others. Naturally there is a balance to be negotiated but with a LMP comes a demand on you to support their full engagement in life, which includes friends.
4) Have done personal work.
In other words, he or she has participated in personal development workshops, psychotherapy, or read and studied philosophy, psychology, sociology and the humanities (though this last one does not mean that they have integrated what they have studied. I find experiential work is more powerful).
When someone who has worked on themselves comes into a relationship, they are more likely to know and own their shit and not project it onto you.
Hell, this alone cuts down the amount of fights you will have and also improves the quality of the fights. If you too have worked on yourself, conflict can be an opportunity for mutual learning rather than a disaster to be avoided at all costs.
5) Have a job.
This could include volunteer work, a job job, or being a stay at home person looking after the kids’ job. Sometimes, life crashes our party and we lose our job, or get sick, or have an accident.
We cannot account for all the vagaries of life but all things considered – make sure they have a job or an abiding passion that keeps them interested in life.
A word of caution if they are self-employed, you could have two problems. One is trying to get any time with them and two, you end up doing all the support work around the house as they are “too busy.”
6) Easy-going personality.
If your partner or prospective partner is argumentative, controlling, or a neat-freak, life is going to be tough. You are either going to be resisting her passively, fighting outright, being on guard to maintain boundaries, or always looking over your shoulder wondering, or knowing, that your efforts are just not good enough.
If this sounds like hell, you’re right, it is. Been there, done that, and it is not worth it. You will become a shell of your former self.
On the other hand. If you find someone easy-going, count your lucky stars. An easy-going person will allow you to relax in her presence, worry less about life and the relationship, and generally enjoy yourself a whole lot more.
If you find such a person, try not to mistake easy-going and low-maintenance for no demand. Every relationship will have demands. These are the other person’s wants and needs.
When your partner is easy-going it is easy to take them for granted because their wants and needs may not be so obvious – but they do have them.
If you want to keep the relationship easy-going, inquire about their needs if they haven’t been voiced. Trust me, you will get bonus points for showing interest.
7) Willing to work on the relationship.
This was a big one for my wife. Before we met she stated that she would rather be alone than in a bad relationship and that she wanted someone who was willing to work on the relationship.
No relationship is perfect and there will always be conflict – it is part of life. Being willing and able to work out or through differences is crucial to a successful relationship.
If you have the willingness to learn how to work out your difficulties, my experience is that the amount of conflict diminishes and the time to work through issues lessens dramatically.
The net result is that the relationship involves less time spent in conflict and more time enjoying each other.
When this happens, I identify the relationship as a low maintenance process with high returns.
It makes me want to stay in the relationship.
Photo: Flickr/John St John/Splendor in the grass