Steven Lake examines how his wife improves his life even when when he doesn’t like it.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am not talking about having your partner berate you at every turn, make you feel less than useless, or just plain nagging you to do some mindless task. Well, maybe I am talking about this last one a wee bit. But before I get into this, let’s examine why we are in a relationship in the first place.
In no particular order, here are nine reasons I am in a relationship:
- Fights off loneliness, though a bad relationship can be very lonely.
- Physical contact, I love touching and being touched.
- Someone to talk to and discuss topics of interest.
- A partner to share experiences with. My favorites are walking, travel, eating out, and playing sports.
- Discovering how someone thinks. Even though the broad strokes can be seen early in a relationship, understanding someone else’s thought processes takes time.
- Sex. I have included this even though I mentioned physical contact (#2) already, as sex can be more comprehensive, including mental, psychological, and spiritual dimensions.
- Earlier in life it was also about having a partner to share the joys and responsibilities of having children.
- Two heads, hands and backs are better than one when battling the trials and tribulations of life. Likewise, even though I did not think of it prior to getting into a relationship, having someone to support you when ill is helpful.
- Learning about myself. This is the real kicker for me and where my partner is essential.
Living by yourself has many benefits, but it is not particularly challenging. You get to do what you want when you want. Living with someone else creates a host of potential pitfalls as you run up against their preferences, desires, and peculiarities. You realize that how you see the world is not the same as how your partner sees it.
When I bump up against these differences, it is in these moments of potential friction that the opportunity for greatest learning occurs. In the forty years, and many women I have gone out with, I have noticed some trends amongst friends, clients and myself. Please note, these are not based on research, just my personal experiences and observations. These include:
1) Women are braver than men on emotional topics.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard or been told that when in a crisis situation like – should we break-up or not? Did you have an affair? The man will deny it utterly, until he is shown the video – and even then. And no, I am not exaggerating, I have seen this.
In the same way I have heard women say, “I just want the truth, I may not like it, but it is better than living in false hope,” when asking her man whether or not he wants to continue the relationship.
Being in a relationship provides a daily opportunity for me to identify my feelings and communicate them responsibly even when feeling uncomfortable. It challenges me to be honest with myself and having a partner accelerates the process.
2) Men place a premium on their work lives often to the detriment of the family/relationship.
This is an historical problem that reflects man’s relationship to work, life, and family within a patriarchal paradigm.
Even though this is changing in the Western world and I see younger men questioning the status quo, many men, especially those with families, still feel the pressure to perform, achieve, and be a major contributor to the financial well-being of the family unit.
This creates stress within the relationship as the man’s primary focus is on work. I have been guilty of this more often than not and still feel the need to attain a certain financial level even though I have made a choice for life-style over monetary wealth. The pressure to conform and comparisons to my contemporaries and even to younger generations is constant.
I applaud men who choose to be the primary care-giver of their children. It is not only an act of financial smarts, but of love for the relationship and rebellion against the ruling paradigm.
3) I assume that how I see the world is how it is.
Obviously, when going out with a woman who is able to voice her own opinions, I slam head-first into this delusion.
My perception is just that – a perception. Being in a relationship is an opportunity to expand my vision of the world through incorporating my partner’s point of view on reality. This is challenging at times. OK, most of the time.
I have had to work through, not only what I think are the facts of my perception, but my ego does not want to modify its belief as this would mean admitting to weakness, a lack of knowledge, both of which are a threat to how I want to perceive myself in the world as a strong and knowledgeable man.
Being in a relationship demands, if you want it to succeed, learning how to be unselfish. Learning when to drop your way of doing something to make your partner happy, or to make a more effective choice, is challenging.
I question how often to do this. Am I being true to myself? If I am true to myself, will I be hurting my partner and risking the relationship? Telling the truth, being willing to talk through the issues, openness, and coming from a place of love, assist me in this process. And sometimes, I just do it her way to please her – just not all the time. After all, it is a two-way street.
5) Being able to take direction.
This refers back to what I was talking about in the first paragraph – nagging and mindless tasks. The joke about this, is that it is so easy to eliminate. When my wife asks me to do some task that I would normally do or have agreed to do – I do it. Right away. I don’t even think about it anymore. I just do it. End of complaining and her having to treat me like a child. Boom. Done. End of story.
Yet, this is a constant complaint I hear from the guys. If you are not going to do it say so and deal with the consequences. If you are going to do it, but not right away, say when, and bloody well do it on time.
These are the simple things. What I have noticed is that my wife often knows me better than I know myself. To be more accurate, she is willing to state out loud what I know but don’t want to admit about myself.
By allowing myself to take direction from her, I end up being a much happier person. She loves me and wants the best for me and it frustrates her when she sees me making poor choices. Often, I take a big breath, let go of my ego, see if deep down I agree, and then do as she suggests.
Photo: Flickr/Sascha Kohlmann