Good love is “boring”

Bad love is erratic

I just finished reading Samantha Irby’s “We Are Never Meeting In Real Life” (recommended, obvs), and in it she talks about her relationship by saying,

“I’m in love and it’s boring.”

Right on, sister.

Too often, we think love is supposed to be manic

People celebrate “losing themselves,” and “falling” for someone; they get tossed and turned like they have no say in the matter; they let themselves get pulled emotionally willy nilly and chalk it up as “passion.”

“Relationships take work,” we tell ourselves. But we’ve misconstrued what that “work” is supposed to mean.

“Boring” is better than “impassioned,” and while most great relationships have a blend of both, forced to choose, we should readily take the former.Consistently warm is far more hospitable than hot and cold for long-term emotional wellbeing.

Boring is beautiful

By “boring,” I mean stability, consistency, reliability. We can hang our hat on these things; we can only build on a solid, unwavering foundation.

Greatness is built with consistency

As true for relationships as it is for anything.

Weight loss happens with countless little daily decisions, not binging and purging. Building a company happens in the millions of micro-moments, not landing — and losing — That One Big Client. It’s a lot easier to engineer a solution around consistent variables — regardless of what they are.

When a partner (or the relationship) is up, down, hot, cold, ecstatic, pissed, etc., we spend far too much time managing their feelings and not enough time actually building the relationship.

I can’t do anything with an erratic partner. (I know this because I had one once — okay, twice — and it was simply unworkable.)

Greatness is built with agency and taking responsibility

Our partners are not here to keep us “entertained.”

If we approach love with healthy hearts, we don’t complain of “boredom” with our partners, because we understand that they are not here to amuse, distract, or otherwise entertain us. Their lives are not fuel for our amusement, they are not here simply to delight and distract.

We are responsible for our own emotional wellbeing.

Greatness is built with emotional health

Emotionally healthy people do not chase “romance” and put on exaggerated displays. Emotionally healthy people can lap at the edge of excess; they are satiated on healthy displays of love alone. They understand that real, healthy love is in the every day little shit — remembering the dry cleaning; a hug; a word of encouragement before the big meeting — and they don’t require, nor do they have any real appetite for, the showy shit that’s “shareable” on social media.

Greatness is built in the everyday, not the few exciting moments

Great relationships, like anything, are built in the everyday. They don’t simply endure the everyday to just get to the next vacation or fun outing, just like great work doesn’t simply endure the work week to get to the weekend.Relationships are built in the “white space” of life; they are the everyday. So what we do with that time makes or breaks us.

Every moment we spend with our loved one is precious and invaluable. That’s where the relationship lives or dies. And a lot of those everyday moments are, for the most part, boring.

That 80 year old couple holding hands in the park is sharing “boring.” They got there one day at a time.

Impassioned is dangerous

By “impassioned” I mean excitement, excess, extremes. Romantic hedonism — new restaurants, gifts, travel, grandiose displays or constant reassurance or lofty, poetic declarations of love. If you want great love, these should make you want to run.

Bustle put out an article on “17 things to do when you get bored in your relationship.”

I’ll save you a read, because there aren’t “17” things to do. There’s only one thing to do, and it’s: “take responsibility for your own life and understand that it’s not your partner’s job to entertain you.”

There is, of course, a real benefit of trying new things and going to new places as a couple — but only if done with a calm heart, and never with the anxious frenzy to “do something!”

When we chase romance and excitement, we do to “love” what porn does to sex.

I can appreciate a sentimental surprise as much as the next girl, but nothing turns me off more than empty romantic gestures for the sake of the gesture. Given the choice, I’d rather take a dude who never does anything “romantic”but is stable and emotionally-secure every day.

“Passion” is dangerous to hang our hearts on because it fades away. It must either be doggedly pursued and constantly refueled, or it runs the risk of exposing the realization that there’s nothing underneath. Love built on frenzied pursuits leaves us fatigued and washed up, looking at each other at the end of our ropes, frustrated that we “can’t come up with anything else to do.”

In good love, there’s nothing “to do” except love one another. Every day. And it doesn’t depend on how we feel, because good, healthy love doesn’t hinge on our feelings; it’s a choice. Every day.

Good love looks and feels “boring”

Real, healthy love is quiet, not loud. It is calm, not frenzied. It is solid and stable, not flighty or fickle.

As Irby wrote,

“Real love… it’s not a game you don’t understand the rules of, or a test you never got the materials to study for. It never leaves you wondering… what you could possibly do to make it come home and stay there. It’s fucking boring, dude. I don’t walk around mired in uneasiness, waiting for the other shoe to drop… This feels safe and steadfast and predictable and secure. It’s boring as shit. And it’s easily the best thing I’ve ever felt.”

Good love is just the everyday — every day.

“Forever” Isn’t Ours To Ask of Someone

And it isn’t ours to promise

Every day, countless people promise “forever” to one another.

But this promises isn’t ours to make.

A woman fighting a very aggressive form of cancer once said,

“Forever isn’t yours to give away. All you have to your name is right now.”

Everything changes — and that includes us

You and I are not immune to the laws of nature.

It’s not that I believe that “every relationship goes sour and ours will too.” I’m not pressing you to defend yourself by thinking, “no, I’m the exception.”

I’m not telling you that you will fall out of love. I’m not telling you that you can’t or won’t love forever.

I’m only saying that forever isn’t ours to promise. “Forever” belongs to nobody.

Things happen. People change. Expectations change. People leave. All people eventually die.

Life does stand still for us. Life will not make exceptions. Life will never preserve anything that’s true in the here and now to suit our needs.

“I have been reading lately about how insignificant human beings are, on this tiny blue planet, lost in a massive galaxy of thousands of planets and stars that are thousands of times bigger than ours — and it’s this desperate bid to be great, to be grandiose, to be eternal that becomes the ultimate fall of our species.”

When it comes to matters of life — and the universe — we may have our best intents, but this sort of promise just isn’t ours to give.

We’re setting our loved ones — and ourself — up for potential heartbreak by promising them something we don’t have.

But this truth has potential to make declarations of love more — not less — beautiful.

Instead, promise “now” — over and over

And accept this as the greatest form of love from them, too.

This present moment is our greatest and most valuable gift, and the deliberate choice around what we do with each moment is one of the greatest gestures we can give ourselves — and others.

A partner once asked me, “will you promise to love me forever?”

I told him “no.”

But then I did him one better and said , “but I promise that if I’m here, it’s because I want you. I choose you every day.”

When we’re here, it’s because it’s deliberate, and that’s better than obligation. It’s better when we’re here because we want to be, each and every day.

And it’s better when we treat each other with that day-by-day appreciation.

Does Marriage Even Make Sense Anymore?

Logical, emotional and “happiness” standpoints

Cover art, “Two Hundred Years of The American Circus”

Marriage made a lot of sense once upon a time

Mostly when women didn’t have the same roles and rights as men, and were effectively private property (a societal legacy that still influences our oddly-upheld traditions of a bride being “walked down the aisle” and taking her husband’s last name.)

Women didn’t have access to the workplace, so needed financial security. Men had income, but needed heirs. The exchange was simple. (And during the Victorian era, we prettied it up a bit by convincing ourselves it was about “love,” too.)

We’ve come a long way. Women have equal rights and roles in the workforce, so they don’t need financial security anymore. And while folks might still be interested in reproduction, does marriage still play a role?

Please note: we aren’t comparing “marriage” to “bachelorhood” or “single parents,” and we aren’t using “marriage” as synonymous with “monogamy.”

This post is about longterm, monogamous, cohabiting couples — why are we still getting married?

There’s a difference between what we say — and why we actually do.

Because it is emotion-based — but the emotion isn’t “love.”

The “Taxes” Argument

Usually isn’t valid.

People mention “taxes” when they’re skipping out on the “emotional” argument and want to believe they’re making a “logical” one.

But most people don’t benefit.

Couples who pay more:


There’s no benefit for partners who both work and earn roughly the same, regardless of whether they have kids. (Which is most of us.)

This isn’t an argument against marriage, because you can still file separately. The point is “taxes” aren’t a reason to get married — unless you both earn $8K/year and have 1+ kid (God help you.)

The “Kids” Argument

Marriage makes sense with kids, but not for the reasons we think.

We say two-parent homes are better for childrearing. This doesn’t, however, mean parents have to be married.

And all things being equal, studies show that children fare the same whether parents are married or not:

“Evidence indicates that school achievement and behavioral problems are similar among children living with both biological parents — regardless of marital status.”

The real argument for legally-married parents is that one often stays home (and isn’t employed.) Health insurance is provided by the working partner, and most employers only do so for legal spouses.

The “Commitment” Argument

There’s a lot bundled up when we use the word commitment…

1.) Making it public (i.e., “real” in everyone else’s eyes)

A major magazine wrote,

“Publicly declaring your love in front of friends and family in a formal ceremony, and then signing a marriage license that legally seals the deal can make your twosome feel meaningful.”

To be more blunt?

“It’s harder to leave if everyone you know identifies you as being part of a married couple.”

As Andrew Cherlin wrote in The New York Times,

“Marriage has become a status symbol — a highly regarded marker of a successful personal life. This transformed meaning is evident in… same-sex marriage cases… [They] reflect, in part, the assumption that marriage represents not only a bundle of rights but also a privileged position.”

But the dark side to external validation also means,

“People marry to show their family and friends how well their lives are going, even if deep down they are unsure whether their partnership will last a lifetime.”

Our desire for acceptance — and respect — within society runs that deep.

As Robert Cialdini wrote in Influence, “social proof” is one of the six most powerful influencers, and

“People will do things that they see other people are doing.”

We want what others have. Because it secures our status in society. Does this make us happier? Yes and no. We value safety. But we also need ourselves.

2.) GETTING commitment from our partner

Major publications have printed,

“A marriage contract puts a protective shell around your relationship that… gives couples a sense of security that they’ll stay together no matter what.”

Some argue it’s the labels:

“Using the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ often causes people to think of each other in a more permanent, you’re-a-part-of-me/I’m-a-part-of-you way.”

Some even go so far as to say,

“Once you’re hitched, you can sit back and feel content that you’ve reached that hope of a lifelong, satisfying, loving relationship.”

But guys, that’s not this works. That’s not how any of this works.

As William Berry wrote in Psychology Today, why you really want to get married is:

“This (often illusionary) feeling of security is enhanced by the legal binding of one to another. It makes it more difficult to leave, and thereby relates to possessing. In short, we want to marry so we can hold onto another.”

If people were honest, they’d admit that when they talk about “love” in terms of “forever,” they’re really talking about fear and actually saying:

“I don’t want to be alone.”

But there are two problems with this:

  1. Contracts can be broken, so they’re a false sense of security. We don’t control other people.
  2. Security becomes comfort, and comfort makes us lazy. And because relationships take work, “getting lazy” is a huge driver for many top reasons couples divorce.

Now, plenty of people argue that they know this (“of course relationships take work!!”)

So I’ll ask, then why the contract? Who don’t you trust — yourself or your partner?

I’d rather leave the door wide open for my partner than hold him legally obligated to stay. When I kiss him each morning, I want to know he’s there because he wants to be. And I want to work for that.

3.) GIVING commitment

This one’s valid. And backed by research.

We love things more after we call them ours.

As Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling on Happiness,

“Consumers evaluate kitchen applies appliances more positively after they buy them, job seekers evaluate jobs more positively after they accept them, and high school students evaluate colleges more positively after they get into them. Racetrack gamblers evaluate their horses more positively when they are leaving the betting window than when they are approaching it, and voters evaluate their candidates more positively when they are exiting the voting booth than when they are entering it. A toaster, a firm, a university, a horse, and a senator are all just fine and dandy, but when they become our toaster, firm, university, horse and senator they are instantly finer and dandier.

Which is probably why wedding days are often “the happiest days of our lives.” It’s not about having married “The One,” but having married.

And we don’t just feel this immediately after a commitment. Rather, we’ll keep it up as long as we can. People have a strong need to continue doing what they’ve previously done.

As Robert B. Cialdini wrote in Influence,

“If people commit to something orally or in writing, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement.”

And given our deep desire for consistency,

“We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided.”

But it still begs the question: does this have to be mutual?

Short answer? No.

As I’ve told my partner, “I don’t need your permission to commit to you.” Just like I didn’t need a label before moving in.

Taken to extremes, this can of course become an issue of self-respect. But all things considered, we can commit alone.

4.) Finalizing our (own) commitment

This is valid too.

We all think we value freedom more than commitment, but in fact the opposite is true.

In one study, photography students were told they could keep one of their photographs. One group was told that once they chose, they couldn’t change their minds. The other group was told that they could swap their choice at any time.

Later, both groups were asked how much they liked their photograph. Results showed that the students who could change (or “escape”) their decision liked their photograph less than the students whose decision was final.

We’re happier with finality.

So what are we left with?

Even once we recognize that we desire social acceptance and false senses of security, and love things more after we call them ours, it still begs the question:

What should we do?

What does this mean for marriage?

The answer depends on our goals — and values.

What makes us happy?

If you value social acceptance (especially among family and friends, but also professional and/or religious groups), then just get married. And do whatever it takes to stay married.

But if we value deeper happiness, then we have to take a more complex approach.

(If we think we can have both only pursuing one, we’re wrong — unless we define “happiness” as “social acceptance.”)

Deeper happiness means we understand that the only thing we control is ourselves. And that everything changes, and sometimes people change, and contracts mean very little to the human spirit at the end of it all.

Deeper happiness means we view people as people, not “parts” to “complete the picture” of a “perfect life.”

What makes us happy?

  • Focusing on what we can control (which is only ourselves)
  • Committing (ourselves) to our partner — love them healthily and hard, every day.

After that? For added bonus happiness:

  • Formalizing our (own) commitment, because we love things more when we do.
  • Finalizing our (own) commitment, and entertain no possibility of “do-over” or “take-backsies,” because we love things more when we don’t.

It doesn’t need to be mutual for us to get the benefit.

The only thing we control is us. And “marriage” is about commitment, but it starts and ends with our own.

And after that, we only need to respect our partners as their own person, separate from us, who commit to us not by contract, but choice.

Good Love Is Always

From the very start. Until forever.

Good love always was, always is, and always will be.

It’s “forever” from the very beginning. It’s “forever” before either of you even realize what’s happening, and definitely before the other person gives you the okay to feel so.

It’s “forever” even when it feels broken, or scary, or hurt. Good love beats down the temptation to lash out — good love wants the best for them, always, and good love trumps all — including our own defenses.

Good love is “forever” to the very end, until there is nothing to be anything anymore, when you go on feeling some amount of “forever” for them long after they’re gone, if you do meet the misfortune of parting ways.

Good love is always.

There is no start, no finish; no permission, and no plan.

Good love is from the start

You love them before you realize you love them; you love them without understanding why. You care so deeply for their being that you don’t realize that’s what love is until some stranger all but stops you in the street to point it out.

You want the best for them, no matter what that means, and you want it before it even requires a sacrifice — or comes back on you by way of “brownie points” or “winning them over.”

You want their happiness, and you want it outside of your own and without sacrificing your own. You just want for it.

Good love is for the sake of a person, not itself

And certainly not ourselves.

Good love is making ourselves neither the martyr of love, nor the victim in love, nor the giver or doormat in love. And it is also not the benefactor or center or manipulator of love. Love is never insecure, or lashing out, or breaking glassware. Love is never hurt or pain or fear. Love is both fragile and all-consuming; it cannot coexist with these things.

Good love is balanced, and healthy, and clean.

Love is people — first yourself, and then them. Love is loving. Love is kind. Love is wanting the best for them even when you feel the worst.

Love is never in the name of “Love,” but simply for the act of loving. You never think about whether or not your feelings — or this “thing” — fits the bill of “Love” with a capital L. You only think about them and their wellbeing.

Love is not a motto on a wall.

Good love just is

You love them simply; cleanly; straightforwardly. You love them without trying — without thinking — in the same sense that you breathe or sleep or eat or see. You just do.

And pushed to make a decision around whether or not to keep it going, there isn’t even a real choice to make. You do.

You want them as they are. You want them in from the rain, sopping wet in an old hoodie. You want them dressed up, dressed down, distracted, downtrodden, and everything in between.

You want them well. You want to undress them from their stress just after work. You want them so happy they can’t stop smiling.

You want everything for them they want for themselves — and then you want more. You want the entire world — and then some — each time they share an aspiration. You want them to win. You want their drink order right at the bar. You want them to have everything they want — including but certainly not limited to you.

If the person you love wanted to pursue a life without you, and believed that would make them happier, then you would let them.

Such is your care for their happiness. Because such is love.

Good love is more than a feeling

Good love is a choice.

But it’s a choice in the sense that you barely have to choose.

You don’t talk about it because every time it bubbles up, it feels melodramatic and excessive. It reminds you of the beginning of every relationship — the part you forget, once it gets ugly there towards the end — when you’re sinking down into that exquisite agony like some scarily feel-good high. The part that you later realize isn’t “real;” when you’re wrong.

Good love never becomes wrong. Good love is like that for years.

Good love is always

There is no such thing as de-loving good love.

There may be breakup, there may be sadness and hurt and suffering. But there is no un-loving real love. There is no deciding you no longer want the best for someone — if it’s love once, real love’s forever.

Good love is the way one old woman felt for her estranged son, who’d abandoned his family and disappeared for two decades. Good love is the way she collected his things from his apartment and tidily stored them in a box, awaiting his return, for twenty years. Good love is the way she talked about him respectfully, never speculating nor hoping but merely holding space. Good love was also holding herself together when she later heard he’d died. And good love was asking herself to understand and respect his life as his own, outside of hers.

Good love is pain. And good love can be sadness.

But good love is ultimately honoring and respecting each person, and loving ourselves — and them — enough to want the very best for each of those people so damn hard.

With no real start, and no finish. It simply is.

6 Reasons Your Partner Says “I’m Fine” When They’re Not

And what you should do, as their partner

Martin Whatson

One of the more common complaints from people regarding their partners is when they “won’t open up” — when they seem like they’ve got something on their mind, or are upset about something, but when asked about simply answer, “I’m fine.”

It can be frustrating. And the reasons can vary — sometimes, yes, when dealing with someone who’s a little emotionally unhealthy, it is as passive aggressive.

But there’s also a myriad of other reasons that are, well, fine…

Reason #1: It’s not a big deal and it will blow over

This is by far the most common reason — like 90% of situations.

Sure, something’s on their mind — but it’s so small or silly that it’s not worth discussing, and they know it’ll blow over.

Initial reactions aren’t always rational or real

We may have knee-jerk reactions of fear or insecurity or sadness or anger or whatever that aren’t in our control. What is in our control is what we do with it, and maybe they want to be sure that it’s the latter, not the former, that they’re parsing out as an “issue.”

Feelings aren’t always valid

We are entitled to our feelings, but that doesn’t mean they’re all valid. It’s our responsibility to internalize things we experience so that rationale can catch up to keep things in check them. It’ll blow over faster if they don’t drag you along for that process.

Reason #2: they don’t want to (or are not yet ready to) talk about it

The second most likely reason.

Emotions need processing, and people are entitled to space

People may idealize the whole “share everything with each other, always” thing in relationships, but taken too literally, that’s horse shit. Healthy people often work through things on their own — at least first — rather than dumping emotional odds and ends on their partner.

Reason #3 (uncommon): you guys just talked about it, but they need a moment to lick their wounds.

This will happen if you guys just got done discussing an issue and reached reconciliation (perhaps even an apology, whatever) and there are just some lingering feelings they’re still soothing.

There’s nothing more for you to say or do — they got what they needed. This part is on them. They just need a second and they’ll be fine.

But note: if you’re still prodding “what’s wrong?” or “are you okay?” (and your partner is actually having to answer “I’m fine”) after they already explained and discussed the issue, there’s something wrong with you. Chill, fam. Damn.

Reason #4 (uncommon): now is not the time or place to talk about it.

Maybe you’re in the car on the way to have dinner with your parents, or on the phone while you’re at work, or out with friends at 1 am. In any case, it’s possible that they’re not fine but “now” is not the time or place to have that conversation.

Reason #5: bro, they *are* fine.

Maybe they’re just being introspective, and you’re projecting on them. (Maybe you’ve got your own insecurity you should address?) Calm yourself, champ. Everything’s cool.

Reason #6: They’re an emotionally unhealthy person.

If it later turns out that it is “a big deal”…

Or they did want to talk about it…

Or they are still upset…

And it was an appropriate time and place to talk about it…

…Yet they still answer “I’m fine” when you ask them what’s wrong…

Then they are an emotionally unhealthy person who needs to work on some of their own emotional management before the two of you can continue with the relationship.

How emotionally healthy partners say “I’m fine”

Healthy people don’t constantly nudge and prod their partners with stupid shit, because they understand that it’s stupid. (And if everything is presented as a priority, nothing is a priority.)

Healthy partners save “what’s wrong” conversations for things that are actually a.) important and b.) actionable. When they talk to you about something, you can feel confident that they aren’t “crying wolf,” and care enough to cover both of those things.

When a healthy partner WON’T just say “I’m fine:”

When it is a big deal and worth discussing. When it’s the time and place to talk. And when they know how they feel, what they want to say, and what they’d like from you, if anything.

What you should do:

In short: chill, fam. damn.

Trust your partner

If you can’t trust your partner, you need to work on that first. You should be able to believe them when they say they’re fine, or trust that they’ll share when it’s time.

You should feel confident that you guys are a team and want the same things — to build a good relationship and enjoy the everyday.

Respect your partner’s emotional boundaries

We are not entitled to know our partner’s feelings. It is never appropriate to prod, push, pressure or demand that they share — ever.

“Other people’s emotions are first and foremost theirs, not ours. What they do with them is their prerogative, not ours. And hearing them, if they choose to share, is a privilege, not a right. We are not ‘owed’ anything in their heads.”

Be patient — not grabby

Let them have a minute to sit with their own feelings, figure out what they are, and whether they want to share. They’ll do if and when they’re ready.

Understand and defend your own boundaries, too.

If your partner is the kind of person to passive-aggressively tell you “I’m fine”— feigning a non-issue when you ask about it, only to later blow up about it— then you deserve to reset emotional expectations.

It’s not appropriate or healthy or acceptable for one person to show up and ask their partner “what’s wrong?”, offering them the opportunity to talk about it, and for them to respond by under-communicating and playing emotional war games. The partner using “I’m fine” passive-aggressively has much emotional work to do in managing their own emotional needs — and communication.

Build a healthy understand of love

Based on communication and trust, yes, but also emotional ownership and healthy boundaries.

Marriage Doesn’t Mean Shit’s Locked Down

And you don’t need shit on lock-down to love

Today I was on a mini-road trip with The Boy, as we like to spend our Sundays — the only day of the week when we’re both off work — and the topic of marriage came up. Just, like, in general. Philosophically. In theory.

I get marriage — on the surface. I absolutely understand why other people want to get married. I especially understand its appeal for the very wide majority of most people who value social markers — who look for and map one another by things like hometown, job, neighborhood, age, religion and, yes, marital status.

For these people, marriage is an important part of joining the social framework, of integrating and becoming a fully actualized member of society, who can finally have a seat at the adult table and some space all their own, as though to say, “I’m here; I’ve arrived.”

But apart from this part of marriage — and the “romantic” part of marriage, which I’ll get to — the reality I’m left with is: I don’t really get it.

Nobody needs to tell me what my partner means to me

I get it, the “seriousness” of marriages — and the connotations that those titles “husband,” “wife” and “spouse” may carry. But the reality is: they’re completely arbitrary. I can decide with or without a ceremony that I am long-term committed and “in” with my life partner. And what’s more, I can even go “all in” without his consent. I don’t need his permission to decide “I’m here now; I’m serious; I’m invested.”

I have been a contract employee at a handful of companies, some of whom refused to see me as little more than “contractor” even when I was building multi-million dollar programs and caring more about their employees than the full-time employed managers did. And as a consultant, I am routinely more invested in my clients’ products than they are — and granted, that part of what I get paid for.

But the point is: none of that “caring” is actually under contract. But that doesn’t mean I need their permission to do it anyway.

And I know there are others out there who will counter: but what about when you care and they don’t, and they let you go? And in response I will tell you: no amount of contract will change the reality of that risk. That decision is always theirs and more on them than me. I can give my all even if they’re giving less. I can care more than they want to. And if they choose to part ways, that’s their decision. And the thing we so often miss is: contract or not, they always have that option either way.

Legal bindings are inferior to blinding love

The minute you lean on legal binding and your big plan is to get people bound up in one, you’ve already lost.

I don’t want to run a business where my objective is to get my customers under contract and make it inconvenient or painful for them to walk away. On the contrary, I want to run a business where I throw the front door open and tell them, “nobody’s keeping you here — you can leave whenever you want.” And I want to do such a good job that other companies and competitors would have to drag my customers out kicking and screaming, grasping at the door jam to keep from leaving. This is how I want to live my life. I don’t want to rely on a contract. I want to build something so fucking good people eye the open door with relaxed nonchalance, where the only competition that matters is the space inside.

And it’s sort of the same with anything in life. Relationships included.

I don’t want to get my partner “on lock.” I don’t want to bind them up in paperwork just for a false sense of security. I don’t want to make it hard for them to leave. I don’t want to kick back.

I want them to know the door is wide open. I want to have to work every single day to make them happy. And I want them to stay not because divorce is annoying and expensive and ugly and inconvenient, but because anything else would have to pull them away kicking and screaming.

People don’t do this, though, because it’s harder. It’s harder to run a business that’s actually good. It’s hard to build a relationship where people choose to stay. It’s hard to build something where people want to be, over and over day after day.

Real romance isn’t seducing once. Real romance is re-seducing every day

Real romance is looking at each other and choosing to be there. It’s waking up each morning and re-investing and not taking each other for granted. It’s fucking working at it.

It’s respecting our partners as the free agents they are — understanding that, marriage or not, they are fully-actualized, independent people who can walk away at any time.

I don’t want to kick back and build up a false sense of security with contracts. I want to fling the door open and turn to everyone in my life and make it perfectly clear: you can leave whenever you want to. And it’s my job to make it worthwhile to stay.

I don’t want to seduce my partner once. I don’t want to get them good enough to get married and think I’m “secure.” I want to respect them as their own person. I want to win their heart each and every day. I want to wake up in the morning and greet each other and know: we’re both here because we want to be.

4 things we’re so tired of explaining to partners

#1: We’re not mad. We’re hurt.

The short list…

“We’re not mad. We’re HURT.”

Holy hell balls, I have no idea why this is so fucking hard to hear and absorb. I can’t tell you how many times I have said this to a partner — and in many cases, the same partner countless times.

People have more than two emotions, and we are more than “okay” or “pissed.” We are so exhausted of having anything besides “contentment” chalked up as “angry,” and having more delicate — and honest! — emotions, like “hurt” or “disappointed” discarded and sloppily renamed as something crude.

Best I can chalk it up to is a degree of defensiveness on the other person’s part — a protective layer that prevents them from hearing actual and real words and instead fills that noise in with whatever they want to believe.

And that’s literally the best case scenario — because worst case is “they don’t care about or respect your opinion on your own emotions.”

“It takes two to argue.”

If one person is not arguing a position, this isn’t an argument. It’s just one person venting and verbally reaming the other person in a really shitty way.

If one person has taken responsibility, apologized, agreed, accepted, understood, or is otherwise no longer lobbing any kind of counter-argument — even by way of “explanation” or “defense” — then this is no longer an “argument;” this is just toxic.

That being said, if one person thinks it’s only the other person “arguing” while they’re simply “explaining their position,” then they are arguing. And they’re being extra shitty about it, because they’re even denying their involvement and responsibility in that.

“We’re not doing this to punish you.”

People don’t do things for other people — they do things for themselves. Even shit that they think is punishment is primarily meant to self-soothe. The silent treatment, for example, is a defense mechanism. Same with stonewalling, shutting down, or leaving. Yelling is venting. Name-calling is venting. Most hurtful shit is primarily shitty self-defense.

The sooner we all realize this, the sooner we can get to constructive approaches to reconciling hurtful behavior in our partners.

They’re not doing it to hurt us — they’re doing it to soothe themselves.

“Want to resolve a fight? Seek first to understand before being understood.”

Most people go into argument just wanting to say their piece — over and over and over, ad nauseam. You want to know what happens when both people do this? Eons-long arguments that go on forever — only to happen all over again shortly thereafter.

Want to stop fighting about that shit? Go into it seeking to hear their side rather than speak your own. Seriously — do it. Don’t just listen until it’s your time to speak. Don’t listen waiting to respond. Don’t listen while massaging your own complaints (“ohh, that’s good! I’m gonna hit them with that next.”) No — fuck your side. Seriously. Just set it down for a fucking minute and listen. And absorb. If your argument is so valid, it’s not going anywhere. And you’ll get to resolution a lot faster if you let it be affected by what they say anyway.

Of course, one of the shittiest feelings in the world is when you’re the only one doing this — when you listen with your whole heart, accept, apologize, and empathize — and then they never get to yours. This is what most people are afraid of.

I was too — until I tried it. For a full year, I tried it — I sat and really listened with my whole heart, sat my shit down and let it drift off while I listened. And then at the end I’d respond, empathize, apologize, and ask “do you feel like your side was heard?” And only when their answer was “yes” would I say, “can I share my side now?” And then I would — gently.

And when your partner agrees that their issue has been satisfied and then “receives” your side only to immediately launch into defensiveness and getting right back into their issues — you know everything you need to know.

We shouldn’t be afraid of not speaking our side. We should be afraid of a partner like this. And the first defense against it is not being one.

There are probably others — really, I can probably think of at least one more to make it an even five — but those are the things I find myself coming back to over and over.