Here’s to You, Mrs Robinson
I would like to start, if I may, with a quote from The Only Story, the very first paragraph in Julian Barnes’ beautiful but heart-rending novel.
“Would you rather love the more, and suffer more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”
The more I asked myself this question, the more I fell into the abyss. It is practically impossible to answer unless you are prepared to face some confronting truths.
Many of the answers may revolve around notions of whether you are able to control how much you love someone. Again, it’s another tough question, but as we get older we perhaps get a better understanding of ourselves, and indeed the world, allowing us to get close to some form of answer that makes sense to us. If that is the case, we may find ourselves wanting to protect the young, who are finding love for the first time. Indeed, everyone has their own love story and, as the title of the book suggests, perhaps it is “the only story”.
So, where do we start? Before we do, I’d like to state that most relationships have problems to be solved. Many people may have inadvertently developed codes that distract or divert us from getting to the heart of the problem – jokes, work, routine… the list goes on. My guru here is Professor Jordan B. Peterson, Canadian professor of psychology, clinical psychologist, YouTube personality and author. One of the chapters in his new book, Beyond Order, 12 More Rules for Life, caught my attention. It is titled “Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship”. The chapter’s title is blunt enough but the content is even more so.
Before I go on, there is a metaphor I’d like to bring forward to assist with understanding his point. If you own a car less than five years old, you don’t require a pink slip in order for it to be registered, but after five years you need to get the car inspected and have it repaired if necessary. It is exactly the same with a relationship. Once the limerance, or ‘honeymoon period’, has worn off we should get the equivalent of a pink slip for our relationships. In other words, we should be forced to get some kind inspection to check if the relationship is functioning as it should. Pie in the sky perhaps?
Peterson explains that relationships need constant maintenance. Just as a worn tyre needs replacing, so do aspects of a relationship that are causing dysfunction. Start redoing the things you used to do when the relationship was new, like going on a date, holding hands, or even something as simple as a kiss. As uncomfortable as it might be if you feel your relationship is in the toilet, the more you practice, the greater chance you have of getting better at it. Compare the amount of time you might spend on your phone or watching TV to how much time you spend communicating with your partner and it’s easy to see how things can go south.
The author explains that no trust equates to no intimacy. Romance needs trust, and the more trust, the higher the possibility of romance. The catch is that trust needs truth – you can’t maintain trust if either of you lie. The bottom line is that relationships that tend to work and have plenty of romance occur when people are honest with eachother. In his words, “Truth is King.”
Some other tips, which may sound subjective but are worth considering, include never assuming the other person should know what you want and need, so tell them what you want and need, communicate clearly, complain but don’t blame, make statements using “I” instead of “you”, describe what is happening, don’t evaluate or judge, be polite, be appreciative and don’t store things up. If one partner asks what the other wants and they reply, “I don’t know,” that probably means, “I don’t want to talk about it now.” Most importantly, try and communicate like adults.
If you have tried all this but things aren’t working, be mindful that couples equipped with tools such as a problem-solving guide can gain control of their situation and reduce the stress in their relationship.
If you are thinking of leaving your partner for someone half your age, please consider this: Once the gloss rubs off and the younger person dumps you for someone else, you’re back to square one. Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson.
Have you got a question? Please contact Jeremy at bondicounsellingservices.com.