One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

September 29, 2010


If you’re going to go ahead and start something with someone … it shouldn’t be based on looks/talent/impressions…. it should be based on how much time you actually, technically want to spend that person. How at ease you are? How calmed down you are by them being around? How much smiling happens when you see them?

– maredeath, on relationships and hard work

This isn’t a response to maredeath, just inspired by her.

And I 100% should not be allowed to hold opinions on relationships. I’ve only ever been one extreme or another, and these days I’m a little ranty. I was a serial monogamist at the age of 15 (first engagement) until 25 (divorce from first marriage). And right from the beginning I was surrounded by adviceful people giving me the “relationships are hard work” talks and I let myself get talked right into the message – if you want a relationship to work you have to work at it, relationships survive only if you are good at forgiveness, sometimes you just have to be committed for commitment’s sake to get through the hard times.

The problem with being committed to commitment and working hard to make relationships work is that you end up with the kind of guys who require you to do all that work. So when I got out of my marriage at 25, I felt like I’d let myself get taken for a series of rides and I was not prepared to commit to anyone ever again.

And now I’m involved with a guy that I pretty much refuse to consider myself committed to, even though we’ve been together for seven years, are married now, have a child together, have a house and life insurance together and everything. Yes and even though people tell me how stable my relationship is and roll their eyes at me when I say I’m anti-commitment. Maybe it’s just what I tell myself so I can stay sane, since past relationships have taught me how vulnerable I am, but it does help my sanity to be able to say, “if you ever hurt me or neglect me or even just drift away from me to the point where I can’t remember our goodwill, I will leave you as instantly as circumstances allow.” And that does prevent me from getting sucked into anything that smells of “working on the relationship”.

These days, my outspoken advice to people is, “only stick around as long as they make you feel good. And to people who tell you that relationships are hard work, you tell them from me, ‘FUCK hard work. Who wants a relationship that’s hard work? What kind of loser puritan ethic demands that when a relationship becomes hard work you should never question that and always just roll up your sleeves? Somebody who was worth it would be pitching in beside you and so obviously on your side that you would call it a rough spot, maybe, but not hard work.'” Any other expectations are, let’s face it, gendered demands for women to tough out toxic, one-sided relationships trying fix their partners a la Beauty and the Beast.

I don’t buy that the hard work reminder is valid in some situations, for good relationships that just are going through a minor tough time. If the joys and goodwill outweighed the hard work, you wouldn’t need to shame yourself into resignation like someone on a treadmill berating themselves with “no pain, no gain.” And aren’t we aware yet how that logic doesn’t work for fitness? Painful workouts don’t help you become fit. Painful workouts ruin your relationship with exercise and with your body; they make activity a chore, your relationship with yourself combative and your self-esteem depressed; they prevent your ever coming to exercise prepared to move just for the joy of it. If you have to tell yourself “no pain, no gain,” you should be doing a different exercise.

I’m not arguing for “no pain no-how.” Totally when I’m at dance and my muscles start to burn, I push through it – because I love dance. And even when I’m doing strength exercises with a group of people whom I respect and feel slightly competitive with, I’ll push through some pain to perform better because I’m having fun competing. But as soon as you have to tell yourself, “you grit your teeth and get through this because there is a payoff,” you’re doing it wrong. Fitness and relationships. Okay? There.

And I’m not trying to get combative or to make anyone defensive about relationships (or fitness). I want the opposite. I want everyone to ease up on themselves. I want people to see how much more effective gentleness with yourself can be over looking for rules and incessantly shaming yourself. If you catch yourself doing “hard work”, just ease up. You don’t have to leave the hard work relationship (or quit working out, since we’re talking about that too) today. Just quit working so hard, listen to your own needs and take care of them, slow down until it’s not hard work, until your pace is something that gives you a remote chance for enjoyment. And when you find enjoyment, do whatever it takes to get more of it. If you want someone’s permission, you have mine.

2 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Alison

     /  2010-09-30

    Huzzah, huzzah.

    I often wonder why we value longevity in relationships so much more than happiness.

  2. This is exactly what I needed to hear today.

    Thank you.

    I’ve often wondered why people say relationships are hard work. I still don’t know what kind of “work” they’re putting in, and what benefit they’re getting at the end. No one pays you to be in a relationship. And if they do, you’re in the wrong business.


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