Valentine’s Day is pretty bullshit to me. It’s a day where we’re encouraged to make big gestures, spend big money and make a memory. But, think about this for a moment: if that really works, then why are divorce rates rising?
I’ve had the luck to observe (and help) couples, both within my family and social circle, for years. My own parents have been together for about 30(!!) years and I’ve learnt so much from them about love. I’ve been a wingman to singles and counsellor to those out of love. Last of all, I’ve had the chance to love and be loved, with different people. Have I found the secret to long lasting relationships? Nope. Am I close? I think so.
It starts with the little things
I have a story from when I was a kid. I was this fat ass 9 year old who sat on his ass everyday eating everything that came my way.
I loved eating (STILL DO!) but my mum wasn’t the cook she is today.
So anyway, what happened was that I loved to eat meat, and by meat I meant pork, chicken, beef (STILL DO!), lamb, emu, etc etc. So every time my mum made dinner without my definition of meat, I’d make some noise like a bitch about “not having meat”. Even if there was fish on the table, because to 9 year old me:
Fish is not a meat, Mum!
Yeah. Fuck This Fish, yo.
But my dad? He’s never complained about the food in the 30 years I’ve known him and I was always pissed off that he didn’t help me. So he just said to me:
You know if you have food and your mum cooked, it’s good already right?
That was when I realised 2 things:
1) I couldn’t win.
2) My dad knew how to appreciate what people took for granted.
It also helps that my dad helps with the cooking, cleaning, groceries, fixes all the shit in the house, buys breakfast, amongst many other things. Holy shit can my dad do everything.
Know that your partner is changing, whether you like it or not.
For some people, it can be a totally terrifying thought that the person they love today, is going to be different next year.
That’s funny though, because we all want to better ourselves and change our lives for the better. However, when it comes to the people we love, many of us selfishly want them to stay the same, forever.
If you’ve known me for a few years, you’d know that I find it hard to stay in one spot and just do a thing for long. Every year, there’s some pet project or dream thing I’m doing.
Joan, my (admittedly) better half, understands precisely this about the whole relationship deal. She’s seen me work through my paces. I started as bright-eyed intern at a business magazine before aimlessly working in a web company. I followed that up with a very intense (and poorly-paid) stint in branding where I lost my health and all my savings, before I finally got to lead a team of my own at my current place of employment.
Through all this shit, she’s rolled with the punches.
What that has given me is the assurance of stability. A sense of strength in solidarity. By being left to my own devices, I felt like I was trusted. Trusted to make the right call.
Laugh and say shit you usually can’t with others
We all have some thing or other that we dared not say to another person. Usually, it’s something we observe. Sometimes, it’s something we heard. But it’s ALWAYS something offensive.
Take, for example, your partner’s resting bitch face.
No, I’m not against it. I generally find resting bitch face pretty hot. But girls with resting bitch face as a default facial setting tend to look a little weird when they smile for cameras. It’s like they’re gonna sneeze all the time or something.
Joan has this exact same problem. So one day, we were talking about photo taking and how she just can’t smile for the camera naturally and I just said:
I think all future wedding photos, don’t smile. Your smile f**ks photos up.
I know. I can hear the gasps from all of you.
But we just started laughing at what I just said. Because it’s true, and it’s pretty funny.
I notice a common thread amongst couples that stick together. They make long-term commitments and short term goals that help them stretch towards that commitment. A very common one in Singapore is getting a home. Couples will plan to get a home, ballot for one, make the down payment and then hustle together to pay off that debt as quickly as possible.
The reason, I think, is that unions are partially like businesses, in the sense that there is a desire to progress and grow the relationship. That’s why couples who feel like they’ve “stagnated” often breakup later: they had no plans after the current goal has been reached. They quit reaching together, but the very human desire to reach up further has not stopped calling out to them.
Is it difficult?
At the end of the day, I just think that people take things too seriously sometimes. Many of us get into a relationship expecting certain things, things that we have been conditioned to expect because society told us that it has to happen. Sometimes, it’s our pat experiences that scar us and hurt us. It makes us fear things that haven’t even happened yet.
We burden ourselves with the shadow of fear. We let its spectre hang over us. We shouldn’t.
So yes, it’s difficult. But so is making $500 to spend on Valentine’s Day Flowers and dinner, but you managed to do that.
This week, I hope all of you will forget about splurging on Valentine’s Day and just make sure you love each other every single day. That’s the best thing you can do for each other.