I once heard someone say that their marriage was easy… liar; it’s easy to screw up, but it’s never easy; why? Because people are dumb and at times we are really, really dumb. On one hand you have different perspectives and misunderstandings and on the other hand you have pride and selfishness getting in the way of us being able to love each other properly. So how do you survive being in a committed relationship? Last week I mentioned the three main stages to a relationship and Commitment is the third category. As a recap there’s also the Hunt and the Honeymoon phases. These are both very exciting and deal with a lot of firsts like first kisses, first time going somewhere together, and so on. Add to this the fact that both people are on their best behavior where flirting is high and you’re doing whatever you can to look good… that’ll change. In these phases the guys are particularly good at being engaged in conversation and caring about a girl’s emotions while the girl is always looking her best and treating the guy with respect without criticism or controlling behaviors… that’s pretty sweet. Plus, the guy is more sensitive to the girl’s emotional needs and the girl is more likely to prioritize the boingy-boingy… even sweeter. The down side is these phases keep the track pants in the closet and there’s super high potential for disappointment and rejection because there is a lot of it. Ultimately, the trust is low because there’s a high risk of a quick break up since loyalty is still low. With excitement comes risk. Oddly enough the ultimate goal of these two phases is to be committed, and just like it sounds, this phase is a lot like prison because freedom is gone. Of course, this phase means we are now able to relax more with our partner because freedom and excitement are traded in for trust, security, and stability. At this point break ups require more work because there is too much invested to simply end the relationship. Being committed is the phase after getting to know one another (the fun part), and now it’s about building your life together (the not so fun part). This is the phase where your true character comes out… that can be scary. This is the phase that can be soul crushing or help you achieve a level of confidence and success that you couldn’t otherwise know on your own. This is what people dream of… and sometimes dream of escaping.
The committed phase starts somewhere after committing to each other with the title boyfriend and girlfriend, and possibly before or after getting engaged, getting married, and moving in together (yes, I’m old fashion and recommend moving in after marriage because it was incredible for me and my wife… did you just cringe at that grammar mistake? Looks like someone’s true character is a little critical). Somewhere in there people throw in kids, but every relationship will hit a period where we’re left thinking: So now what? Some people answer this by going back to school, starting a new hobby, and redecorating while others have affairs and/or divorce. Why? Because unlike the Hunt and the Honeymoon phases, Commitment is BORING. For people like me, boring is amazing. I hate rejection and constantly looking for ways to meet “the one”. But this boredom can kill a relationship. We can get sloppy in how we take care of ourselves and treat our partner. It’s easy to take the other person for granted and become rude. Some couples try to combat this with date nights, but then there’s nothing to talk about because you know everything about each other already, or you’ve become so caught up with your kids you don’t know who YOU are anymore. So what can you do to prevent yourself and/or your partner from going insane from boredom and getting in a rut? Oddly enough, the best way to get out of a rut is to make healthy routines… which I guess is a healthy rut. How do you beat addiction? Healthy routines. How do you fight depression and anxiety? Healthy routines. How do you lose weight? Healthy routines. How do you annoy people in a post? Healthy… repetition (aka routines). Healthy routines are incredible for keeping yourself and your relationship in a good spot. Here is a list of things every healthy routine should include in a committed relationship:
- Times to Laugh: Too often couples want to “address” a problem when really they need to spend more time laughing together like they did when they first started dating.
- Dream Together: As people get older, they often forget to dream. Dreaming is imagining the possibilities of life rather than getting stuck on the daily crappy things that happen.
- Double Dates: Date nights are okay, but time is better served as a double date because you have new conversations and times of reminiscing with your partner about what you’ve been up to as you share with the other couple.
- Date Nights: If you insist on having solo date nights, research questions beforehand to help stimulate conversation. I like to use the cards from the game Loaded Questions or from my book, Emotional Sex. Keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and ideas can also be a great way to find new topics of conversation and keep you aware of who you are and what you want.
- Common Enemy(s): Having someone or something to hate together like a sports team is amazing for bonding. We need to be careful not to get too mean, but this teaming up unites the couple. How many high school students bond over their hatred of school, teacher, and homework?
- Regular Social Events: People typically aren’t as into church these days, but social clubs like churches are great for helping you find friends, enemies, and a common interest.
- Scheduled Sex: In the honeymoon phase sex is spontaneous, but when you’re committed, you need to schedule times or suddenly TV, work, or some other distraction will get in the way. It’s good to have a spontaneous time once in awhile as a bonus, but sex is often the first to get sacrificed in a busy schedule if we’re not careful.
- Have a Project Together: Some projects are dangerous like major renos, but having something you can both work on together can be incredible for bonding and having something to talk about.
- Learn Something New &/or Read Something: Help conversation by having something new to contribute. Learning something will help your brain and confidence as well. Listen to talk radio or listen to audio books that share interesting facts and discoveries you can share later.
- Live a Healthy Lifestyle: As always, it’s important to remember what a difference healthy sleep and eating, and exercise can be to how well we feel and treat our partner.
This week may you start to see how you can have healthier routines.
Rev. Chad David, www.ChadDavid, learning to love dumb people