Understanding this idea will help you stop trying to measure up to all the annoyingly happy couples you see.
A rain poncho is pretty great to have when you’re caught in a sudden downpour. Relationships can be pretty great to have too. In that way, I guess they’re similar.
But there’s a major difference between the two: Rain ponchos are one-size-fits-all and relationships are not.
In case you’ve forgotten, a rain poncho is basically a plastic sheet with a hole in the center for your head. Compared to a nice expensive rain jacket, they’re pretty crappy. But compared to getting drenched in the rain, they work pretty well. And they only come in one size. No matter if you’re a petite little granny or an NFL linebacker, you can slip on a poncho and it will do the trick just fine.
Relationships, on the other hand, are definitely not one-size-fits-all. What works for one couple might send another couple through the roof.
I realized this earlier today when I read a well-written article about never marrying your best friend. It was a fine article, outlining the pitfalls and pressures of being married to your bestie. I understood the author’s point, but I also disagreed because my husband is definitely my best friend and it’s awesome to be married to him.
It made me think back on an article I wrote last winter. It was widely read, and while a lot of people liked it, a lot of people also hated it. The article was about how I’m glad I didn’t marry my high school boyfriend because he let me push him around. I wrote about how my husband and I push each other to be better — like steel sharpens steel.
For us, it works. But I also understand that other couples are different and that’s not what they want out of a relationship.
It’s freeing to realize that there aren’t any required ‘relationship tenets’ that you have to abide by in order to check the ‘happy couple’ box.
Just take a minute to think about the wild rainbow of relationships that exist — across space, time, gender, race, and even political lines. People fall in love and align their lives in all different ways. Some couples are together 24/7 and others stay close through video chatting. Some couples fight and others don’t. Some couples have kinky sex and some couples have boring sex. Some couples sleep in the same bed and others don’t. Some say ‘I love you’ all the time and others save it for special occasions.
When you think about all of the varied and fascinating ways that couples exist, it lets you stop thinking that there’s ‘one way’ or the ‘right way’ to be in a relationship.
I’m not a dentist, but I assume there’s a ‘right way’ to perform a root canal. So it would make sense for there to be a lot of ‘Tips for a Better Root Canal’ or ‘3 Questions to Ask for a Better Root Canal’ type articles. They probably wouldn’t be fun or interesting to read, but they might be helpful to anyone performing illegal dentistry as a side hustle*.
So if there’s no ‘right way’ to have a relationship, why are there so many people talking and writing as if there is? One reason, for sure, is that people love to read about relationships. If only good relationships were as easy to master as good root canals! Read a few articles, collect some tools in your basement lair and you’re ready to go.
But reading and hearing so much conflicting advice about relationships can make you second guess your feelings and question things that you know to be true. Especially since most of the time, people who write this type of advice are just telling stories about their own relationships. Sure, sometimes an article about how to spot a cheater can be juicy to read, but it doesn’t automatically make your boyfriend a cheater too.
If you are in a relationship and it works for both parties, great. End of story. If you’re not and you want to be, stay open minded.
Think of relationships like books in a bookstore. Many are good, some are not. Some are short and sweet while others a dark and twisted. In a bookstore, there are a lot of different books to choose from. No two people will have the exact same taste in books, just like no two couples will have the exact same type of relationship. There’s no ‘best’ book to read and there’s no ‘best’ way to be in love.
So stop stressing about living up to someone else’s idea of how a relationship should be. Instead, look inward and figure out what works for you. Skip the efforts copy what other people do or follow the relationship rules that you read in some shitty magazine. Do more of the things that make you happy and less of the things that make you unhappy. Talk about whatever you want, eat foods you like and go to places you feeling going to.
But whatever you do, make sure you bring a poncho. You never know when it’s going to rain.
*This is a joke, as I do not condone illegal dentistry. Speaking of dentists though, my own dentists are a married couple that share a dental practice and spend their days in adjacent exam rooms poking into peoples’ mouths with spiky tools. It’s not for me, but it seems to work for them. Thanks, Keith and Courtney for keeping my chompers squeaky clean.