What follows is my best relationship tip, which isn’t really a relationship tip at all, but a how-to-be-you tip.
I am not a romance for the sake of itself kind of girl. I dislike romantic comedies, I dislike most chick-lit, I dislike gender roles, and a lot of tender gestures (of past boyfriends–I’m sorry Past Boyfriends!) go right over my head. Notably, a PB got me flowers for Valentine’s Day and did this amazing, romantic reveal, and I got excited because I thought he was celebrating President’s Day, and how adorable was that?! Who celebrates President’s Day?! Adorbs! The look on his face…I should have known right then that the relationship would end.
Anyway. Not romantic. However…
When B and I got married, even though I am not truly the kind of girl who wants flowers for Valentine’s Day, or sleigh rides at Christmas (or at all because, horse poop), or orchestrated displays of affection that culminate with videos of me crying with joy on YouTube, I found myself getting angry, frustrated and feeling wounded that I wasn’t getting V-Day flowers, horse poop, or embarrassing commentary on the internet about how ugly I am when I cry. And I became sulky and sad about it.
I also chastised myself over feeling sulky and sad because I knew B wasn’t a hearts and flowers guy when I married him, and it was wrong to expect this very pragmatic man to suddenly show up at my office with a barbershop quartet to perform the love song he’d written about how sweet my ankles are. And since I didn’t really want that–good lord–I couldn’t figure out why I was so upset.
I’m a navel gazer, so I looked down into the scrying bowl of my bellybutton as I soaked in the bathtub and attempted to decipher my own behavior. It wasn’t that I wanted flowers or grand gestures, it was that I wanted tangible proof that B was thinking of me, and the easiest translation of of that thought were the media approved tropes of FTD, Hallmark Moments, and the Kiss Cam.
Once I had figured out what I really wanted, I could ask for it and stop being so darned petulant. And once I asked for the attention, I had to pay attention to what B believed was proof of his love and attraction for me, and I had to accept that for what it was–and I asked him to consider what I preferred and meet me halfway.
It took a while for me to retrain my sensibilities to accept tickle attacks, having wet hands wiped on my dry hair, and other aggravating overtures as B’s sincere offerings of adoration, and it took a while for B to retrain himself to send me mundane (or adoring) text messages and emails during the week. And two Valentine’s Days have passed since then, with no flowers to the office, but I couldn’t feel more loved. (Do feel free to send flowers to my office if you read this, Dear. I don’t need it to feel loved, but I love it when I can scoreboard my coworkers with an IN YOUR FACE! token of desirability.)
My advice boils down to this:
- Figure out what it is that you really want.
- Ask for what you want.*
- Be ready to compromise to accept what your partner is able to offer (unless your partner is a complete troll and tells you to suck it, in which case, be ready to move on.)
- Do your part to model the behavior you want to see, and be patient. The best relationships aren’t built overnight. They are built over decades.
*For a long time I thought that if I had to ask for it, it didn’t count because it wasn’t organically inspired. That only works if you are partnered with The Amazing Kreskin. Tell your partner what you want. Then, if they give it to you be a better woman than I was after my first meltdown that I didn’t get a Mother’s Day card and say, “Thank you,” and mean it.