My husband and I went to a local watering hole last night and while chatting, I saw on Facebook that one of my employees got engaged to his boyfriend. He and his boyfriend are so adorably into each other. They are the cutest and sweetest couple I know. While discussing this, I mentioned “They are so sweet! They haven’t learned to hate each other yet!” It’s a true statement for not just my marriage, but most relationships out there. I said one phrase that got neighboring bar flies to gawk at us because of the hilarity and truth of it all.
“I didn’t fully love you until I started hating you a little bit.”
That one sentence, while totally sarcastic holds some truth. My husband even has a math equation to go with it, but we will get to that.
Every romantic relationship, marriage, and in some cases careers hold the same pattern.
The Honeymoon Phase.
This is usually the beginning of every significant relationship in our lives. Where you grow in loving each other and things are blissful! Everything the other person says and does is new and you’re hanging onto every word, gesture, and glance as if it was the eighth wonder of the world. Suddenly, every love song is about you! You’re completely head over heels for this other life and person and they can do no wrong! This is when most couples get married, have children, move in together, get engaged. It’s during this time that you’re having sex 5 times a day and you look at the other person with admiration in your eyes you don’t even pretend to hide it! You brush your teeth when you sleep over before the other person wakes up. Your underwear is always matching. You pretend you don’t have bodily functions. Not only do you not see the other persons flaws, but you hide yours well. There is literally nothing to fight about. This is the easy part and one that many people can’t function or coexist outside of. It’s addicting and the brain releases all the feely-goods making you feel high on each other. You’re on cloud 9. This is the stuff Disney teaches young girls to look forward to. As amazing as the Honeymoon Phase is, it is not practical for a long term relationship let alone a marriage. This is the version of ourselves we want the other person to see and it is almost always a show. My husbands wife is addicted to this part of the relationship. She holds on to this moment and pretends the next two phases never happened with him. This is fantasy land.
The Comfort Phase.
This is the part of the relationship where you have already gotten to know your significant other. Maybe you’ve accidently farted around each other or your spouse has walked into the single bathroom in your house just minutes after you’ve dropped the smelliest deuce of your life. You no longer hide your flaws. You’ve begun to show that you have bad breath in the morning, you leave your dirty socks on the living room floor next to the couch and never think to put them in the dirty clothes hamper. You begin to listen to your guilty pleasure songs in front of the other person and let your hair become a mess. You’re not embarrassed to be seen without make up and yes, I own period panties.
Many people, like my husbands ex wife, put on such a show for other people that they don’t ever get to the comfort phase because they don’t know who they truly are as people. This is the part of the relationship that the old saying “You will never love anyone else until you learn to love yourself” rings true. People who do not know themselves never fully open up and their significant other never really gets to know them. This is when you hear people say “He/She is always so distant!” When this part happens, you begin seeing the other persons flaws and you realize no body is perfect.
The Difficult Phase.
After you get comfortable and begin knit picking, you begin fighting. Your brain is no longer bathing in oxytocin and serotonin and you fight about everything. You fight about leaving your socks on the floor, how the dishwasher is loaded, why you spent $50 on a pair of shoes, or sometimes you’re just a grade A bitch and have no excuse so you’re extra bitchy and mean to cover up the fact that you have no excuse. So many relationships end at this point of the relationship. Many people can’t seem to leave this part or look past it. When you’re at this point in the relationship, everything the other person says and does (or you think they have said or done) is more than an annoyance, it’s worth fighting about. This is when you’re ugly side comes out and the anger builds. This is when the knock down-drag outs happen. This is when you threaten divorce. This is when you pack up your things and stay at your mothers.
Many couples split at this point because, let’s face it, no one is pleasant at their worst! Then, as soon as they split, the Honeymoon Phase comes back and you miss them so you try again, but now, quicker than ever, you’re at the Difficult Phase if the relationship again. Repeat cycle. The more times you get here, the harder it is to get past it.
For many couples this happens right after the big step. Moving in together, marriage, or children. My husbands ex is one of those women who takes root in this phase of the relationship and never learns to move on. She has lost 3 marriages at this point of the relationship and countless relationships. Not every relationship is meant to succeed and this is the point in which you determine “can I live with this forever”.
This is also when you learn to hate the person you love. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. I can attest that you never really forget the awful things that happen at this time, but the healthy relationships learn how to handle it and deal with it in a productive way. This is, I think, when you learn to communicate and really accept your other half. It was at this point of the relationship my ex became abusive toward me and I decided I was worth more than that.
This is when you either choose to stick it out or you run for the hills. It’s essential to have this difficult part of the relationship because this is what determines the whole “better or worse, till death do we part” thing. If you can make it through this with your self and dignity in tact, you need to get out of there! No one should deal with abuse!
The Rebuilding Phase.
This happens once the seas have calmed after the Difficult Phase of the relationship. You’re comfortable and have seen each other at your worst. You’ve also embraced each other at your best. Once you get here, you can finally say you know your spouse better than anyone else on the planet. This is where you really learn to appreciate each other and, yes, still hate them just a little bit. This is when you get back that Honeymoon love but have learned to communicate and be a team. You worked through the difficult and the annoying crap. You know your teammate and what they like, don’t like, want, need, all of the above. You learn to communicate effectively and respectively in this stage of the relationship because you only get here by choosing to love and make this work. At this point, you’ve grown as a person and so has your spouse. Your lives are likely much different than the way they were in the beginning because you’re a team now. You’ve become a solid unit. A solidified front.
My husband has a math equation for relationships. Marriage isn’t addition, its multiplication.
When you add one person to one person, it will never equal a whole. One plus one is always two. That’s twice as much drama, wants, needs, and frustrations.
To make a marriage work, you have to multiply together. One multiplied by one is one whole unit.
When you give half of yourself and multiply that with a whole person, you get half of a marriage. When you multiply two halves you get a quarter effort.
Both parties have to give their full self over in order to keep the marriage and playing field level and equal. Learning how to do that is the tricky part. This is why biology has our brains soaked with endorphin and oxytocin during the Honeymoon Phase and why the Comfortable Phase eventually turns into the Difficult Phase. We need this process to learn how to work with someone as a team for any extended period of time. This is how two people become one whole unit and how great loves happen.
Elizabeth Bennett would have NEVER loved Mr. Darcy if they didn’t hate each other to begin with. This is how love is meant to be and why Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest love stories of all time. It’s realistic. It’s the only way a deep and meaningful connection can happen. Without the crap, you will never truly appreciate the good. Marriage is a whole lot of give and take. You will never yin until you learn to yang.
Until next time,
Step Mommy Dearest