‘My partner is handsome. Other women give him the glad eye. This is thrilling’
‘Once you are close enough to another person to know that they will cut you more slack than they might permit others, it can be tempting to make use of their patience’
'When I witness someone else admiring the very things I like about the person I live with, I remember that he is not just with me because he has to be.'
Once a romantic relationship is established – by which I mean you are a few years in – it is a certainty that the everydayness of things will permeate the way that you interact with one another, and you’ll both get complacent. This complacency can take many forms: ceasing to take care of yourself or make an effort with your appearance, expecting intuitive empathy, becoming less respectful of their need for personal space by leaving your crap in their designated zones (that one is me leaving single socks of mine on his bedside table; sometimes pre-worn. It is never intentional, but always unacceptable).
It is also an inevitability, however, that one of you will become more complacent than the other. In the case of my relationship, I am undoubtedly the more complacent one. I am also, sadly, the untidier one. This is not low self-esteem or prejudice; this is just observation.
It can also be a difficult reality to accept. Once you are close enough to another person to know that they will cut you more slack than they might permit others, it can be tempting make use of their patience and put less effort into some areas of a relationship than you should. It is strange that we veer in this direction. After all, other than friends, relationships with whom tend to be less close, your partner is the only person present in your life entirely of their own volition. Taking them for granted in the long run will signal the end of a relationship – it is rarely done intentionally; work, family, and personal difficulties can simply get in the way.
When this happens, you can forget the characteristics of that other person that were extraordinary to you in the beginning. Often, they are still extraordinary now – you have just forgotten because you have the luxury of constant contact with them.
My partner is handsome, as well as some other very nice things. I’m lucky that this is the case. I can forget it sometimes when I am threatening him with violence for throwing away a cold onion bhaji I am “saving for later”, until I see another woman fawn over him a little.
This is slightly thrilling to see. When I witness someone else admiring the very things I like about the person I live with, I remember that he is not just with me because he has to be. He has the social currency in the world to be with someone else if he wanted to, but I am lucky enough to have been chosen by the person I most like, and he by me.
There is much to be said for a little time apart in separate time zones to reignite your appreciation for someone
When you see someone attractive giving your partner what my grandmother used to describe as “the glad eye” (a gag-inducing phrase), you are hit by the realisation that you aren’t entitled to their presence and their faithfulness and their love. It is continually earned and reinforced through your actions. Also, onion bhajis are not a sacred right.
I was reminded of this recently when himself was away for a week. Absence is almost as good as someone (often better looking than you) fawning over your partner as a reminder of how great they are to have around and how lazy you can be. The cat and I lived in chaos. Nobody separated the recycling responsibly because I certainly don’t have the patience to do it. I forgot to do the online shop, and when I wanted advice on a tricky problem, there was no one to ask, except the aforementioned cat, who is useless in almost every practical sense.
There is much to be said for a little time apart in separate time zones to reignite your appreciation for someone who puts up with so much of your nonsense. It wasn’t gone, of course, but the close-up distractions of someone’s weird habits like folding towels the wrong way can block out the bigger picture of their kindness, their beauty, and their fantastic Bolognese recipe. He has gone away and the house is quiet and dull without his strange, constant music playing and propensity to serve everything with bacon in or on it. The grass has never looked greener on my own side.