Despite what Hollywood may have us believe, a relationship is not built on grandiose gestures of love. It’s not even built on medium-sized ones. My experience is that it’s built on the tiny but cumulative acts of daily existence – picking up the bath mat after the shower, ‘cos he knows that I appreciate it. Cleaning the sink after straightening my hair, ‘cos I know that he likes a clean sink. Always making sure the other has a glass of water next to the bed, ‘cos we both appreciate that.
The older I get (& hopefully, the wiser I get) the more these little things mean to me. If you had asked me at age 21 whether these sorts of things mattered in a relationship, I would have said no. I would have been much more enamoured of the amore who brought me bunches of flowers or took me out to a fancy restaurant, or who proclaimed his love loudly and publicly (perhaps with a boom box outside my bedroom window. In the rain. Damn you, 80s teen movies!)
Not anymore. Now it is the little things, that combined, make up a life of days. The little acts of love are the important ones.
The flipside of this is also true. I believe that the tiny words of annoyance and frustration we sling at our partners may be the most damaging. Perhaps it is not the big fights, but the low level bickering that hurts us the most.
This leads me to my revelation: the tiny barbs we swallow in the name of the bigger picture, may just be the grandest gestures of love we have.
All of us have moments of frustration, annoyance, anger even. And I have always been one to wear my emotions on my sleeve – I believe it is both my absolute best feature and my very worst downfall. If I love you, you will know it with every fibre of your being, because there is no hiding the wellspring within me. The flipside of this, of course, is that flashes of annoyance over something like a trivial, trifling misunderstanding, are also entirely evident. This is less than great.
But, these little moments can be key to massive growth. Both on a personal level, and within the relationship.
We all know that it is those we are closest to whom we are most likely to let out our frustration on – we have nothing to hide from them, we know that they’ll stick around even if we are a Right Royal Bitch for a moment or two. We also know that we would never treat others that way. It’s like that tactic some people use to ensure a harmonious Christmas – invite a person who’s outside your immediate circle of family or friends, because no one wants to misbehave in front of them. We reserve our frustrations and annoyances for those who are the closest to us, a perverse but strangely understandable reality.
So, during my times of keenest frustration, when I am most likely to lash out at my partner, I am trying to cultivate… politeness. Yes, politeness.
If we can identify those moments when we are feeling the chafing inside us, and instead of just letting it out (which is my natural tendency in such moments) we can swallow it, let it go, and focus on just being polite to the other person… Well, these may be the biggest acts of love we can do for our significant other.
We all know how easy it is for a brilliant happy moment to be destroyed by one cross word. And the time to rebuild that good feeling can sometimes feel frustratingly lengthy and disproportionate to the quick flash in which it was torn down.
These little acts of swallowing might bring us closer to the peace we crave, at very little cost. Please note that in no way am I advocating not being honest and open with your partner, and I am a supreme believer in airing all issues of importance. It’s the trifles I’m talking about here. The annoyances. The frustrations. The tiny little bees in our petty little bonnets. The things that we look back on a mere hour or two later and wonder what the hell was wrong with us.
It is these that I am trying to swallow. It is these that I am trying to cultivate awareness of, so that instead of giving in to my first instinct – the monkey mind who wants to swipe at the nearest branch on her way down – I can instead, counter-intuitively, align with what I know I actually want, in the bigger picture.
And sometimes in those moments, it is difficult to evaluate and articulate.
And decision making is not easy or advised.
And a clear assessment ain’t happening.
But I can do polite. In that moment, I can be careful with what comes out of my mouth. I can be polite.
It is such a simple criterion to employ, which actually gives me far more hope for its success than if it were a complex philosophical theory requiring actual brain power. These simple little acts of swallowing might just lead to a whole lot more growth for my relationship. And for me.
What do you think about being polite to your partner and swallowing the tiny barbs?