Comedian, podcaster and author Tara Flynn shares nine of the relationships realisations she's had over the course of her marriage.
Next year, I’ll have been married for nine years. I can’t believe it either. And when you’ve been married for a bit, single pals want to know how ye met. What did you do? As if there’s some secret unlocking of a magic door (no sexy euphemisms intended) and suddenly everything in your relationship falls into place. Or new daters ask, "How will I know if this is forever? If he/ she is 'The One'?" As if I, an eejit, would have the answer!
Well, I have some terrible, amazing news: there is no 'The One'. The boring, gorgeous truth is that you might be lucky enough to meet someone at a stage in both your lives where this relationship is worth prioritising. Or everything can seem perfectly matched, but your timing’s off. Then, what movies call ‘Love Stories’ can be glowy and romantic to start, but nothing’s dreamy and wafty forever. In fact, Dreamy and Wafty were the worst of Snow White’s flatmates when it came to paying bills or calling the plumber.
I adore my husband. For now, he seems happy with me. But we can’t see around corners. Maybe he’ll end up meeting Monica Bellucci after all. Maybe I’ll turn out to be an android, unbeknownst to myself, and prove too fuel-inefficient to run as we combat climate change. Nobody knows.
This may seem cold, or bleak (I’m an android, give me a break), but it gives me hope. If you banish smugness from a relationship, then everything’s to play for. You’re still listening, still in the game. You never assume. And in the weirdest way, that can help zap insecurities and make you live in the relationship moment.
So the following are observations, certainly not rules. But, having been married for nine years to someone I would love to stick around – not to mention the 1,700 false-start, pure bad relationships before him – here are some love realisations, one for every year since our wedding.
1. Men and women aren’t so different.
I read every 90s book that said we were from different planets. Turns out we’re all from Earth. We all want company and easy chat and the ride the odd time. So I’m suspicious when someone says "Women are a mystery!" or ‘"How will I ever figure men out?" because, while there are beautiful differences based on our experiences, in relationships, our needs are more similar than they are different.
Let’s ditch this old-timey, men-vs-women crap for the rest of the piece. If this mythical gender-based misunderstanding was a thing, same-sex couples would never have any problems, right? And I hear that the problems are much the fecking same. So men are from here and women are from here and we love who we love but…
2. Your partner can’t read your mind…keep talking.
Not all the time, not during Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix. But don’t expect your partner to guess what’s going on for you. Especially, don’t do ‘A Tara’ – fume for six days and erupt on the seventh. Say it, don’t spray it. (‘It’ being anger-lava.)
3. You can’t read theirs.
Conversely, never assume what’s going on with someone else. True for friendships or working relationships too. You may be going to sleep in the same bed (not strictly recommended in a work situation, but s**t happens). You can ask, but they might not want to tell you yet. And that sucks. Try not to catastrophise. If my fella is late I assume he’s dead. I don’t even suspect him of playing around, I’m straight to ‘dead’ and collapse in a heap when he walks in. (I have no idea why he’s still here.)
4. Keep bringing home the ruffly crisps
One particularly grueling comedy festival, when I was completely burnt out and emotional, he brought me a minty chocolate bar. Nothing fancy, just one I liked. Well, I was high on sugar and love for days. I try to recreate that experience for him by showing up on a tricky Wednesday with the ruffly crisps he likes. Small things can be big things. #wisdom
5. Make sure date night is with you, not someone you think they like
Lots of column inches are devoted to ‘keeping romance alive’ and yes, it’s nice to spend some of your alone-time together not in pyjamas. Only some of it, mind. We’re not animals. But if you do try and inject some romance in, make sure it’s still you doing the injecting. Wear something 'you', go somewhere 'you', be you. You’re great. You don’t have to pretend to be a lingerie model to be hot. I mean, they’re super-hot. And if you’re comfortable in lingerie, or whatever, hop to it. But you’re no less interesting if you don’t.
6. Surprise them in bed…by letting them sleep
New moves are awesome. But have you thought about no moves? Letting them lie in can get the kind of reaction that might naturally lead to new moves. You get me?
7. Do not cheat on them by watching GoT before they get home
Cheat-watching shared telly is the worst transgression there is. No matter how good your acting chops, they’ll know if you’ve seen it. They’ll just know.
8. They’re lucky to be with you too
This harks back to date night: you’re great. Anyone should be lucky to spend time with you. I thought it’d be good to just remind you that you’re fun to be around, you smell great and chats with you are almost as good as the comfortable silences. Am I flirting with you? No. (Maybe.) No.
9. Have stories to tell each other
Being together long term inevitably means time apart. Great! Some of our hardest times have been when we’re both home all day and already know what the other has been up to. Yawn. Separation is hard, it’s true, but having stories to tell each other, catching up with a cuppa, well, that right there is the good stuff. Relish time apart. Don’t panic. Leave that to me. It might be the only emotion left in my pre-programmed android heart.
I hope, if hope is what you’re after, these realisations give you some. They might not sound earth-shattering, but hope’s what helps us all to live on the same planet together. And whether you’re single and ready to mingle or nine years married, it’s something I think we can all use.