Lists, Cuts, and Put-up’s: Relationship Survival 101

Compromise. Juggling. Give and take. Two-way street. Endurance. Communication. Commitment. Honesty. All words you’ll hear girls say they want in a relationship. All words that when guys hear all they can think is, “Man, that sounds like a lot of work!”

Although I get tired of hearing questions about why I’m still single or not married yet and taking the constant harping that many older singles face, I’ve been able to see a lot of relationships around me and stack up a lot of “do’s” and “don’t’s” based off of those experiences. I’ve also seen a lot of successful relationships with many of the words up top in them and relationships that flopped because the couples didn’t know each other very well or weren’t very knowledgeable about relationships in general. I was surprised to find how much I learned about couples, family’s, and relationships when I took an 18 month break from life to for what I thought was going to be devoting all of that time to serve others and the Lord. Not that it wasn’t, but I feel it was most beneficial to me and for me than anyone else – a pleasant surprise! During my time serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I worked with a recently converted member who had been called to serve as the leader of the missionary work to be done in his area. During one of our planning sessions, he confided in me about his struggle with his epileptic seizures and what that would mean for his marriage in the future. I remember being shocked by this because it was one of those things you never would have guessed someone had as a part of their everyday life. I had only known him for a few months and not only did he appear to be the epitome of health, he was hands down one of the most intelligent sharp minded people I knew – genius level. To think that he had seizures that would affect that brain in such a way was mind-boggling. I remember being at a loss as to what to say to comfort him or make him feel better and I fumbled out something along the lines of: “I’m sure you’ll find someone who will be ok with it.”  I remember him blinking and looking at me for a long moment then saying with fervor, “But I don’t want someone to put up with me.” He ended up marrying a friend of mine a few months later, and they’ve been “putting up” with each other quite happily ever since with their 1 year-old daughter.

I’ve thought a lot about what he said that day as I’ve continued my trek through the dating world and I’ve come to two conclusions: there are “deal breakers”, and then there are negotiable’s.

Deal breakers:

Unless you come from a foreign land or culture that forces you into an arranged marriage, we all have “deal breakers” set in our mind when it comes to romantic relationships, things we absolutely could not or would not put up with and are nonnegotiable when we choose the person we want to be with romantically. They’re usually pretty big deals unless the person is just absolutely ridiculous or shallow as a shower. Take my friend for example. There are some girls who would have run when they learned about my friend’s seizures; for my friend who married him, it was a negotiable and she didn’t look at is as a burden or something to put up with. Religion is also often a deal breaker. Some girls I know refuse to marry a guy if he hasn’t served a mission or isn’t a member of our faith. Other things like education, career choice, sexual orientation, personality traits, and so on will cause people not to even entertain the idea of a person in a romantic way.

A lot of times these “deal breakers” can make one appear close minded. I remember watching an episode of “Miss Advised” on Bravo, and one of the women had a list of 75 or so things on her list of qualifications for her future husband. After watching that I was pretty proud of my minimal 5 things on my list until another friend of mine recently gave me a hard time about my requirement of the future hubby being a good driver. At first I stuck my ground but by the end of the conversation I realized it definitely needed to move from my deal breaker list to my negotiable’s. Would it be hard for me? Absolutely! I would have to fight to not be a backseat driver or offer to drive or just not say anything at all. I would have to somehow figure out how to make it not bother me anymore or try not to drive myself insane pretending it was all good. Am I going to solve my road rage before I get married? Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely wasn’t worth not marrying someone over and I’m glad he helped me see that.

Negotiable’s:

On a recent first date my date was apologizing for checking his phone during the date to make sure everyone in our group was coming for the movie. He then apologized again and said he just had to send one text because this girl wouldn’t stop texting him if he didn’t answer, then said he was going to text her and tell her he was on a date and that should do the trick. I made the best of the situation and joked that girls that like were exactly why I only had one roommate and why most of my friends were guys. His reply has stuck with me ever since: “Exactly, which is why I always tell my friends, “We know that all girls are crazy, you just have to pick what kind of crazy you can deal with.”

Some girls would have been offended by this, but I wasn’t. I laughed! I was struck by how true it was. I have a scale of zero to “cray-cray” when it comes to all of my girlfriends, and sadly, most of them tip the scales on the cray-cray level. My mom, sisters, and a few close friends are the few on the other “normal” side of the scale. That didn’t mean I didn’t have to bite my tongue and not say what I was thinking: “It’s the same for us girls, except we say we know all guys are douche/douche bags, we just have to decide which one we’re willing to train.”, but it was nice to get insight into the mystery that is a guy’s mind – and an honest one at that.

So what negotiable’s are most common? From my experience, aside from crazy, it comes down to nagging being the most common thing you hear guys say they put up with when it comes to girls, and insensitivity in guys on the opposite side. A couple of weeks ago at Church my friend gave a talk and told  a story about one of his college professors (I believe it was Biology) to prove this point. I can’t tell it nearly as well as he can, so I’ll just cover the basics from what I can remember. He related that the professor said he was going to teach them something they should never forget or needed to know when they got married. He said, “Fellas, when your wife asks you to do something you don’t want to do to help around the house, always smile and say, “Yes dear!” When your wife asks you to do the laundry, smile, and say, “Yes dear!” When she leaves, dump the entire thing of laundry detergent in the washer with the clothes, turn it on, and walk away. Let the bubbles and water run everywhere. Voila. She won’t ask you again. When she asks you to help her do the dishes with her, smile and say, “Yes dear,”, and then proceed to drop and break every dish she hands you to dry. She won’t ask you again.” He said he hoped the leaders of the congregation would remember this story when considering asking him to speak again. Is this effective compromise? No, but it does display the types of differences there are and is a good reminder of what kind of work we have to do to make a relationship last.

Regardless of race, sexual orientation, culture, skin color, or the type of relationship, everyone “puts up with” someone else’s weaknesses, struggles, and little nuisances that drive each them nuts or the human race would become extinct. Whether he never puts down the toilet seat, or he’s late everywhere because she’s high maintenance, each party has to be willing to accept certain things if they’re going to  choose to enter into or stay in a relationship with a person. Maybe he loves country music and she would rather be shot in the foot than listen, or her idea of a fun Saturday night is going to the ballet while all he wants to do is watch the big game on TV. A lot of what makes reality shows like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” interesting is to watch the main person fight their way through those negotiable and nuisances. A lot of people purposely choose to late lots of different kinds of different people in order to find out what their deal breakers or negotiable are. Some girls foolishly believe that love will fix and conquer all, but the reality is, romantic relationships are work, and none are perfect. Others will stick to their guns no matter what and never get married or stay in a relationship because they are too picky or aren’t willing to work. In that case, well, don’t “they” say there’s someone out there for everyone? If not, the best I can say is, enter the cat lady and perverted old bachelor!

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