The beginning of a romantic relationship can be frightening. To be staring in the face of knowing you can potentially love someone (other than your family) so much that if you were to lose them, you would be grief-stricken, is utterly terrifying. It’s enough to make you want to stay single forever. Well, almost.
I remember when Ted and I went on what seemed like our millionth date, both of us wondering if the other was feeling it.
Ok, maybe it was our 5th date. But he still hadn’t kissed me, so what was a girl to think? I only had so many cute outfits and clever things left to wear and say!
By the time we were on that date, I was moving back to Canada in 3 weeks time, and he was staying in LA with no plans to move anywhere east of the 405. The circumstances were less than optimal, to say the least.
[Insert creepy-Sleeping-With-The-Enemy-music here]
Near the end of the date, our gelato melting in the cups in our hands, the Santa Monica Pier to our left, the moon reflecting off the ocean in front of us, he finally leaned in to kiss me.
Rather than be excited, which I clearly should have been given my attraction to him and the surreally perfect setting – instead, I hesitated.
[Insert record-scratch-sound-effect here]
I had a life-flashing-before-me moment and thought, “Wow. If we do this, if we kiss, this will mark the beginning of something big. Am I willing to put in the effort? Am I willing to stay up nights on the phone, on skype, to peel back the layers and get to know him, to work out the details of a long distance relationship? To love him wholeheartedly?”
To buy myself some time, when Ted was only a few inches away from my face, I said,
“Ted you’re very close to me. What are you doing?”
I know. It was evil. But I panicked. What can I say?
Seemingly unphased, he froze in his tracks and replied, “Well, I was hoping to kiss you.”
In that instant, a resounding YES! shot through my brain, and I said, “Oh. Ok.”
Sparks flew. I think there may have even been fireworks shooting off the end of the Santa Monica Pier.
Just kidding. Though that would have been pretty cool.
(Photo cred to Steve Glenn of Living Homes, who happens to take amazing photos. Clearly. #NoFilter)
Though wise words have said that only fools rush in – especially when one member of the relationship is moving out of the country indefinitely – I couldn’t help falling in love with him. 4 years later, a lot of high phone bills and long conversations later, we are happily married. And living in the same country.
And throughout the last 4 years, we have learned a thing or two about what it takes to make a relationship work. We are still learning, but we’ve got a pretty solid foundation.
In the wake of the latest Hollywood heartbreak (the break up of Coldplay’s Chris Martin and long time wife and actress, Gwyneth Paltrow), the term conscious uncoupling has been tossed around and gaining notoriety as the days pass.
So what is conscious uncoupling?
Essentially it is the best possible and most healthy way to divorce in the history of the planet. Leave it to the elegant Miss Paltrow to lead the way.
You can find out more information about it on Goop, but here is a quick summary:
50% of marriages end in divorce.
This high divorce rate holds with it the key to understanding relationships and marriage in an entirely different way:
If you look at life expectancy throughout the years, you will notice that during 50,000BC to 10,000BC, the average human life expectancy at birth was 33. By 1900, it was about 47. Nowadays it’s about 78.
Why does this matter? Well if earlier humans only lived to 33 years old, their relationships only lasted a short time. But today, with life expectancy somewhere around 78, according to societal implications, marriage is forever, so we are being asked to be in a marriage for 3 times longer than our earlier ancestors were.
In conscious uncoupling, it it believed that we need to take a deeper look at our preconceived notions of marriage and redefine them. If biologically and psychologically we are not set up to be with one person for so many decades, are we not then just setting ourselves up for failure when we say I do and give each other our forevers?
Perhaps. And indeed there are those happy couples you surely know who have been married for 80 years. But apparently they are the exception, not the rule.
Accordingly, when it comes to conscious uncoupling, “living happily ever after for the length of a 21st century lifetime should not be the yardstick by which we define a successful intimate relationship.”
Instead we should look at marriage not as all or nothing, but take it one day at a time. Because nothing is guaranteed beyond today. And we should look at our partners as teachers who come into our lives, teaching us lessons along the way. Maybe they stay in our lives as our spouse forever, but then again, maybe not. Either way, that is ok.
While I have great respect for conscious uncoupling and think it’s a fantastic approach to divorce, I would prefer to at least try to remain consciously coupled.
Ted and I strongly believe that in order to be in a conscious relationship with anyone – your spouse, your friends, your family, even your co-workers – you have to not only nurture the relationship you have with them, but also the one you have with yourself.
With that in mind, and in addition to the other posts on this subject, here are some more of the things Ted and I do to help us remain consciously coupled:
1. Don’t compare yourself to other couples. Well, at least, not in a negative way. All couples are different. Each party brings with them different backgrounds, values, finances, family histories and more to the relationship. If you think of it this way, relationships are like fingerprints: no two are the same. So if you often find yourself saying things like “look what he does for her, why don’t you do that for me too?” or “They’re going on another vacation – we never do that. Why can’t you make time for us to do that?” then you’re robbing yourself of a joyful and peaceful partnership. Don’t let comparison be the thief of your joy. Can comparison be a good thing? Yes, but only if you use it as guidance, taking a relationship you admire and using it to look deeper into your own relationship to see where there is room to grow and change. Comparison can spell doom for any relationship when it’s used as ammunition for finger pointing and blame.
2. Workout together. Hike. Run. Bike. Walk. Box. Jump rope. Go to a circuit workout class. Whatever it is. You’ll laugh, you’ll sweat, you’ll release endorphins, and maybe you’ll even sip on a shake together afterward. How romantic.
3. Continue dating throughout your marriage. No, I don’t mean dating other people (unless that’s the way you guys roll, in which case, all the power to you). I mean, date each other. Like you did in the beginning when you were getting to know each other. When you were dating. When you were making an effort to pick cool places to go to, restaurants to eat at. When you were agonizing over your outfit, your hairstyle, your new perfume or cologne. Go on a date with your spouse at least once a week, or at the very least, once every other week. And don’t cancel date nights! Life will creep up on you. It always does. And it will be easy to skip a date night because of it. But make that the exception, and not the rule. If you can make time for life, you can make time for date night. It’s imperative to the survival of your relationship. And don’t make this a mundane task. Surprise and delight each other. Gentlemen, show up with a rose. Ladies, shave your armpits and wear a pretty dress.
4. Love your body. Seriously. Love your body. As it is. Right now. I don’t care if you want to lose weight, get ripped, whatever. Those are great goals, and you should follow through with them. But your key to success will certainly be to start from where you are, and to love yourself as you are in this moment. So love your body right now, as it is, in all of its perfectly perfect imperfections. If you don’t love your whole body, pick a body part that you do love. Maybe it’s your eyes, your butt, or your lips. It will make you hold your head higher. You’ll feel more confident. As a result, you’ll pick less fights, let more things roll off your chest. Your confidence will be contagious, not to mention a huge turn on for your partner. And loving your body will put you in prime position to take on this final piece of advice:
5. Make like Sean Paul and Get busy. Look, I grew up in a household where fart was a swear word and babies came from storks, so I’d be lying if I told you I was entirely comfortable with talking about sex. But in any relationship, intimacy is extremely important. So do it. At least 3 times a week. Even if you’re feeling so tired your eyeballs feel like they might roll back into your head, or if you’re not feeling particularly sexy. It is not only guaranteed to make you feel happier, but it also acts to breath energy and vitality into your relationship.
So though Chris and Gwyneth didn’t make it, at least in the way you expected them to, it surely does not mean that love is dead, as so many twitter posts have professed it to be following this latest news. Love is very much alive. And if you make every effort to remain conscious in your relationship, there is a good chance you will live to happily ever after, together.
So go ahead and give each other your forevers.
With much love from your conscious couple,
Lauren and Ted