I’m starting to wonder if the trouble with relationships isn’t simply, well, relationships. Or, to put it another way, becoming too comfortable with another person.
Right now I’m learning a new language, and even in just the first three class sessions we’ve spent a considerable amount of time talking about the difference between addressing someone formally versus informally. All languages and societies that I’m aware of have these rules of decorum and politeness. When you meet someone for the first time, you’re suppose to speak formally to them, usually until they give you permission to do otherwise or you two become close.
But it feels like once we get close to someone, that’s when we start taking them for granted.
Think about how you act when you’re in a brand new relationship. I don’t mean the butterflies and the almost constant sex, there’s that too, but I mean how you treat the other person. In the beginning, you’re much more likely to do thoughtful things for them, go out of your way just to make them smile, and even send them little notes to let them know you’re thinking about them. Now, I’m not saying these things disappear as the relationship ages, but they become much fewer and far between or are reserved for special occasions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.).
Emotionally speaking, I think we become more careless as time goes on. A new couple hangs on each other’s every word, frequently wants to know what the other person is thinking, and is highly aware of the other’s emotional state and, perhaps more to the point, how your actions affect your partner. But with time, we seem to become less aware of how our behavior impacts the relationship. And, sadly, in some cases we outright start to abuse one another.
I can’t help thinking of my best friend. For years, we were as close as partners without the sexual element. We lived together, commuted together, took vacations together; at one point, we even started discussing what it might be like for two very close friends to raise a family together. Weird, maybe, but we loved each other dearly. For those years, there was no one in the world I trusted more, and the verse was true for him as well. We knew each other’s deepest, darkest secrets and had seen each other at our best and our worst. In other words, nothing was sacred anymore.
I never thought much about how we interacted, until he fell madly in love with someone. Sure, he suddenly didn’t have much time for me anymore, but that’s predictable new-relationship behavior. He didn’t have time for anybody but his girl. But people began to approach me and comment on how he spoke to me–namely, that he was rude and even talked down to me like a parent might to a child. I thought folks were exaggerating that they just didn’t understand our relationship, until I saw him with this girl he was nuts about.
Goodness. He hung on her every word, practically licking the ground she walked upon. It was almost embarrassing to witness. Things he would politely ask her, “Sweetie, can you bring in the dishes from the living room?” he would simply command me, “Jade, pick up your shit already!” He was softer with her, kinder, and a hell of a lot more tactful.
Familiarity, I suppose, is a double-edged sword. On the upside, you get to know someone and that can be really cool! But on the downside, we take each other for granted and sometimes forget to even be kind to one another.
Now, granted, the example I give is a friendship versus a potential relationship, and you definitely suck up to folks you want to fuck. In that way, I may be comparing apples and oranges, but I’ve had the same exact experience within romantic relationships, the example of my best friend is simply the starkest.
My current relationship is no different. In the beginning, we were careful with each other, kind and considerate. Now we seem to bulldoze each other’s emotions like it’s going out of style. No concern for how our actions might affect one another, it seems we’ve retreated into concern for our own needs and nothing more. I know we both frequently feel disrespected, and I certainly feel belittled on a regular basis. Is this how we treat people we Love? It makes no sense…
But, what my experience with my best friend taught me is something I think is true of all types of relationships, friendships, romances, family, etc.. What I learned there was that it’s often the people we Love the most that we take the most for granted. We just expect them to be there, like they always have been, with no effort on our part. But if the people we Love feel unappreciated, disrespected or, heck, even obsolete… then they won’t stick around for very long.
In all fairness, I’m basing this on personal experiences which means it could just be me. Maybe I’m just the kind of person people talk down to. Even most closest friends tell me I have a tendency to be a doormat, often for the sake of niceness, in my mind. I’m trying to usher some of that crap out of my life, but I have a hard time refusing to help someone when they ask for it I don’t have a “good” reason to turn them down. Perhaps this is why I feel taken for granted so often.
So I’d love some more anecdotal data on this one. What have been your experiences, dear reader? Does familiarity breed carelessness? Or are people only as careless as you let them be?