How to Have a Good Relationship

No, a great one.

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Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

Is this an arrogant thing for me to be writing about? I’m not a therapist or relationship counselor. I’m just a woman who’s been with the same guy, 95% happily, for 32 years, 27 of them married.

It seems like a lot of people on Medium are really worried about what happens when two individuals who met on a dating app end up in bed for the first time. They worry about their smells, the appearance of their genitals (now, especially women), whether they should have pubic hair, about the number of other partners they had or have, and especially whether they are doing things correctly.

I’m from an earlier generation, when we really were slut-shamed. The only sex education we got in school was a movie in tenth-grade biology class. No banana demonstrations with condoms. The movie the class watched in silent embarrassment shamed a girl for having sex (in the back seat of a car, of course). We watched her hang her head in the hallways the next day. And soon came her punishment. I don’t remember whether it was getting pregnant or getting syphilis. Probably both.

A story posted the other day blamed this sanctimonious, judgmental attitude on the Christian church. You don’t have to be Christian! I went to a typical public California high school. Everybody was supposed to be a virgin until they got married. End of discussion.

When the birth control pill came out, attitudes changed. It was okay to have sex, but only with someone you were in love with. And women were not really supposed to enjoy it.

Now we’re living in an era when none of that is relevant any more. That’s comforting, but a lot of people seem to be really worried about how to get it right. As much as they might seem nonchalant about the single life being a series of text messages leading to one-night stands, I suspect most of them are really hoping for, and looking for, a good — if not great — relationship with one person they can count on.

How to make that happen?

The following is old-fashioned news. But it bears repeating. The secret was recommended by the Beatles in 1969: “The love you get is equal to the love you give,” which concludes:

The secret to a great relationship, I’ve learned, is simultaneously touching each other physically, emotionally and spiritually. Corny as Kansas, right? It doesn’t have to be. When I say ‘simultaneously,’ it’s not necessarily at precisely the same moment. Sure, that’s ideal, but it could be during the same day or week. This morning, for example, when my husband and I woke up, he let me know that he didn’t have to get to work right away. Either did I, so we spent a relaxed half-hour drinking coffee and talking. When I went outside later, I noticed that the garbage can was already out on the street. That meant that he planned the cozy interlude so we wouldn’t miss the Tuesday morning pickup, and not have a smelly garbage can hanging around all week. That’s love.

How do you get to a place of mutual understanding and respect and admiration? Someone you enjoy living with almost all the time (almost, because nothing is perfect). If you say something like “I want to support you physically, emotionally and spiritually,” you might get laughed out of bed (and out of his/her life).

To coin a phrase: Just do it.

Activities. Stuff you do together. Here are some ideas of what to suggest to initiate an activity, early in a relationship, that might bring two people closer together:

“Instead of going out, would you like to try making a pizza with me?”
“Great. Can we go to the store and get the ingredients together?”
“I have an extra ticket to (concert or event) with friends. Would you like to come with us?”
“Have you read this book? I’ll lend you my copy. I think you’d really enjoy it.”
“You mentioned that you’re a Yankee fan. I taped this afternoon’s game. Let’s watch it together.”
And if you’re especially daring (they make fun of this in TV commercials): “My favorite yoga class is Saturday morning at 10. I’d love to take you.”

None of these things will seem “too forward” to another person (do people still use the word ‘forward’?) Instead, the suggestions express your interest in doing something with and for the other person, not only for yourself.

A win-win because they’re things you want and need, too.

My career is designing and writing about design. Here, I can write about lots of things. My short fiction attempts to capture and evoke past moments in time.

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