Yesterday I asked some clients how long we say “Happy New Year!” They said probably til the end of January, or almost. That’s a good answer. Another answer is as long as that feeling of shiny new possibilities lasts. You know, that feeling of turning the page. Getting a fresh start. A chance for do-overs. Why not catch the moment before it fades? Decide on one thing about your relationship to let go of for 2015? Just toss it out along with the 2014 calendar!
But wait Claire, aren’t you always saying that resentments have to be worked through?
And if you try to ignore them they’ll build up and fester?
I’m not talking about core relationship issues that you do need to work on together. I’m talking about accepting the inevitable disappointments of a relationship with another human on this imperfect planet.
Most of us say vows with something like, “…for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad…” But let’s be honest—we’re really not imagining the bad times, are we?
We have high-in-the-sky expectations. Even if part of our brain is chuckling at them at the same time.
And when they don’t come true, it hurts.
“Dan was unemployed for almost a year after the crash in 2008,” said Caroline. “I could never have imagined that. One thing that brought us together was our traditional values. I was the homemaker, he was the provider.
“And then, suddenly he wasn’t. Part of me knows he was probably suffering more than I was. But the other part feels like, “This isn’t what I signed up for!”
And there’s always going to be a lot to learn about the person we marry. And not all of it is going to thrill us.
“Jane isn’t as active as I thought she would be.” Bill met his wife in college and all their friends were outdoors every weekend.
“It turns out that for her, that was more about that time of life. For me it’s a core part of who I am. I pictured us being one of those couples that puts the kids on their backs and still gets out there. She still likes to go hiking sometimes, but not as much as I do. It’s been an adjustment.”
What disappointment could you let go of this year? It could be a weakness that your partner can’t help. It could be character trait that you don’t prefer but isn’t going to change. It could be a habit that is annoying, but in the grand scheme, is really unimportant.
He eats kimchi! She back seat drives! He never makes the bed!
One way to think about this is to put the shoe on the other foot.
What does your partner have to accept about you?
You want him to be generous and understanding. You want him to accept that you’re a work in progress. You hope he sees your rough spots as unimportant when weighed against your good qualities. I’m sure you don’t want him thinking: “This isn’t what I signed up for!”