I successfully wiped the dust off of my laptop to write another letter to you today. Sorry for the delay but as I am sure most of you know and understand, life is complicated and time is never enough. While I may not have written to you in some time, know that I have thought about you and what I would write next.
I decided to write about relationships. Not because I am an expert by any means, but I do have some experience. Sixteen years with the same person can give me experience if it gives me nothing else. I do find it to be amazing how closely a relationship with the one that we love can parallel our relationship to work. As I thought and planned out what I would write about with the journey of the relationship that I have with Brian, I realized that it seemed eerily similar to a relationship with a job. I sound like a real romantic now, I know!
Let me explain what I mean.
I first met Brian in 1997 in a Giant Eagle where we worked. I had been there for about a year and he was just starting. I can remember his first day well and I can even remember the shirt that he wore on that first day. I thought he was cute… back then, at age 17 it was good to be cute. Now its a term more for babies and toddlers. So from our first meeting to our first dates, I would say was the “Getting to Know You Phase” of our relationship.
We were attracted to each other for one reason or another, much as it is with a job. Something makes us attracted to the job we choose. It could be money, location, convenience .. anything really, but the point is that the initial attraction gets us in the door and from there it is all about getting to know each other. I was attracted to Brian’s rosy cheeks, short hair, ripped up jeans, and the ball cap did me in. The attraction got me in the door and from there it has been a learning adventure ever since.
Questions are asked, “Who are you, What do you like, What is your favorite color?” Brian’s is blue…. just saying. Anything that you can think of is on the table for questioning. The interview has begun. It can be a nervous time but it is also a time to feel out if this is the relationship for you. This is a good place to recognize red flags. Of course, the red flags will have to outweigh the initial attraction.
Once you have gotten to know each other a bit, you can move on the the second phase which is “The Training Phase”. This is the point in any relationship where you begin to open up to each other and get some rules down. You are on your best behavior in this stage. Doors are opened, manners are used, soft sweet words are spoken, a general unselfishness as you aim to please. All you can see is making it to the end of this training period so that the good times can roll.
It seems that in this phase, everything is a test. Keep in mind men…. if in fact I do have any men readers, that I am writing from a female perspective so you may see this differently. On the plus side, if you are a male reading this, maybe you will have some insight to the highly complex web of a female mind:) Back to the test. Everything is a test for the long term. Will you continue to produce for the duration? Is this going to last? Things are looking great now, but can you be counted on for some time to come?
With a relationship or with a job these questions are asked. No one starts a relationship looking for a short term and that’s the case with most jobs as well.
So once you have decided that this is something worth sticking with you can move on to the next phase of “Pre-Marriage, Marital Bliss.” In this stage you realize that you both have a roll in the relationship. It is no longer all about proving yourself. You both have equal needs that have to be met and this is the time that it is all laid out on the table.
I would say for Brian and I this time was a little tumultuous. We had both put on our best show and reeled each other in and now it was time to get down to the serious stuff. It was tough to learn exactly how each other needed to be loved. What made Brian feel good didn’t necessarily make me feel the same. We had some rocky roads but somehow moved past this phase.
With a job, I feel like this is the point that you realize that you are just as important as the employer. There is a sense of “they need me as much as I need to get paid.” With Brian and I, we both realized that we loved each other but we had to come to terms with meeting each others needs, sometimes before our own. This is where you learn a little give and take. It is also here that you can see if one is taking more than giving. Another red flag that hopefully outweighs the attraction.
So you have spent enough time together and you have had ups and downs hopefully, because they are all that you learn from. Finally, it is time to seal the deal and get married. You decide that you will give everything to this other person and that somehow they have become the most important person in your life.
For those of you who haven’t seen the comparison yet, I know plenty of people that are married to work. They give everything that they have to their jobs and it makes them happy for a good while, some till death. It is the vow that they take with their job.
The vows that Brian and I took were also till death do us part and so is life that someday that will happen but in the meantime we enjoyed the “Honeymoon Phase.” I am sure most of you are familiar with this one. It isn’t my term but most of us would recognize it. For some reason everything in life is great and nothing can ruin it. Bliss is everywhere. Rose colored glasses are worn by all and everything is seemingly perfect.
I did love this phase and can’t wait to have it back. Our honey moon phase began in Jamaica and it was a time that will always be cherished. We are no longer in Jamaica or in our “Honeymoon Phase” but the memories are worth a million.
We may not be honeymooning any longer but, this is a phase that can certainly be revisited with a little work from both sides. This phase is sort of like training phase in that you are aiming to please each other. The difference is that this time you are pleasing each other because there is actually a deep love between you.
With work, I’d say this is the period right before a big promotion. You are pumped and can’t wait to get it but you have to be on top of your game as well. Every detail counts and because you love what you do you are willing to bend over backwards.
This phase can last a while or it can get interrupted with life sooner than expected. When it is interrupted, the next phase begins that I call “My Ho Hum Life.” This is where one or both become complacent. No one is trying anymore. It is hard to figure out who stopped first but either way no one is trying. Sometimes there is one that is still trying but it won’t last long if the other doesn’t as well.
This is the phase where everyday life becomes a chore. It is boring and plain and nothing about it has the excitement or luster of the love that once was present. I hate this phase and wish that it wasn’t a part of relationships but sadly it is. It is in this phase that changes need to be made.
By changes I do not imply quitting…. although sometimes it is necessary with a job. When dealing with the one you love I would never imply that quitting is the answer. I tell you from sixteen years with my love, that there has never been smooth sailing all of the time. There has always been ups and downs and to that I attribute our constant learning and adapting.
We change as individuals, as parents, as lovers, as friends and as children of our own parents. In addition to the changes that we make, the world around us changes on a second by second basis as well. There are hardly any constants in this world so I am happy that my relationship is… even in tough times.
All of that said, I would still prefer to do without this phase. None the less, the “Ho Hum” happens. We get so wrapped up in our own changing needs and wants. Suddenly we no longer realize that what we had and loved all along is right in front of us.
It is in this phase that I have made changes in myself. I have looked closer at how to be a better wife. I had gone so long thinking that being the best mom is what would define me. It took this phase entering into our lives that made me realize that I was also still a wife and I had forgotten how important that was to me. By changes, I meant that I looked into my heart and realized that I was forgetting about the things that were once important. I revisited those feelings and began to adjust how I did things day to day.
The quicker we could get out of this phase the better!
Finally, I think that the phase that I have been in and out of briefly is the “Rocking Chair Phase”. This one can’t be settled into until you have spent long years with each other and know every detail of each other. It is not a phase that can be learned but rather one that only time will allow. From time to time you may get a glimpse of this phase but it will be short lived until your time has actually been put in.
This is the phase that my grandparents were in. They could finish any sentence and sit in silence forever. They could look at each other and just know what the other thought. They no longer worried about pleasing the other because they were happy with everything about each other. They would laugh with each other and hold hands and if you were in the presence of them you felt something inside of you. Just to watch them was to feel the love that they shared with each other.
I strayed from the work comparison but I think that if you have been in a profession so long that you are ready to retire that you may just be in this phase. You know the ins and outs of your work and have given a lifetime to it. You no longer worry about proving yourself because you have become comfortable with each other. You are loved and appreciated as you are.
I can’t wait to get to this stage in love and in work, however I know I still have some learning to do. Brian and I still work on pleasing each other. We are still in need of each other’s approval for some reason. Our love continues to grow each day and we continue to learn from each other. I’d say we aren’t exactly in any of the stages right now but I know that we are trying to get back to the Honeymoon Stage. Who wouldn’t want to get back there?
So we work at it day by day, and we spend time going up and down together. Some days I think that I want to quit trying and some days I think that I’d never. Every day I know that I am in love and it is all a step in the road to the “Rocking Chair Phase”, which is the phase we all should want to end up in.