Time waits for no man or woman and that spells bad news when you are in a long-term relationship, or even worse, a marriage! But fear not, love conquers all. And if it doesn’t, the little things you do will.
Here are 10 things you could do when you are both too busy to spend time together but you still want to show your love to your significant other.
Give each other 1-minute hugs. And when you are given one, no matter how busy you are, take the 60-seconds of silence as a “I miss you” or a “I know you are stressed out, here’s me showing you I’m thinking of you”. You have 1440 minutes in a day, you can spare one or two.
Buy small, inexpensive things that remind you of your significant other. It could be their favourite food like a cupcake, chocolate or chrysanthemum tea (some people have unique tastes). You don’t have to go out of your way to do it, just pick one up if you pass their favourite store.
Send single emoji hugs or kisses through your favourite social bridge. I prefer WhatsApp myself, but you can work with any platform you want, even pen and paper.
Make honest statements. If you are unhappy, just tell them that you are. Don’t make them guess. Don’t throw tantrums. Don’t let them belittle your feelings either. Talk to them about how their actions make your life worse, or better. Relationships grow stronger with every honest discussion you have. Here’s some “fun” reading on this topic: Why You Would Marry The Wrong Person
Spend anniversaries and birthdays together. It may be hard to take days off to go on holiday together but make an effort to celebrate the few special days together. Wedding anniversaries should be celebrated if you still give a hoot. Birthdays can be gift-less but not company-less.
Visit family when you can. Being around family or in-laws make you and your spouse behave. You don’t get to ignore your better half while playing a mobile game if his or her parents are around. You wouldn’t dare. Also, it brings back memories of time when you have little to worry about how to sneak away from family to have some alone time.
Say thank you and sorry. Not for small insignificant things. Say thank you to them, for putting up with you and your hectic schedule. Say sorry for making them put up with you and your hectic schedule.
Sprinkle compliments in your everyday life. It could be a new tie or a lipstick colour, or it could be a new recipe they are trying out. If you want your spouse to look good, compliment them when they make the effort rather than pointing out what other flaws they should work on.
Use the kids. If your spouse has always been the one to handle the tantrums, take over once in a while so he or she can grab a breather. When it’s time for dinner, ask the kids to “summon” the busy spouse or make them take coffee to the parent who is hard-at-work. Sometimes kids can help one destress fairly easily. Only works with parents though.
Joke and laugh together. If there is only enough time to say one thing, make that something you say elicit a smile, or even better, a laugh. The couple who laughs together has less time to argue with each other. #makestotalsense
This is one of the most important videos on relationships I have ever watched. Writer and philosopher Alain de Botton, of the School of Life fame, speaks to an audience about why we would probably marry the wrong person.
It would be best that you watch the video in its entirety. You’ll probably need 2 or 3 views of the full video to get every important point he has to say.
If you don’t have the time, here’s a cheatsheet I’ve produced on the lessons and interpretations I’ve made from the video.
First, We Need To Talk About Ourselves
We’re hard to live with.
We don’t know this until we’re pretty old because nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news, not friends, not family, and not our loved ones.
We addicts. We addicts of distractions because we are not comfortable being just with or by ourselves.
Love requires us to tell another soul we are vulnerable without their presence. It’s like revealing our weakness to the other person.
We suck at telling people how we need them.
The first way we do it is becoming real strict with them particularly with procedures: You are 10 minutes late. Take the trash out. ETC. When in fact, what we want to actually ask is: Do you still care about me?
The second way we do it is avoidance. We tell them we are busy. A lot. Busy busy busy. “I’m fine. I’m just busy.”
In short: we do not know how to love. We view it as an instinct, when in fact it is a skill.
Again this is an oversimplification of what you can learn from watching the full video. Do give it a go. Or keep reading.
So What Is Love Actually?
There is a difference between “loving” and “being loved”.
Being loved is like how grandma bakes cookies for you. Yeah, that sort of love.
We grow up thinking that’s what’s going to happen when we’re adults. Thus, we neglect learning how to love.
“To love is to be willing to apply charity and generosity of interpretation” – Think of the good things when it comes to someone’s action and/or behaviour #hecouldneverdoyouwrong
Everyone we love is going to be a mixture of the good and the bad. Everyone we love is going to disappoint us.
Love is not just an admiration for strength (the good). It is also tolerance for weakness and recognition of ambivalence.
In other words, that someone you love will be both good and bad. And that’s okay.
I’ve skipped through quite a number of things in the above, and there will be more skipping in the next few parts, so watch the video. Or if you are pressed for time, keep reading.
Choose With Your Head, Not Your Heart
(This part is going to mess you up.)
When you choose a partner, people tell you to follow your heart, don’t think too much, and for god’s sake don’t overthink it.
That’s not right. There is no such thing as thinking too much about emotions.
“We live in a romantic culture that privileges impulse.” #suchabeautifulsuccinctstatement
A lot of the way we love as adults comes as an effect as the way we learn to love as children.
A lot of our experiences of love is tied in with various kinds of suffering.
Between the hugs and kisses are harsh treatments, being scolded, made to feel small or insignificant by parents.
When we grow up, we seek out partners who make us feel the same way. The happiness, and suffering we feel is familiar to us. And so we think that’s the way to be loved.
Another root of relationship problems is that the more we think a love is right for us, the less we feel we need to explain things to them.
We expect them to guess what is hidden inside our heads (what we need to be happy, what we want) instead of just telling them what we want.
We want to be understood without words because it’s… romantic. When that doesn’t work, we sulk.
Watch the video or keep reading to find a new meaning in the word sulking.
We Sulk when We Should Teach
(Sorry, my mistake. THIS part is going to be mess you up.)
We don’t sulk with just anyone. We sulk with people who we feel should understand us and yet for some reason decided not to.
When asked what is wrong, we say, “NOTHING, I’M FINE” when clearly, we’re not.
When pressed, we become frustrated with the fact that we have to explain ourselves when we actually want them to understand us without us saying anything.
That will lead to catastrophe. If you do not explain, you will never be understood.
The root to a good marriage and good love is the ability to become a good teacher.
Teaching is a word we give to the skill of getting an idea from one head to another head in a way that is likely to be accepted.
We all suck at this.
Most of us teach when we are tired, or when we are frightened (of the thought of having married an idiot). When that fear is strong, we scream at them, “You have got to understand!” and stop teaching.
To teach, we must be relaxed. We must accept that maybe your partner may not understand.
If you are in a relationship, you will teach each other and you will learn from each other.
This is necessary but it is also why you will have an unhappy relationship.
Being told something bad about yourself will make you uncomfortable or worse, feel personally attacked. That’s not what they are trying to do. They are trying to make you a better person.
Ironically, we don’t tend to believe this has a role in love. We tend to believe that “true love” has to be an accepting of the whole of us. It doesn’t.
No one should accept the whole of us. We are terrible. Wanting the whole of you accepted (unconditionally) is not love.
What we need to do is accept that the other person is going to want to educate us, and that what they say is NOT a criticism but an attempt to make us into better versions of ourselves.
Last chance to watch the video. Nah, I’m kidding. You can watch it anytime. Here’s the conclusion.
Will We Never Find The Right Person?
None of us are perfect, if we demand perfectionism, we will end up alone. You can’t have perfection and company.
To be in company with another person is to be negotiating imperfection every day.
We are all incompatible.
But with love, we graciously accommodate each other and ourselves to these incompatibilities.
Even with that, you are not going to be totally compatible. That’s not the point.
It is through love that you gradually accept the need to be compatible.
We should also recognise an ability to compromise. Compromise carries negative emotions, when in fact compromise is noble.
We compromise in every area of life. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t compromise in our love life.
Digesting what is in the video and thinking about what the video means to us individually and personally. My take is as below, if you want an idea of what I mean.
The first time I watched this video, I’ve only caught parts of what he was conveying. A second view taught me more. By the third view, I couldn’t wait to share this with other married couples in strong healthy relationships and those who aren’t. And in writing up this cheatsheet, I’ve watched the videos more times than I can count.
This speaks volume on the complexity of a love relationship.
Personally, I found some parts to be painfully accurate. I’ve always believed that we would find a spouse who reminds us of one or both of our parents.
But in learning that this may be due to the way we are used to how parents loved us and made us suffer when we were growing up, so much so that we are inclined to find a spouse who make us feel the same way because we seek that sense of familiarity – that in itself answers a lot of questions.
Second, the part where we have to learn the difference between loving someone and being loved by someone, this became known to me when I was a mother. It is essentially what we label as unconditional love. Mothers do that from the get go.
Because pregnancy is torturous.
And yet when you hold your newborn in your arms, you will do anything to anyone who dares to harm a hair of this creature that just put you through months of misery. If that isn’t unconditional love, I’m not sure what is.
More importantly, fathers do not go through this emotional growth because they were spared the 40-week physical misery. And as mothers, we need to understand that fathers lack that “motivation” to love your child as much as you do. That by no ways mean they can’t. But this does answer a lot of questions, doesn’t it?
Third, always trying to make men guess what we are thinking, is a formula for disaster. I’ve always known we do this. I just didn’t know why until I watched this video.
Now, I tell wives to spell things out for their husbands. I openly frown when they say things like, “he should know by now”, “does he not realise…” and “this is understood”.
No. You want flowers, you ask for it. Be specific with the colour, the number, where to get them, when you want them, how you want them. Tell (teach) them once and they will do it repeatedly when they realise how much this makes you that much happier.
Stop wasting time sulking. Life is too short. If you are unhappy, tell them why rather than show them how angry you are (though the latter can be more effective at times).
Fourth, stop taking everything your partner asks you to improve on as a criticism or something that devalues your self-worth.
If they don’t like your cooking, be a better cook. Take classes, watch cooking shows, experiment, learn to pick fresher ingredients, ask for advice from seasoned cooks etc.
If they ask you to get out more, get an outdoor hobby, go jogging, take a zumba class. If they ask you to learn how to spend money more wisely, learn how to budget and keep track of your expenses.
If they make a remark about your appearance, say, your grey hairs are showing, visit the hair salon and get a new hair colour, eat more nutritious food, rest more. Every one of those things make you pick up skills and help you be a better individual.
Lastly, I believe with all my heart that we can’t stay in love forever, the same way we can’t stay angry or sad or happy forever. If you expect love to be the only thing holding a marriage together, then you’re going to have to go through a lot of marriages in your lifetime. #amirite
Near the end of the video, Alain mentioned a common reason married couples stay together despite problems in marriage: sticking around for the children. While this usually carries a negative connotation, he thinks that it is a wonderful reason to stick around. “Why else are you going to stick around?”
I like the breath of fresh air he gives to our view of what love is, what marriages are, and what we can do to keep a marriage healthy and strong. And that’s what this ridiculously long post has been all about.
You may have swapped rings and vows, build a family or a business together, and have gone through some of the highs and lows in your life with your significant other. But there will always be an thorn in the rose bush that comes in the form of their family members.
In-laws. The makers or breakers of relationships. Most notably the mother-in-law (or more affectionately known in Messaging circles as “mil”).
I have a wonderful mother-in-law. She’s stubborn but hardworking, naive but firm, worries a lot because she cares and most importantly, she is fun to be around. Together with her loving husband of five decades, give or take, they are the perfect in-laws to have.
Of course there are problems, not necessarily limited to these two nice folks. The Chinese has a saying 一种米养百种人 (One type of rice feeds 100 types of people). We may all eat the same food but our behaviour, mannerism, preferences, dislikes, values, sense of ethics, qualms and ideologies amongst others may differ greatly.
The upbringing we share at that home may be different from the upbringing values of this home.
Some households push toothpaste from the middle of the tube, some at the end. Some households eat dinner in front of the TV, others in collective silence, still others in the midst of “what happened in school today” conversations.
Once you marry into a family, you have to make adjustments. And this happens both ways – your spouse has in-laws too.
Having to adjust how you were brought up, merge it with or totally adopt a new way of life is tough.
Traditionally, this falls on the daughter-in-law since she marries into her husband’s family. But nowadays, the son-in-law can also have a healthy relationship with his wife’s family.
They also make adjustments to their way of life, sometimes, if I may be so honest, with a high level of tolerance. Because where there is no love to be had, tolerance is the next best thing.
I think this is why the Chinese, or Asians in general, have always made it important to marry and have children. Because in learning how to love and or tolerate our in-laws, we learn how to become better people.
We learn that things don’t always have to be the way we want it to be, and if you insist on this being your way of life (e.g. forcing your daughter-in-law to do something she is not used to doing), something will break.
We learn about boundaries: when to say what needed to be said and when to keep quiet and sit in the corner.
We learn that there are a million ways to do the same thing. Some methods may work better than the method we were brought up with. It helps to keep an open mind.
We learn about strange, weird, sometimes alien behaviour such as how a family copes with bad news.
We learn about the different ways family treat traditions, customs, food, children, even time (how fine is the line between punctual and late?).
We learn how to fight with people who know where we live, people who go to the same gatherings as we do, people who our children may absolutely adore and love to spend time with. It’s a weird dynamic, but one we have to learn how to master, one way or another.
And most importantly, we learn that “outsiders” can care about us just as much as our flesh and blood family can.
Personal thoughts: This post went in a very different way than I initially set out to write.