Real Ship: Advice for the New Sailor(s)

So this was a topic that came up over lunch with Rin and the Wind Goddess.

In case you were wondering, yes, the topic was about relationships. Specifically, what to expect in a relationship.

The ideal relationships we see in movies and other media is that couples argue and then they make up. Sometimes it’s through a major makeout session, sometimes they blow out at each other, other times they go to their friends to rant. Then they come back to the relationship in a “happier” state of mind, all issues resolved.

And then you have the group that dispenses “relationship” advice that don’t go repeating and rehashing the “you need to talk it out” line. They don’t, however, tell you what to talk about.

Which, anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship (minimum of 4 years and more, sometimes less, sometimes just someone who has been in a few relationships) will tell you is complete, and utter bollocks.

So I’m telling you.

When you get into a relationship, sit down and talk about your goals. What your ultimate aim in life is, where do you guys see yourselves heading, etc. If those goals don’t align, then ask yourselves what do you guys want out of the relationship. Is it to have fun? See how you two can click? Suka sama suka?

As long as you both agree, it’s a COMPLETELY VALID reason to be in that relationship. Hey, I know of people who got into a relationship cause it was convenient and ended up marrying each other. So it’s up to you.

That’s the first thing you talk about. So what’s the second?

Dealbreakers. Boundaries.

Things that’ll you will never say yes to. Things that they’ll never say yes to. Things they’ll always say no to. Things you’ll always say no to.

These can be little things; one side may hate people who leave the toilet seat up, and never make an effort to leave it up even after constant reminders. People who belittle others. People who never tip.

Things that will make you say, “No, I cannot live with this behaviour.” Things that will make you say, “No, you’re being an asshole to me.” Or even stuff like, “If you ever move away, we’ll break up.” (A couple I know who did that eventually got back together after he finished school and are now happily married with two adorable children.)

Those are dealbreakers. Stuff that make you walk away. As an example, one of my deal breaker is someone who promises to stop smoking, but doesn’t. Or does it for a short while, and then takes it up again the moment I turn my back.

Boundaries, on the other hand, is about making your partner feel safe around you, and you around them. This one’s much trickier to negotiate, and requires both sides being open and vulnerable when those boundaries are crossed. It also means being aware of behaviours that trigger it.

Here’s an example: When the uke and I first started dating, he made comments that made me feel guilty whenever I went out without him, or for extended periods of time. After a few weeks, I pointed out to him that such behaviour crossed my boundaries and in fact, was quite reminiscent of the ex that was emotionally abusive. He recognised that, and took measures to ensure that I would never feel that again.

He, on the other hand, set a boundary about crushes. Because we were in a long distance relationship, we both knew we would be attracted to other people. Instead of hiding it, we spoke about it. He set boundaries for when he’d recognise those crushes were, and when to talk about it.

Sometimes boundaries can be as simple as “No kissing in public.” Or “I want to hear from you at least once a day via SMS/Gtalk/IM, so at least I know you’re alive.” It all depends on what you are both comfortable with.

Does this sound like hard work? Well, it depends on how much you trust and are willing to sit down and hash out the terms of your relationship. It doesn’t need to be something you do immediately, but it is something you need to discuss, preferably in the days when the relationship still feels new, shiny and in the “nothing can go wrong” phase.

Because there will come a time when the shine comes off, you will disagree with each other, and you will have outbursts with each other. Talking about things beforehand helps you manage expectations and discuss things without feeling that the other person was out deliberately to wound you in the most hurtful and malicious way possible.

And if done right, you can revisit it over and over again. Because chances are, it’ll help you discover the person you fell in love with, isn’t just a single facet, but a complicated, loving, wonderful human being.

Just like you.