Monday, September 24, 2012

Maintaining Relationships Well Beyond NRE

At the end of August the Libertine and I celebrated six months together, and we went out to a cute little Italian place for dinner.  It was the type of little local place that most people don't notice, but the food was fantastic and the atmosphere was perfect.  Since it was such a cozy environment, the traffic was light.  There were only a handful of other tables being used, despite us being there for several hours.

Occupying another table was a couple that had clearly been married for a long time.  They were barely talking, let alone making eye contact.  They seemed more interested in their phones than in each other.  The wife looked like she was trying to engage her husband's attention more than once, but they just weren't connecting.

At our table, there was talking, laughter, flirting, touching.  We bantered with each other and with our waitress.  We giggled, drank, and generally had a great time.  Our attention was focused on each other, but not to the exclusion of what was going on around us.  Neither of us picked up a phone while we were there, with the exception of checking the time towards the end of the night.

I was facing the wife of the unhappy couple.  She kept shooting me hard, dirty stares across the restaurant.  Her attitude was angry, resentful almost.  I commented on it to the Libertine more than once, because it seemed so unprovoked.  Then I realized that I was on the date she was hoping she would get out of her husband.  I was enjoying the romantic, relaxing evening out, and she was sitting at a dead table and hoping her husband would pull his head out of his ass long enough to notice her.

Here's the thing:  I wouldn't notice her if I was a man.  Where I was wearing a cute, cleavage baring dress and heels, she was wearing a Mom Sweater and sensible shoes.  Where I had carefully done my hair and makeup, she was sporting a quick ponytail and might have been wearing mascara.  I looked sexy and approachable.  She looked tired and angry.  If I was her husband, I wouldn't be very interested in her, either.

As relationships progress, a certain amount of routine and getting comfortable always happens.  We let the people we love the most see us in our worst light.  We feel safe around them, so we let down our guard.  However, we have a duty to our partners to maintain at least some semblance of the image they fell in love with in the first place.  If you get too comfortable, it's easy to lose interest.  I'm not perfect.  The Libertine and the Mister see me in my pajamas, or just after a workout, or when I decide not to get dressed on my day off.  The Prime sees me most often right after work, and my job is pretty physical in nature.  But I make an effort to consistently look good - looking my best isn't an every day thing, but I try to do it often enough that it's not a "special occasion."  I know this sounds old-fashioned, but it works for men, too.

I also treat most dates as though they are first dates (with the exception of my "no fucking" rule).  I try not to vent my frustrations with outside stuff unless invited to do so.  I try to keep my conversation entertaining, funny, and flirtatious.  Just because you've been dating someone a long time doesn't mean that you don't have to make an effort anymore.  In fact, making an effort is even more important!

We all want to be reminded of the person we fell in love with.  This is both a physical and an emotional need.  You don't need to stay a size 2 the entire time you're dating someone, but you do need to try to maintain the feeling of mutual sexual attraction between you.  I'm a plus size woman, but I feel sexy, and I project sexy.  That is the feeling you need to maintain.  My partners may not open doors for me everywhere we go, but the fact that they still do so reminds me of the early days of dating.

Start with little things.  Hold an embrace a little longer.  Say "I love you" a little more.  Wear a dress for no reason.  Do something that you know will make them smile, because at the end of the day you're gonna get out what you put in.

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