Walking on Fresh Grass
“We never argue” she said proudly to me.
“We don’t even disagree” he added.
“He brings me flowers every Friday, and has so for 25 years, without fail.”
“Our kids model their relationships on ours”
At this point I was finding it hard to shelve my judgements: really hard.
I was on a plane flying to Melbourne for a conference. I got talking to a couple sitting next to me. They asked me what I did, and the conversation eventually turned to long-term relationships.
After giving me the above description of their relationship the woman smiled at me in triumph. I think she expected me to give her a badge of honour for not arguing.
I had to ask myself: was I staring at perfection here, or was there more to this story?
After some more awkwardness he added, “I’d be in trouble if I ever came home with carnations.”
She gave him a look and whacked him.
You never really know what is going on in another person’s life or relationship.
You never know what’s going on
behind closed doors
behind a façade
behind constant positive talk
behind all the jokes
People can be living very lonely lives…together.
But they may not.
I heard the comparisons that we all make run through my mind:
“They’re so happy. Why aren’t we?”
“Their relationship is full of romance. Why isn’t ours?”
“They’re so close they finish each other’s sentences. Why don’t we?”
Unfortunately, we compare our private worlds with other people’s public display.
Being aware of this very human tendency, however, will help tame the green eyed monster of “comparison” that seeks to steal and destroy your joy.
Perhaps the people sitting next to me had found perfection, but many people like to give the appearance of having a perfect relationship without actually facing the reality of their problems. Or without sharing on a deeper level. They fake it. Sadly, we have known several “perfect” marriages that have ended in divorce
I looked out the window at the beautiful, billowing cloud formations. By all appearances, the couple sitting next to me were living on cloud nine.
So why this obsession with cloud nine?
Over many years of seeing couples, Christian has found that the best long term relationships are those that live on cloud eight, with occasional visits to cloud nine.
Cloud eight isn’t always glamourous, exciting or filled with romance. It isn’t fluffy and white. It doesn’t always have a silver lining. It isn’t perfect.
Fluff, silver and perfection are, however, not the substances needed for long-lasting relationships that can “Look on tempests and never be shaken” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116).
So what is the substance of long-term relationships? Accepting imperfections, toughing it out and making sacrifices. Cloud eight has some grey areas. But these only strengthen the relationship. You can fall through or get your “self” lost in a fluffy cloud, but not in a cloud that has been strengthened and refined through tempestuous times.
As we arrived at the gate in Melbourne and people shoved and hustled their way down the cramped aisle treading on toes and digging their carry-ons into people’s ribs, I heard a faint voice behind me,
“Nice to meet you”
“Lovely to meet you too” I heard myself saying. But I realised it was a disingenuous, polite remark that I gave to people I would never see again.
I watched the couple leave to get their bags in the terminal and wondered if they would talk about the real reason she whacked him. Or perhaps he would never ask, she would wish he would, and they would slip further apart together. Or who knows, maybe they had marriage perfection?
I’ll never know. You never know what is going on in another person’s relationship.
Welcome to our blog. Each blog contains a little story of our journey and an insight drawn from Christian's 18 years of clinical experience as a psychiatrist. The central ideas are in bold. We post every fortnight and would love to hear your comments. Looking forward to travelling with you in this amazing journey called life.