Familiarity: Contempt or Content?
It’s the age-old routine: girl meets boy, they fall hopelessly in love, move in together, get married, maybe have a couple of kids….then spend the rest of the relationship bickering relentlessly over whose turn it is to cook/clean/take the rubbish out/(insert tedious menial task here).Gradually the humdrum and repetition of everyday life erodes the excitement in the relationship like the sea wears down a cliff-face, until what was once the burning fire of red-hot passion becomes a barely smouldering pile of twigs (only the twigs have more chance of being rubbed together). The only things blazing now are the rows. Cue the painful break-up, the division of x number of years’ accumulated keepsakes and dust-gathering nick-nacks, then it’s back to a life of singledom…until you lock eyes with that hottie on the number 269 bus, that is. And so the perpetual cycle continues…we humans are ever the optimists, at least.The news hot off the global press and translated into every language known to man is that the Brangelina brand is no more; in brutal scenes reminiscent of Fight Club, expect to see a battered and bloodied Brad in one corner of the boxing ring whilst an angry Angelina clings victoriously to their forlorn-looking football team of offspring in the other.
This revelation roused mixed feelings within me: if a couple of pampered Hollywood A-listers with all the trappings and luxuries afforded by their stratospheric movie-star salaries can’t manage to keep the dream alive, what hope is there for the rest of us mere mortals?
This was countered by a certain frisson of satisfaction that though UN ambassador and collector of children Jolie works hard to straighten her halo and fool us with her faux-angelic persona, even she wasn’t immune from an unexpected visit from the bitch known as Karma, who’d been waiting in the wings for just the right moment to requite Jennifer Aniston’s heartache. Revenge is a dish best served cold…and Jolie looked like she hadn’t eaten for a while.
It’s been twelve long years since Ang broke the code by persuing the then-married Pitt (using the same modus operandi in which she previously ensnared the engaged Billy Bob Thornton), so I’m sure Jen couldn’t resist a wry smile as she watched the news unfold yesterday that all was not hearts and flowers in the Jolie-Pitt camp. Ahh, the sweet smell of closure. I must confess, having always been Team Jen, I gave Karma a mental high-five myself.
I remember reading somewhere that the characteristics that attract you to someone will eventually be the very same traits that will drive you apart. I tend to agree. When I first met my (ex)husband, I admired his laid-back approach and laissez-faire attitude. Whereas I was hyper to the point of bursting blood vessels, bulldozing my way through life, he took everything casually in his stride. I figured we’d bring out the best in each other, balance each other out – and for several years, we did. But gradually those differences began to niggle and get all out of kilter: he felt like I was constantly nagging him, whilst I was frustrated at his ridiculously sloth-like pace. I guess you can figure out the rest…
It seems that the old proverb Familiarity Breeds Contempt really is a thing: the more we get to know someone, the less respect we have for them. Depressing huh? On the other hand, familiarity can also breed ‘content’ – that cosy domesticity as you snuggle on the sofa in your saggy-arsed onesie watching a film…or enjoy a quiet meal together without any uncomfortable silences (since you’re both probably looking at your phones). The knowing looks that pass between you can speak a thousand words; the years of interwoven stories and mutual memories. There’s nothing quite like that special moment when you catch each other’s eye and dissolve into peals of hysterical laughter.
Relationships can be like a game of snakes and ladders: one minute you’re winning, on top of the world…and the next sliding down the slippery slope to Single Street. So, how to stop the content descending into contempt?
Listen, I’m not gonna patronise your granny by teaching her to suck eggs – we all know that a little appreciation goes a long way. These points are merely an aide-memoire so I don’t end up being plunged unceremoniously back into the shark-infested waters of the dating pool myself:
1. Show appreciation and communicate – little things like buying their favourite chocolate bar on the way home from work, subscribing to their favourite magazine, sending a few messages throughout the day. Put down your phones and really listen to each other. If you get into a heated argument, let it go (easier said that done, I know). You may “win” the argument…but it’ll be a hollow victory when you lose your partner.
2. Spice up your life – who doesn’t love a surprise meal or a cheeky weekend away?
3. Those that play together, stay together – when you see your partner dressed up, making people laugh and being the centre of attention it’s bound to remind you why you fell in love in the first place.
4. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – after a day/weekend of pursuing your own hobbies or interests (and I’m not talking hookers and weed here, Brad) you’ll have more to talk about when you regroup.
5. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) – life’s not about acquiring more stuff. In my opinion, it’s about having fun whilst living within your means. Don’t overstretch your finances with material goods, or by buying the biggest house (you think) you can afford. I fell into that trap myself with my ex, and it resulted in miserable late-night trips to Wickes to buy plumbing stuff and lost weekends spent schlepping round Habitat and Homebase, as we rapidly emptied the contents of our joint account. It was like a bottomless pit of expense. We all know money worries can be the death knell for relationships. By using your free income for doing rather than having you’ll be creating memories instead of landfill.
So if you don’t want to go the same way as Brad and Angelina, take heed folks. Please feel free to share with me your top tips for harmonious living.
Meanwhile, over in LA, Jen and her new husband Justin Theroux seem deliriously happy. But then it’s early days…
This article has also appeared in The Huffington Post UK.
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