This weekend was pretty hectic for a gal who usually tucks in long before the witching hour. Between birthdays, LA visitors and the fourth of July, I ended up sipping on my fair share of beverages and, on a less celebratory note, discussing break-ups. Listening to what went wrong in several marriages and long-term relationships, some key grievances emerged, such as: Not enough career support, busy schedules leaving little time for the relationship, different expectations about sex, and too much emotional leaning or co-dependence. As I discussed a few weeks ago, it’s ever-impossible to unpack what happens in a relationship, and usually best to listen. But back on the couch drinking tea and reading The State of Your Union in July’s O Magazine, I was reminded of some of the best relationship insight I ever learned, gleaned the first time from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink—the idea that a show of contempt can be a precursor for the demise of a relationship.
Several years ago when visiting my hubby (then-boyfriend) here in LA, I was sitting on the rooftop baking in vitamin D—back before I grasped the concept that it’s sunny every day here—when I read about how the small gesture of eye-rolling can be the beginning of the end. The reason, of course, this idea stopped me like gridlock on the 101 Freeway is that I’d most definitely been an eye-roller in past relationships. Contempt, in my experience, can be so subtle in the way it creeps in and alters your view of a significant other. With me it’s often emerged as the difference between competing to be right or working toward the same goal, for eye-rolling has the same effect on teamwork as kicking your mate in the shins.
I made a pact with myself that day on the roof not to go there in my relationship. And, as I think the huz would attest, I’ve pretty well stuck to it. A bigger question is how not to feel contempt in the first place and what’s helped me with that so far is a little old thing called compassion. When I remind myself that I have infinite compassion for the man leaving his nasty-ass, post-hockey under-things on the floor and camera equipment in the living room, it’s hella easier to say: “Babe, can we take ten to tidy the house together?” Which ultimately leads to much less eye-rolling and lots more sex. Compassion is key, me thinks. That, and truly letting go of old grievances big and small—you never cleaned up your now sweat-crispy socks so I had to—simply must be thrown out with the trash, right along with bigger hurts and betrayals should we choose to forgive. Compassion and common-sense reminds me that he worked a twelve-hour day and still took the time to give me feedback on my chapter.
Okay, it’s officially time to launder my own equine dirtied duds. My man is off working hard and I have one more holiday weekend date to make this aft–a hike to the Griffith Observatory for a last break-up chat, which I’ll happily have, though mostly listen to. After all, next week it’ll be back to weddings and baby showers.