My husband, Sheldon (aka “Ultimate Concierge”) has a great love for fancy socks. Socks with stripes, socks with dots or socks with dogs – Shelly loves them all!
The more patterned the better. His socks bring him such joy I know if Shelly is having a bad day, a bright new pair of socks will instantly cheer him up. But as you know Darlings, sometimes your partner’s wardrobe choices can be less than inspiring – especially when you’ve been together for over 30 years!
I never thought I’d have a husband who was fashionably expressive, let alone with socks of all things! Socks are a beautiful representation of loving someone how they are, which is a lesson we can never be too good at.
As every couple in a long-term relationship knows, loving and accepting your partner is a lifelong activity. Your love will continue to grow, but as you spend more time together, his idiosyncrasies become more visible and can become a source of conflict. Simple differences like where your love leaves her coffee cup or how he folds his laundry or how specific he is about the fabric of his socks become irritations to the other partner. The irritated partner wants the other to change his behavior and each partner, even if they try to make the requested change, frequently fail at changing and thus conflict continues. Loving and accepting Shelly’s socks and style choices is akin to loving and accepting who he is. While each couple is different, I’d like to share with you something I learned that allows me to let go of the daily frustrations in the life of a couple.
Expectations and “I Statements”
Adjusting expectations is the key to improving a relationship. If your partner’s behavior leaves you feeling frustrated, the first thing to do is check in with your expectations. Did you expect him to do something else? Why did you expect him to do that? Has your expectation been voiced or it this something you’ve been keeping to yourself? Maybe your expectation has to do with a core belief about marriage or partnerships. Maybe it’s about how you like your environment. An easy way to check-in that Shelly and I have discovered is to make an “I Statement.” An “I Statement” allows you to dispassionately take ownership of your feelings without making the other person feel “less than,” in the relationship.
An “I Statement” is structured like this:
I feel _ [feeling word] about _[statement of observation]__ because I ________.
- I feel FRUSTRATED when I come home every day and find your coffee cups all over the house BECAUSE I EXPECT that my house stays clean while I’m away from the house.
- I feel UNAPPRECIATED because I am the only one who empties the dishwasher because I BELIEVE couples should share household duties.
Once Shelly and I expressed ourselves with our I Statements, we would spend time together unpacking the expectations in the statement and attending to them. If the expectation was something that could be adjusted, we would listen to each other about HOW that expectation can be adjusted and what needs to happen. This is the key to happiness and loving and accepting your partner.
Flexibility and Meeting Your Own Needs
Flexibility is the key ingredient to any lasting relationship. My ultimate concierge is exceptionally flexible. He received his nickname because he enjoys taking care of me and enjoys making me happy. Like any caretaker, he must be nimble with his energy and stay open to possibilities. This can not be done with rigidity or impatience. When I make a request, he sees it as a simple polite appeal and not as a demand. Part of how he can stay patient is his devotion to his own happiness and satisfaction. Wearing fun socks is one way he does that.
Taking that extra moment in the morning to choose the perfect pair of socks to express himself for the day, is Shelly’s way of meeting his need for creativity. This creative need is an important one and completely within his power to meet. This takes the pressure off of me to fulfill this need. It’s something I’ve always loved and appreciated about Shelly – his love for himself and his personal responsibility for his own self-love.
Loving Yourself Is the True Key to Loving Your Partner
Loving yourself and taking full responsibility for getting your own needs and happiness met, is the true key to improving your relationship. Darlings, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you don’t like something about yourself, fix it! Now. If you find you’re never truly happy, take solid steps to change how you feel. See a therapist, hire a personal trainer, join a networking group or find your “socks,” because treating yourself to a daily joy will make you love yourself and your partner all the more. Loving yourself and all your flaws and perfections allow you to love your partner simply for being your partner instead of the person who meets your needs.
A growing love means loving someone’s flaws, not despite them, but “besides” them. Your partner is the whole package, and that includes their annoying habits, idiosyncrasies and need to wear fun socks. Once you actively appreciate that “annoying habits,” are just additional expressions of the same energy you fell in love with, their faults will become easier to accept.
Happy long-term relationships are made up of two independently happy and content people coming together. These people do not see their union as a need that completes them, but moreover as a union that adds to their already fabulous life. Two happy people = 1 happy relationship. Add to that some fun socks and you have a delightful, flexible collective relationship that brings joy to both parties.