A girlfriend asked me the other day, over lunch, "What are the key factors in a successful relationship?" To which I replied, "I need my fucking tarter sauce; that bitchy waitress forgot it again, and my fries are getting cold." I glanced up and saw her staring at me, head cocked slightly to the side, as though she were judging me and listening for a faint dog whistle in the distance. "Oh, sorry", I said, wanting to get past the awkwardness, "I should have said That Bitchy Waitperson, or whatever--why are people so fucking sensitive these days? Whether I use the phrase 'waitress', 'server', 'air hostess' or 'flight attendant', I'm still just ordering the bitch around." The girlfriend laughed, and repeated her question. "I said, what do you think are the key factors in a successful relationship?" I stared at her, dumbfounded. "How the hell should I know?" Her answer: "Well, you're IN one." OH. Good to know. I wish someone had told me sooner.
A 'successful' relationship is hard to pin down, because the word 'successful' can have many meanings. Is it how many years you were together? Is it how happy you seem? Is it that you just never gave up, even though you fought all the time? Is it that you're both still living? A successful relationship, to me, is one that ultimately makes me the happiest; but it's also good if I'm learning about myself, and growing, and creating personal success in my world, too. There has to be a balance.
I am not in a successful relationship; I'm in a relationship. To me, evaluating how successful one's relationships are when they're still new is like going out and getting the guy's name tattooed on your ass around the third date. Stupid. I was happy my girlfriend thought we were somehow successful, but we're still getting to know each other. How well can you know someone after a year or two? Imagine all the things I will know about the Esq in two more years, or in ten.... the sky's the limit, really. Knowing more about him won't necessarily make us more triumphant as a couple, but at least I'll be more informed when I say, "Well, Sally Jesse, these are the things I've learned so far that make our relationship successful...."
I can, however, make a list of things that have assisted in making our relationship easier:
1. Find common music to listen to; makes for better monkey business and more interesting car rides.
2. Homemade gifts are better than store-bought gifts, although it depends on the store, really. Are you saying you'd rather have a bracelet made out of wilted daisies that smell like rotting weeds over a brand new computer? Girl, please.
3. That toilet seat is going up and staying up; just accept it and move on. There are better things to fight about, like porn. Oh wait! That porn is going up and staying up; just accept it and move on. There are better things to fight about, like back hair maintenance.
4. Apologize quickly, even if you have to figure out why you're sorry later. This applies to men and women, although women seem more reluctant to apologize than men. I personally believe that most women can't effectively argue, favoring the nagging/bickering/shaming route in lieu of verbal maturity. At least, that's what I do; hence the reason I'm always apologizing. Quickly, though, before it escalates (although Lord knows I love me some fightin' words).
5. No one is going to change for you, not even your mother--and if your mother won't do it, why should your boyfriend? I still laugh when I hear girls saying, "He needs to change this, or else", and "If he can't quit doing -X- then he can find someone else to do -X-." He can, and he will. And I wouldn't blame him.
Having the same value system is important, too; that's a given. If the Esq was a hardcore Christian who sang in the choir, went to two services a week, and read the Bible every night, that wouldn't work for me (AT ALL). But it would certainly work for Suzy P. Jesusfreak, and they could ride into Heaven together upon fiery angelic steeds, or whatever kind of heavenly transport the Christians have finagled for themselves. Value systems are important. As Chris Rock said, if you're a crackhead, your man should be a crackhead, too. Same lifestyle=easier relationship road (although it might be harder for the crackheads, honestly--what with the CRACK and all).
Later on, if someone asks me what the secret to a good relationship is, I'm just going to say "my boyfriend". I think he's the main reason why it works so well; he understands me, de-fuses me, makes me laugh when I want to scream, and gives me a lot of space. It's hard to find nice guys like him, as his make and model are somewhat outdated, but you might find a good deal on Ebay, or maybe even Craigslist. If you find another one, let me know--I can always use a back-up, in case I break this one. I'm like an earnest Boy Scout when it comes to relationships: always be prepared.