There are a lot of relationship myths out there. I’ve heard everything, from “It shouldn’t be hard!” to “Once you’ve been married for ten years, you’re guaranteed to stay together forever”. Yes, really. Some are easier to believe than others, but there’s this one that always sticks in my head as being the most ridiculous: being in a relationship means you can stop shaving your legs.
Okay so let’s back up for a second.
Yes, I understand that not everyone who enters a relationship (regardless of gender) wants to shave their legs – ever. You can actually insert a couple things in there instead like stop wearing make-up or dressing up, no longer caring about how much weight you gain, or generally not maintaining your appearance or hygiene as much as you did when you were single. Don’t lie, you’ve heard someone say some version of this. At some point, you might have also believed it.
If by some chance you still do (you don’t have to raise your hand, don’t worry), I’m here to change your mind.
The general idea behind all of those is that when you get into a relationship, you don’t have to try as hard. There’s no one to impress anymore! Someone has been caught in your web, and there’s no escaping it now. Therefore, you’re done. If there was a level 9 effort when you were dating, there is now a level 3, and that’s thrilling.
I get it. Dating is exhausting. You’re always trying to put your best foot forward and you have to be “on”. When there’s an established level of comfort and closeness in a relationship, you can more easily be your authentic self, and maybe your authentic self likes to avoid a razor or fart in your living room. No judgment here.
But the idea that we need to try less once we have found a long term partner? That message needs to stop – right now.
If you think about it, it doesn’t even make sense. Why would I put more effort in, with anything, for someone I barely know? They might end up meaning nothing to me, and maybe I won’t even remember their name in a month. This person gets my maximum level of energy? No. It, at least to me, makes much more sense to put in all the work for the man who cleaned up a huge scrape on my knee after I fell in the middle of a long run and then proceeded to run six more miles. Yeah, I know. That sounds crazy. But I digress – that’s a story for another time.
We do this with other people – not just romantic partners.
I have a question for you, and you HAVE to answer it honestly. Ready? It’s Monday and you made plans with a friend for dinner. You didn’t sleep well last night and your workload was insane. You’re physically able to get yourself to the restaurant and sit through a meal, but you’d much rather eat take-out on the couch in your pajamas. Who are you more likely to cancel on?
A. The friend you’ve known for years who is basically like family to you
B. The friend you just met a couple of weeks ago and are still getting to know
Most people are saying A, under the impression that your close friend will understand. That relationship is solid. They know you, they love you, and it’s fine.
But if you think about it, is that really the way it should be?
We all have limited time and energy. Facts. Given that, shouldn’t we devote what we do have to the people who matter the most? Why are we so focused on the people who, as cool as they may be, aren’t nearly as important or meaningful to us? What makes us think they should be the first ones to fall by the way side when things get busy?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to impress people. We all would prefer if the people we encounter like us. If that’s in jeopardy, we try to protect it. That’s why you put on more cologne or eye liner for someone who doesn’t necessarily have a solid opinion on how great you are. It’s why you’re cool with canceling on your oldest friend, but would think twice before you do so with a new one unless you HAVE to.
To some extent, that’s okay. But when we go too far the other way, we risk losing some really necessary people in our lives.You can’t always put your closest friend or long term partner on the back burner, because eventually, they won’t understand anymore.
If you had to make a list of the people you just can’t live without, who’s at the top of your list? Who are the people who have always been there for you, or you could call at 3am and you know they’d pick up?
Those people are shiny, expensive, golden covered with diamonds. They might feel reliable, stable, and like they’ll never leave. That’s an amazing feeling. You’re right, they probably won’t! But for those people, make sure you’re trying more rather than less. They’re the ones that matter the most and deserve your maximum effort – not “what’s his name?”.
Rachel is a licensed therapist and co-founder of Viva Wellness. She gets most of her inspiration for the blog while on the run, and if you ever need to find her, she’s probably in Central Park. If she’s not running, you’ll find her planning the next time she’s going to eat, exploring all things wellness in NYC, or raising her stress level by watching her sports teams.