The Secret Life of Couples

If I read one more of these lists of things you’re not “allowed” to do in front of your significant other, my head is going to explode. Or my insides, if I follow the ridiculous advice they offer, since then apparently I’d never be able to fart ever again. If you have never farted or peed in front of your live-in significant other, I seriously question your relationship. Or perhaps just your ability to tell the truth. Because, COME ON, there is no escaping certain realities.

Recently, I have been seeing more and more of these ridiculous “listicles” floating around titled things like “15 Things You Should NEVER Do In Front Of Your Boyfriend” or  “Things Married Couples Won’t Do In Front Of Each Other – Even After Decades” or “10 Gross Things Not To Do In Front Of Your Boyfriend.”

Let’s forget for a moment what bullshit it is that they all seem to be aimed at WOMEN, basically teaching/threatening them that they can’t keep a partner if they don’t present an attractive enough air of mystery. Let’s try to forget that thread of sexism for now, and actually just look at what terrible expectations they’re creating for both men and women.

These lists are often disguised as a guide in how to “be respectful” to your partner, or the importance of “keeping romance alive” but that’s total crap. I would be willing to bet they are written by mostly single people, or people whose average relationship lifespan is about 3-6 months. Because anyone who has been in a long term relationship and actually lived with that person will have run into basically all of these taboos, and probably blown by them without even thinking about it. So why is no one writing about THAT?

I have decided (and I’m sure Gil is gonna be totally thrilled about this) that I’m going to debunk some of these common “never ever” relationship commandments with examples from my real-life, awesome as shit, cohabitation situation with the man of my dreams. Good thing he doesn’t embarrass easily. Buckle up guys, here we go.

Thou shalt never, ever, ever, ever, under any circumstances poop in front of your significant other.  

I am going to call bullshit on this, pun definitely intended. I mean, I don’t actually want to see Gil poop, and when he forgets to light a match and I’m not expecting it, our bathroom can make my eyes water. But let’s be real – we live in a small condo with ONE bathroom. If he’s indulging in what I call one of his “luxury poops” and is taking foreverrrr, I will for sure pop in to grab whatever it is I need. If I’m sitting there minding my own business and he really needs his contacts, he’ll come in and snag them. News flash: we still want to have sex with each other. Like, a lot. We understand what happens in there and that we are humans with human bodily functions.

Tonight, he even gifted me with one more example. I hadn’t been feeling hot today and Gil knew it. He was in our room with his headphones on playing video games. As I walked through our room to the bathroom, I made a comment to him about the leftovers from dinner. I thought he caught the whole thing and I went about my business, closing the bathroom door (because I suppose we should have SOME boundaries). A full 5 or 10 minutes later, Gil bursts in without even knocking to check on me, literally scaring the shit out of me. As he was playing his game, he started thinking that maybe he hadn’t caught the tail end of what I was saying and that I was sick and needed immediate assistance so he decided to just barge in and make sure I wasn’t dying. Not sure I completely follow the logic, but I’m pretty sure it’s sweet. I think.

Thou shalt never fart or belch in front of each other.

I mean, seriously?? So if you live in a small space with that person, you are supposed to actually put on shoes, and pants, and a bra, and go outside to fart? That fart or belch is going to damage your fragile little relationship so much that you have to go on a field trip to relieve yourself? Sorry pumpkin, you’re not gonna make it to forever.

Gil told me once about how when we were first dating, he would actively hold in his farts, to the point that it was really uncomfortable for him, and when he would finally get in his car to leave, he would just unleash hell on that poor upholstery.  When I asked him when he felt comfortable enough to start letting them rip (because honestly, I can’t remember a time when he didn’t) he said it was immediately after we starting sleeping together. Once we’d gotten that intimate, all bets were off. And that was within the first couple weeks of knowing each other (sorry Mom) so I can’t imagine how he could have continued much longer without doing serious medical damage.

At this point, we both fart freely in front of each other. And yet, we still want to see each other naked and go down on each other. How crazy. I actually have pretty strong feelings about this whole farting in front of your significant other thing… you can read my whole theory on it here.

Thou shalt ever speak of the shame that is menstruation. Or cramps. Or yeast infections.

Obviously this one is aimed directly at the ladies, and the logic behind it (usually from female writers, which bums me out) is that it’s gross, and no man wants to hear about it. That “place” is supposed to be a special, wonderful playground for him and if you tarnish it with the idea you might be a human woman with human woman issues, it’s not going to be as appealing to him. If that’s your approach to vaginas, you should just buy a fleshlight or save up for one of those real dolls, and call it a day. Real lady vaginas have things going on up in there. And if I’m miserable and grumpy because I’m expelling part of my uterus in a bloody mess, or have a yeast infection that won’t quit, then yeah, I’m going to tell Gil. Because then he’ll probably make me tea and ask if I need ibuprofen, cuz he’s awesome. Because healthy couples support each other.

tampons

As a side note, I don’t understand how you can possibly have a fun, adventurous sex life if you think this way, because in order to try new things you really do need to completely trust your partner and be OK with all the different bodily functions that can happen. And guys? You really need to get over it if you aren’t comfortable listening to any of this. Because first of all, you should be a caring human being who wants to help take care of the person you love and help make her more comfortable if possible. And second of all, the more you understand about a woman’s body, the more able you will be to actually please that woman, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but orgasms are a pretty important part of my relationship.

 Thou shalt never, ever, allow your partner to see you removing any of your unsightly body hair. Do that shit in private.

Another one that is targeting women in particular. On not one of these lists have I seen a “never ever” commandment about men shaving their face. But you gotta wax your upper lip, or pluck your eyebrows, or shave your bikini line? Lock the door and hide the evidence after you’re done. He wants to enjoy the finished product, but wants no part in understanding what went into it. Kind of like eating hot dogs.

OK, story time. Once upon a time, early on in our relationship, Gil noticed the hairs on my chin (thanks for that, PCOS). I usually wax or pluck them, but it’s not really at the very top of my priority list. He started referring to them as my “little beard” – lucky for him I have a sense of humor. So when he asks where I’m going as I head out the door to the salon, I tell him I’m off to wax my eyebrows and beard. Now he pretends to be sad when it’s gone, staring wistfully at my newly smooth  chin. It’s entertaining for both of us.

And another thing… I would not hesitate to trim my lady garden in front of him either. He’s intimately familiar with the area, so I don’t see how actually seeing it being trimmed could even be a blip on the radar.

Thou shalt never bring up past sexual partners or, even worse, discuss your…. number.

Oh for fuck sake. Really? Are we that insecure? Are you not being an adult and having a conversation about your sexual history and STD screening before you hop in bed together? Gil and I know about each others past – it was never awkward, or even one specific conversation that I can recall. I know which of his exes he’s still friends with, and he knows I whored it up in college after my brother died. We talked STD’s on our third date. Jealousy is just not a part of the equation, and there is no need to try to protect anyone’s feelings. It’s life. It’s what made me who I am, and what made Gil who he is. Why wouldn’t we share that with each other?

The reality is, laying yourself out raw and vulnerable to another person is one of the scariest, most exhilarating experiences a person can have. To be completely, unapologetically yourself in front of the person you love, and to have them embrace all of you (flaws included), is a rare gift. Gil and I dropped our bottom lines pretty quick – we talked religion and kids during our first lunch, which I wasn’t even sure was a date. By our official first date (which turned into a whole weekend btw) we had shared even more.

So what are a couple of burps or period cramps between people so close to one another? Why would we care about that kind of trivial shit? I care that he’d protect me against anything, and that he sees the beauty in me even when I don’t. I care that we support each other in our life decisions and know we can count on each other no matter what. Opening the door while he’s pooping to grab my phone doesn’t change any of that.

And for any of the people writing those articles who actually DO believe in what they’re writing, I feel sorry for them. Because putting up those ridiculous walls and expectations means you’re spending more time trying to hide who you are, instead of actually focusing on sharing yourself with your partner and just living. I mean, relationships are hard – you better have a partner who is all in. And life is too short to walk outside every time you need to fart. Seriously.

Balancing “Me” With “We”

One of the things that no one tells you when you move in with your significant other is just how intertwined your lives become. I mean, I’m not stupid, I understood things were going to change. I’d have to adjust to sharing my space, I couldn’t starfish out on the bed anymore, we’d have to work out our morning routines, etc. And I have to say, it’s been 9 months or so and the biggest obstacle was getting him not to put wet towels in the hamper… I’m not a clean freak by ANY definition but I do have a weird thing about that mildew smell.

I don’t even really mean intertwined in the sense of being together all the time because I truly love just being with him, and we still have friends and hobbies that don’t overlap, which we enjoy.  And I don’t even mean intertwined in the sense that once he moved in, there was no hiding. No hiding what I really look like without makeup, no hiding my hairy stubble (shaving my legs and lady-bits everyday? FUCK THAT), no hiding that oh riiiiiight, I DID pluck those rogue hairs on my chin between dates and nope that’s not going to hold up on a daily basis, and definitely no hiding what it sounds like when the Indian food we had for dinner doesn’t agree with me. Seriously people – we live in an 800 square foot condo with one bathroom. Things got intimate real quick.

No, what I mean by intertwined is our emotional energies. I know that sounds so new age and full of bullshit, but it’s really true. One of the reasons Gil and I do so well as a couple is because we are alike in so many ways, and one of those similarities is that we’re incredibly emotionally driven creatures. I love that about him. I love that about me too. But when you have two emotionally driven people in a small space, you can’t escape whatever the other person is feeling, even if you wanted to. Even if nothing is being said. The energy in a room changes when someone new enters, and you absorb some of their energy whether you realize it or not.

So naturally, when one person is going through a stressful time at work, with their family, or with anything else, when you live with them and share your life with them, you are going through it too, by proxy. What I have realized, and what I wish someone had warned me about, is how much this affects me. See, for me, when it’s my own stress, I know what I need to do to take care of myself. I’m a talker – I need to talk it out, I need to write, I need to cry, whatever. Maybe I need to buy a new necklace or sign up for a photography class. But when it’s someone else’s “stuff” it’s not as natural to take those same steps to take care of ourselves. And that’s a mistake, as I have recently discovered.

I am realizing not to underestimate the impact that his emotional state can have on me. Like I said, what he goes through, WE go through. There are only 800 square feet in this place and we’re not little people physically or emotionally. Not only do I absorb his feelings and energy and vibe, I will do whatever I can to support him. That’s what you do in a healthy relationship, but it can be draining, and it’s just as important (if not more so) to take care of myself in those situations as it is when it’s my own personal stress.

So today I talked (to my mom – seriously the best mom in the world), I cried (the kind where you try not to but it just kind of leaks out everywhere until you just accept it and really let it go) and I’m now writing. All I need now is a new necklace.

Seriously, why is this not something they warn you about when you decide to live together?? I’m not sure which “they” I’m referring to, but it seems like a quick heads-up would be appropriate. I guess it’s like one of those “couples secrets” like where the best farmer’s markets are and which florists are open late on Valentine’s Day.