Too much fa­mil­iar­ity can ban­ish re­spect and kill com­mit­ment

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - OPINION -

IT is in­deed a good thing to know your part­ner like the back of your hand, as it were. It’s great to know his favourite colour shirt or tie, and how she likes her eggs done. Fa­mil­iar­ity is an as­set in mar­riage, but be­ware the dan­ger of over-fa­mil­iar­ity.

The dan­ger of over-fa­mil­iar­ity is when you think you are close enough to your part­ner to ex­cuse you for do­ing things that are ob­nox­ious, while not al­low­ing those things to be done to you. You might call the flip side of fa­mil­iar­ity a type of en­ti­tle­ment, when you be­lieve you have earned a free pass and there­fore have the right to do cer­tain things be­cause you know what’s best for the other.

As a cou­ple, we our­selves once only re­alised we were in this trou­ble when we were al­ready knee-deep.

Our in­ter­ac­tion was char­ac­terised by howl­ing, crit­i­cis­ing, ig­nor­ing, teas­ing, ir­ri­tabil­ity, be­ing crude, moody, nag­ging . . . the list just goes on.

We also meet a lot of un­happy part­ners that of­ten com­plain, “I wish my hus­band or wife would act the way he or she did while we were dat­ing.”

It is not so much the dat­ing and courtship sea­son that is be­ing missed, but the pres­ence of re­spect. A re­spect that di­min­ishes with in­creased fa­mil­iar­ity and erodes when over-fa­mil­iar­ity sets in.

Some of the most ob­nox­ious be­hav­iours are dis­played when you’re over-fa­mil­iar to one an­other. It’s not clean­ing up af­ter your­self, not say­ing “thank you” be­cause you think your grat­i­tude should be a given, not ver­bal­is­ing “I love you” be­cause she should know by now, or “I’m sorry, please for­give me”.

These acts of over-fa­mil­iar­ity dis­ap­point and draw anger be­cause for one part­ner they sym­bol­ise a lack of re­spect, while for the other they merely rep­re­sent the com­fort and per­ceived lack of need to stand on cer­e­mony.

Un­healthy fa­mil­iar­ity is a can­cer that even­tu­ally sucks the life out of an oth­er­wise healthy re­la­tion­ship. It is said that liv­ing to­gether for a long time even­tu­ally leads to greater lik­ing of each other. This may be true in cases where you make an ef­fort to un­der­stand one an­other bet­ter and there­fore grow in love. In many cases how­ever, the more fa­mil­iar cou­ples be­come with one an­other, the more they start to take each other for granted. And therein lies rut.

It’s a lot eas­ier to choose a safe be­hav­iour in a re­la­tion­ship than a be­hav­iour that challenges us to grow. Why? Be­cause se­cu­rity is sweet. As part­ners, you are com­fort­able know­ing what to ex­pect and are able to han­dle what­ever sit­u­a­tions may evolve in your re­la­tion­ship.

When we ask cou­ples why they choose se­cu­rity over the chal­lenge of seek­ing ways to keep their re­la­tion­ship fresh, they gen­er­ally tell us they ap­pre­ci­ate the close­ness and the less­ened en­ergy it re­quires. They are less anx­ious when they do not have to be con­stantly on their toes.

As Mo and Phindi, we used to be­lieve that bore­dom is a type of suf­fer­ing we must en­dure to go through mar­ried life to­gether. How wrong we were! Be­cause mar­riage bore­dom re­sults from the lack of cre­ativ­ity and imag­i­na­tion, and is not de­pen­dent on one’s en­vi­ron­ment. It’s when we choose the de­ceiv­ing cush­ion of fa­mil­iar­ity and won’t put in the work into the re­la­tion­ship that we ex­pe­ri­ence bore­dom in our mar­riages.

Mar­riage can’t take care of it­self. It is con­stant work. It con­sists of de­lib­er­ate re­la­tion­ship-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, search and dis­cov­er­ies. It’s a re­la­tion­ship you shouldn’t al­low your­self to get used to.

There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween lik­ing be­ing mar­ried and com­mit­ting to ac­tu­ally do­ing the tough work to pre­serve a re­la­tion­ship.

Com­mit­ment is not a very “sexy” con­cept. But it prob­a­bly is the sin­gle most sus­tain­ing power that guides mar­riage through “for bet­ter or for worse”.

It isn’t just about recit­ing mar­riage vows or hav­ing a piece of pa­per that reads “Mar­riage Cer­tifi­cate”.

Com­mit­ment is im­por­tant be­cause we act dif­fer­ently when we know that our fu­tures are tied to­gether. You may avoid a prickly con­ver­sa­tion if you know the other per­son will not be around your life for long. You may even move on to an­other “re­la­tion­ship” if your cur­rent one has a de­bil­i­tat­ing ac­ci­dent or sim­ply starts to rub you the wrong way. Com­mit­ment means you’ve promised to stay and work it through, not just to­day but till death.

Com­mit­ment is a choice to give up choices. Although this might at first sound lim­it­ing, it ac­tu­ally brings great free­dom and depth. No longer does the com­mit­ted per­son need to weigh which per­son or way of life will bring more hap­pi­ness. Once com­mit­ted, all one’s en­ergy goes into mak­ing this com­mit­ment work. No longer are other pos­si­bil­i­ties a dis­trac­tion.

Not only are you com­mit­ted when you make the com­mit­ment, but you’re also com­mit­ted when you keep the com­mit­ment. And this is per­haps why the con­cept of com­mit­ment isn’t very sexy. It in­volves work. And it’s that very work that main­tains fresh­ness.

If you get bored with the per­son you mar­ried for love, there’s some­thing wrong with you, not with that per­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.