When I first moved in with a young married couple in California I was VERY cautious. It was, after all, their home and it was spacious to say the least. The woman did an amazing job of keeping house and I felt very blessed to live there.
So as not to wear out my welcome, I went to great lengths not to disrupt their lives or her seemingly perfect and orderly household. I took off my shoes when entering, kept all my belongings in my room and I never even considered leaving a dirty dish in the sink. Then a funny thing happened, I got comfortable.
Over time as I became more and more comfortable with them and got used to living under their roof, my habits slid a little. I started wearing my shoes around the house and leaving my personal affects on the table or counter. If the dishwasher was clean and needed emptying rather than empty it, I confess on more than one occasion I just left my dishes in the sink. I even started resting my shoes or grubby bare feet on the coffee table in the living room. Although I witnessed other people do it from time to time, I can’t imagine she appreciated that. In short, I got comfortable with “the way things were” and my habits changed.
I’ve discovered the same can be true of relationships. When we meet someone or we start dating we’re on our best behavior at all times. We’re always polite, never sarcastic or rude. We make sure to look our best and give the impression that we always look that good. We make sure our apartment is always clean when they come for a visit and we’d never, EVER, think about farting in front of them.
Then time goes by and we get comfortable. The things we swore we’d never do become commonplace because, after all, “that’s just who we are.” While I understand it would be impossible to maintain the “good behavior” that everyone puts forth in the early stages of a relationship, I also argue that it’s imperative that we fight the temptation to become overly comfortable in our relationships.
Not only do we become more loose in the things we would never dream of doing in front of the other person but we also stop doing the very things that we did to show them we cared, like date nights, helping around the house or offering to trade off dinner duty. We settle into routine offering “we just don’t have the money for that” as our excuse.
I once heard it said that in marriage, you have to make special happen. When you were dating, special came naturally. You loved the time together because it was limited and you wanted to make the most of it. When you got married, the person was suddenly always around and chances are, their true colors are began to shine…brightly.
We stop trying to impress them, we stop trying to win them over. We stop fighting for them and all too often, start fighting with them.
I’ve witnessed far too many marriages where either spouse has no problem lashing out or raising their voice at their spouse. They might feel justified because of something that was said or done but most people would agree, that type of outburst would never have happened during the dating stages. But it does nothing but demean the other person and leave them hurt and wanting to get back at you.
As we get comfortable we begin to let our language and our comments slip reasoning “they’re my spouse, they have to forgive me.” I’m not married but I noticed this growing up with my parents. I felt like I could get away with a random outburst in front of, or even directed at, my dad because…well he’s my dad. Eventually it’ll roll off and we’ll be fine.
But no matter the relationship, unfortunately our level of comfort often leads us to changing our language or behavior for the worst. In every relationship, we need to take extra caution to not allow ourselves to get soft or get away with things that we know are wrong simply because we know they will forgive us.
That’s kind of like abusing grace isn’t?
In my own life, and after almost a year and a half in a relationship, I’m working hard at watching my attitude and the things I say and do more than ever. When we first started dating, I never would have considered being on my phone during a dinner date but now I don’t hesitate to check an email or browse facebook. While maybe a minor deal in the grand scheme of things, it shows I’m getting comfortable and what was once valuable is less important…and I don’t like that.
I’m not naive in that I expect that “best behavior” of a new relationship to last. We’re all humans and we all have our faults. But choosing to flaunt them or rub them in the face of another simply because they said “til death do us part” is far from loving and not at all conducive to a lasting healthy relationship.
If your spouse thinks something is gross and asks you not to do it around them, make a conscious effort to honor their wishes. If you find yourself prone to making sarcastic comments toward them, even if only playing, consider asking them if they know that you’re only kidding or if they take it to heart. I think the divorce rate in the country would change drastically if we started examining how the little things we do and say actually affect our loved ones.
How have you experienced yourself getting “comfortable” at home? At work? With your spouse?