“When you stop being nervous is when you should retire. I’m always a little nervous for anything I do because when complacency sets in, that’s when I feel it’s time to move on to something else.” ~ Chris Jericho
Justin and I have been married for four years. We aren’t as “cautious” and “careful” around each other as when we were first dating. In fact, we aren’t as “considerate” of each other as when we first met. We are definitely more “comfortable” around each other — as we should be! The level of formality in place when you are first dating is necessarily replaced with a different comfort level as your relationship progresses and when you marry.
When you are first dating, you are on your best behavior. Bad habits are hidden. You usually try to look your best, act your best, talk your best, and be your best at all times! You are attentive. You go out of your way to do small things for each other. And you certainly hide your “bad habits” — those things that your mom taught you to never do it public! When you are first dating, your manners are impeccable. You wouldn’t dream of belching or farting in front of each other. That would be horribly embarrassing! You never answer your iPhone at the dinner table. How rude! You never keep each other waiting. How disrespectful!
As your relationship progresses, however, you start to become more comfortable with other, and that, I argue, can be simultaneously a very good thing, and a very bad thing. I love when the formality disappears and the comfort level around each other increases. It transitions relationships to a new level. But, can relationships become too comfortable? Should relationships hang on to some of that formality, that level of trying to “impress” each other, that ability to always be on your best behavior, in order to be most successful?
I remember when we were dating and Justin stopped by one evening after work. Until then, we had only seen each other more “formally” — meaning I was always dressed up, my makeup was on, and my hair was styled. What he learned that night is that once I’m home for the evening, I can’t get into my loungewear fast enough; the makeup comes off, and the hair gets piled on top of my head in a clip! When he called to say he was stopping by, I considered getting dressed again, putting on some lip gloss and taking out the hair clip, and then I thought better of it. This is me. Like it or leave it. Better to find out now. I nearly melted when he walked in my front door, took one look at me, and told me how beautiful I was! Dropping that level of formality and being comfortable in our own skin around each other is a wonderful thing.
But, can we take it too far? We were sitting on the back porch the other night. In the “early days” — meaning four years ago — we would have been totally focused on each other and been aware of our behavior. We laughed the other night as we realized that while sitting on the back porch we had our fair share of belches and farts (sorry, but true); our conversation was interrupted more than a few times as we each answered phone calls and texts; we were both out of our nice clothes and in our scruffy clothes. You know what? It was wonderful. It meant that we have achieved a comfort level in our relationship where we can just be us. The critical thing is that we were enjoying each other’s company, reconnecting on the back porch, enjoying a glass of wine together, and sharing the highs and lows of our week. Sure, it was peppered with the occasional belch or text (!), but we were spending quality time with each other. It showed we were comfortable with each other, and comfortable with where our relationship has come.
That being said, we are also aware that when that familiarity turns from one of “comfort and ease” to one of “disregard and disrespect” that it’s time to reassess. It is when relationships, either dating or marriage, start to turn from comfort to complacency, that many couples start to feel disconnected, unappreciated, and undervalued.
It’s a fine line! What do you think? Are you in that phase of formality and best behavior? Are you transitioning to pleasantly comfortable? Or are you stuck in that complacent “whatever — I really don’t care” mode? Is it time to reassess your comfort level to ensure you haven’t gotten “too” comfortable?
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.