These days, looking around, observing other couples while out and about and listening to some of my friends’ relationship issues, I’ve come to know one common theme that’s been buzzing around. That is, life and people, seemingly, have gotten too busy, too wrapped up in the daily bustle of life. Too many people in my social circle are forgetting what it means to be together, to be a couple.

So, what does it mean to you, to be a couple? When you hear the word, what does it conjure up in the mind? Here’s a few common characteristics…

  • Affection
  • Togetherness
  • Partnership
  • Friendship
  • Intimacy

For me, what it means to be a couple is to be in a healthy, balanced relationship with one who…understands and listens to you, enriches your life, you can discover and explore with, understands the balance of personal space and togetherness, someone you never stop learning about as the years pass, and still continues to be a complementary aspect to your life.

I talk about love, lust and infatuation and the mass confusion associated with the three in the post Falling in love & Falling in lust.  What I’ve found lately is that so many people are at a lack of affection and love. Now I’m not one that needs a significant other to be attached to my hip, I enjoy my alone time and have no problem making my own entertainment. However, it seems far too many are stuck in a sort of rut, where, their needs/wants/desires aren’t being met, and some, neglectful to speak up, continue on in their not so happy relationship, and even worse, settle, accepting things as they are.

But, why not make an effort to improve? Life is all about improving; to be your best possible self right? So why don’t some people apply this to their relationships?

Take for instance my friend B. She’s in her early twenties, been with her boyfriend for about one year. The two barely do anything together except for sit in front of the TV and waste away. It could be a beautiful, blue sky day outside, and the two, depressingly enough, will barricade themselves inside, tucked away from the endless possibilities that the day could bring. B. and her boyfriend lead otherwise sedentary lives. Exercise? I don’t think they’ve ever heard of it. Her boyfriend takes his usual position most days, in front of the TV, sitting there for hours on end, watching shows, playing video games…while B., is doing her own thing, but also, very sedentary, gazing lifelessly into her TV, looking aimlessly out the window, with depressed eyes…

When I lend my ear to B. she tells me how she’s somewhat starved for attention, how she wishes she and her significant other spent more time together, did more things together, how she wishes he were more affectionate, how she’s bored with her life and how she’s otherwise…unhappy. And at such a young age, I think, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you girl! Upgrade! But B. is one of those classic examples of the aforementioned couples who are in a rut, where she’s given up speaking up about improving their relationship, she’s just come to accept things how they are, settling.

When I hear this from B., I can’t help but think, what’s being a couple? Sitting around all day, lifelessly engaged in front of the boob tube, no interaction, being oblivious to your partner’s needs and otherwise ignoring your relationship? Or, venturing out to seize the day, doing things together, traveling and exploring, taking on new challenges, enjoying life…even something as simple as a walk together, really hearing what the other has to say can do wonders for a relationship, because it gives you time to just be with each other, away from outside influences, so that one can focus on the other, give their undivided attention, and really listen…

B.’s story was just one of many from people within my little social net. Hearing other relationship woes, I began to evaluate my own relationship, and looking back on the 1.5 years I’ve been together with Martin, was counting my blessings for having such an angel of a man. Of course, I’m not suggesting he’s perfect. No one is. But just listening to various complaints from my girl friends such as…

“My guy never offers to help with the dishes after a meal. I really wish he would.”

“My guy expects me to do the laundry. I don’t even think he knows how to put in a load of clothes.”

“My guy is a slob, doesn’t clean up after himself.”

“My guy never takes me anywhere. We never do anything fun.”

“Trying to get my guy to pay attention to me is a job.”

I heard these and thought, what is wrong with men these days? Hello, it’s 2011! The gender roles of the 1950’s have been seriously relaxed, and the household chores should be shared by both people, not just the female. Luckily, I have never once had to ask Martin to pick up after himself, to do a load of laundry, or to help me clean the kitchen up after dinner. He even makes the bed in the morning. The man just gets it. You know why? Because he has respect for me.

Listening to the various relationship woes, I gathered one commonality; many of my friends’ guys lacked respect in the relationship. Respect for their lady, and all that she does. It’s almost as if they got comfortable with the fact that their girl would take care of the house. Now this could be the fault of the female as well. If you continuously hold out your hand to clean up after them, they will oblige. It’s like raising a little child, you have to make him accountable, not do everything for him. I know that I have never once waited hand and foot on some guy. Responsibilities should be shared and on an equal playing field.

So maybe I was naive, but I thought most guys operated similarly to Martin. Not so. Hearing the complaints made me appreciate Martin even more. The one thing I love most about Martin and I is that we are always moving, never idle. Of course at times, with work, school and the obligations of life, sometimes, it’s nice to relax and just watch the clouds roll by. But most days, we’re always on some kind of a journey, whether to a local bakery for a sweet, to the beach for a nice 3 mile walk, to local historical spots to reflect and ponder life back then, to a swanky night spot for a drink and good conversation, to a friend’s house for some laughs, or the occasional trip to South Florida (we love Miami). We’re always on the move. And we’re always learning about each other because we take the time to do things together, as a couple. I found it odd some of my friends didn’t partake in the same loveliness that I was.

But did it mean they were unhappy? Maybe they were comfortable in their own little world, the way of things as they knew it. Everyone has their own definition of happiness and fulfillment. Now, I was definitely guilty of judging my friends’ relationships from time to time, taking notes on them like some marriage counselor…I saw things they could do differently, or do better. My only hang up was, why settle? What is the definition of settling? Accepting things as they are, with no ambition to improve. I just saw settling as a…way of giving up. Why were some of my friends giving up? This is the predecessor to the panged relationship rut. If no one speaks up, things continue on as they are. If no one fights for change or compromise, things become more lackluster. It’s the gradual demise to any relationship. Any good partner will listen to your thoughts, needs and desires and heed these because they care about you. Any partner that does not, well, there’s your first clue to upgrade.

I guess from my own observation that I realized, anymore, far too many people forget what it is to be a good partner, to be in good character for oneself and their significant other. I also realized that far too many, accept things as ‘normal’ because they’re too afraid to speak up for some glimmer of improvement. Instead they go on, settling for the current state of things, getting comfortable with the inadequacies within their own relationship. And that’s just so sad to me; life is all about improving, cultivating one’s own sense of happiness, if you’re not happy, speak up! I’ve never been afraid to speak up, never been afraid of some confrontation. Of course, there’s a way it should be done, but, the power of speaking up is, laying the facts out on the table, straightforward; expressing your wishes/needs/wants/desires. I’ve always held true to, If you don’t speak up, nothing will change.

With this being said, at times I felt somewhat pitiful for my girlfriends who ceased to speak up about the various loopholes in their relationships, but then on the flip-side, I did not feel sorry. Some days, on the other end of the telephone, listening to some sob story about a boyfriend, I couldn’t help but think, But you stay around, so you tolerate it, so don’t complain. It wasn’t that I’m not being a good friend but, you can’t feel sorry for people who continue to stay in an unfulfilled relationship. They are the only ones who possess the power to change. And if they can’t do that, then, their own sorrow is harvested by themselves. With no ambition to change or improve, they have no one to blame but themselves for tolerating deficiencies within their relationship. When it comes to being a good friend, I’m one who will tell you when you’re messing up and will tell you when you’re doing good. I’m brutally honest. I’m not one who will congratulate and praise when it’s clear as day things aren’t right.

So, what does a girl do? She offers up her advice when needed, listens, and hopes for a new day of improvement and progress for each of her friends as they new day arises. Cheers to relationships. Interesting, aren’t they?