When I was 32, I met a 53-year-old man on a trans-Atlantic flight and quickly became his girlfriend.
He claimed to be “in love” with me on our first date and I was smitten with his charm, intelligence and doctor-ness. One year later I moved in with him, and within a month we were pushing each other across the room and scaring the neighbors with our shouting volleys, which often ended in a solo cab ride to the airport.
This is not the relationship I’m going to brag about.
Not two years after I moved out and away, I met a guy who was, in every sense, the opposite of my old man.
Neither charming nor dashingly smart, my new man didn’t win me with what he did, but with what he didn’t do.
This calm and level-headed cross-fit enthusiast was nothing I’d ever wanted and everything I needed. His transparent demeanor and ability to defuse an irrational outburst with humor have completely quashed all my hysterical reactions which I had tossed across rooms in previous relationships.
Seven years later I am still in a harmonious, fun-loving and respectful relationship. Friends, especially married ones, tilt their heads in disbelief when I tell them that we have never spent one second bickering.
This is how I maintain an easy and pleasant relationship:
1. Privacy: The popular “two becomes one” edict scared me when I first heard it and I still don’t believe in it. Marriage or any union does not mean your partner has to share all their bits. Maintaining privacy and personal space is golden.
When he receives a phone call in my presence, I never ask: “Who was that?”. If I need to know, he will tell me, otherwise it’s none of my business. I never check his e-mails, even if he leaves the account up on his desktop. I don’t ask whom he’s going out with or what he did, if he wants to, he’ll tell me. I don’t call him when he’s with friends, unless I urgently need him or my mother wants to talk to him.
2. Chores: My husband is not as clean-loving as I am. I like to vacuum so I don’t make a stink because he never touches the Miele. I don’t like to take out the trash, so I don’t. It’s a silent understanding that applies to all household duties.
I clean regularly; he cleans thoroughly, the kind of cleaning that requires moving furniture and scrubbing. I do my laundry, he does his. If I start to get annoyed at his gym bag in the living room, I ask if his bag is “too tired from the workout to make it back to the closet.”
With men, it’s the tone that matters—make an accusation and they will get defensive, make a joke or a pleasant plea and they should respond positively. I assume it’s the same for women—who knows, they are very complicated.
3. Arguments: Although it’s difficult to control, I present my relationship evaluation/ issues at the most optimum time. Never late at night, not when he’s busy with work, not when we’re in public. I actually announce it in advance. “I’d like to talk to you about…let me know when you’re in the mood.”
The reason I can brag about my relationship is that we hardly ever argue, but we’re not Vulcans, so an occasional, spontaneous ruffle does happen. In those cases I get my opinion out as efficiently as possible and then I take a long, deep breath.
I let him have the last word, especially if it was loud or caustic. When it rings in the air, it puts the pressure on him because his is the voice that remains in our ears. Then I wait for him to readjust his tone. If he doesn’t, I adjust mine and make my counter argument. I am aware that a hot head does not respond to “calm down”, which is why I take a deep breath to allow the heat to cool off.
4. Mood: Women are accused of being moody more often than men. What I found to be true is that women get mood swings more intensely, but men get them more frequently—every time they’ve passed their hunger threshold. I keep my mood in check by exercising, eating a very healthy diet and avoiding foods that I am sensitive to.
When I feel “hormonal”, although rare, I warn him not to mess with me, not to be too goofy and to get me food the minute I say: “I’m hungry.” When he’s moody I stay out of his way and don’t take it personally. I know that eventually he’ll snap out of it.
5. Partnering Duty: I don’t like to shop, so I don’t expect my partner to like it. If we’re out together I’m at my most efficient and don’t mind if he takes off to hang out somewhere else while I browse. If I need his input, I ask him to stay close—otherwise I don’t make him wait at my side while I admire or contemplate.
I don’t make him go to any events he’s not in the mood for, unless it would be rude to the host. When friends or family come to stay, I don’t expect him to be around more than he’s comfortable with.
6. In-Laws: I let him sit out most family visits and let him decide when it’s time to see his mother-in-law. I don’t expect him to love or understand my parents the same way I do, as long as he respects them.
7. Trust: The key to our healthy and happy relationship is trust. I trust that his intentions are good. I trust that he loves and respects me. I don’t need him to tell me often. I trust that he can find other women attractive without thinking less of me. I trust that he’s honest and forthcoming and that he trusts me.
8. In Public: I never put him down in front of other people, especially our friends. I don’t hang onto him and force him to be affectionate when he doesn’t want to be. I don’t latch on to him to fend off others or to emphasize our relationship. I let him roam a party on his own and don’t expect him to stay at my side.
9. Sex: This is a very personal subject and everyone is unique. Just because a character in a movie exclaims in horror when his friend laments that he hasn’t had sex with his wife in one month, that doesn’t mean I feel bad if I find myself in the same situation. Twice a day or twice a year, it doesn’t matter until it matters to you.
My husband knows that if I should find myself lacking and he’s the reason, he has six months to fix it or I’m allowed to find me a lover. Same goes for him, unless it’s due to illness or pregnancy. Otherwise, if I’m happy with the frequency, intensity or quality, I will not let myself be influenced by outside opinions.
I try to be the best person and partner I can be; calm, rational, fun and caring—and in return I get a man who responds in a way I have never experienced before. A man, whose previous girlfriend was just as hot-headed and hysterical as I used to be, now has a wife who brings out the best in him by bringing out the best in herself.
Relationships are hard, but if you keep a cool head, take a moment to self-evaluate and don’t expect your partner to be better than you are, you can avoid the little annoyances that make a partnership tedious.
Kate Sunto is a Swiss girl with an American heart. She’s traveled the world and has had many jobs that would clash on a resume. She’s been a vegetarian since she was 10 and is hoping to upgrade to vegan as soon as she never goes to Europe again. As an incognito consultant for company confidential, she reminds people that if they haven’t done so already, they should do so now. Los Angeles is her temporary home and her husband is her permanent partner, until proven otherwise.
Editor: Jamie Morgan
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