I’m messy. I know it.
When my relationship with Seth first started to get serious, my mom sent me a link to Making a Marriage Magically Tidy.
The author, Helen, was a complete slob until her husband asked if she could keep the dining room table clean. She found a love for cleaning and soon the dining room table became their entire apartment. “My tights are rolled like sushi, my tabletops are bare and my kitchen is so clean I could perform surgery in it,” she wrote.
I knew what my mom was getting at.
My last car had a permanent layer of trash, mail, CPA study materials, old text books, things I’d meant to donate, and everything in between on the floorboards.
Laundry was something I did when I ran out of underwear and even then, it would take me a week to fold all of it.
As a woman living alone, that pile on my bed became my snuggle buddy.
I brushed off the article; I’d deal with it later.
The mess in my apartment was just that; my mess. It wasn’t hurting anyone else.
I was too busy trying to go the extra mile, “make an effort” with Seth; I knew he was the real deal and I wanted to make sure I won him over.
I had no time to think about changing my deeply-ingrained bad habit; my dance card was full.
It’s no surprise I felt too maxed out to combat my sloppy ways.
If you’re lucky, the beginning of a relationship feels like magic. Consuming, so-intense-it-makes-you-almost-sick magic.
You want to keep this feeling going, so you pull out all the stops. You’re making efforts you haven’t made in years to make sure this person stays interested.
What does that look like? I can’t speak for you, but here’s me not on my best behavior, pre-Seth…
- I normally can’t stand any sort of eye makeup for more than a few hours before I start crying — first from the makeup itself and then when I realize the spectacle I’ve created; mascara streaks everywhere except where they should be, eyes bugged out like I’ve had the worst possible shock.
- I believe shaving above the knee is a complete waste of time unless I’m at the beach. Because (A) Who’s really going to see that hair? And (B) If anyone happens to see, shouldn’t they be more ashamed for looking?
- I’m lucky if I run out the door with my makeup done, so accessorizing jewelry is something I associate with those who don’t have to deal with things like punctuality or earning a living.
But with Seth, I was fighting all of these flaws. I was going to “make an effort,” come hell or high water.
With the right person, these little extra efforts are just icing on the cake, not the reasons you get together.
In any case, they didn’t hurt, and within a few months, we were official. Phew!
Inevitably, the newness of a relationship will wear off.
And that’s GOOD!
As C.S. Lewis points out, being in love is unsustainable:
…of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit…They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.
We were in this second kind of love when Seth proposed and we moved in together.
After the move and settling into a routine, I noticed we weren’t making the kind of impress-your-S.O. efforts that we used to.
But that’s the thing.
We’re not the way we used to be.
We’ve gone from two single people who used to see each other on the weekends to a team.
We share most things now — last name, finances, responsibilities, goals, accomplishments.
It’s not about what I want or Seth wants anymore — it’s about what’s best for us as a family (we can’t leave out our fur baby).
We do still “make an effort” with each other; the difference is that the stakes are higher.
The efforts we used to make were fleeting; things like shaving and waxing, wearing cologne or heels.
We still have date nights, we still do those things.
But now our bond is permanent, so our efforts must be too. They need to be things that make our life as a family better.
Habits with longevity — that’s the name of the game.
Making that shift — from the fleeting effort to the forever one — is fundamental to a lifelong, healthy relationship.
I’m still a slob.
There are still Saturday mornings when Seth goes in our bathroom, only to immediately reemerge — “Can you at least tell me why your pajamas must stay on the floor?”
Oops, I forgot.
But I’m learning. He’s patient with me.
And I’m patient with him. We’re both works in progress.
But we’re works in progress who want the best possible life together. So we’ll never stop trying.