The people I get along with best are the people I am polite with. Manners almost always ensure a hospitable relationship. I used to be inclined to imagine that good behavior in general was inauthentic. Mostly because of the fact that you can be polite with someone and still despise them in the privacy of your own thoughts. But these days, I think of manners more like posture. A deliberate necessity to avoid offending others with our various forms of slovenliness.
The problem though, is how to be on good behavior with someone you live with and conceivably love? It takes a lot to be on good behavior all day, but then to do it all night? When my 3-year-old finally goes to sleep, sometimes all I want to do is blob out all over the place, stand at the counter and shove whatever I can find down my throat, and give anyone who comes near me the finger, especially that son of a bitch I married.
I think that’s why most relationships end. Because most of us, at least me, rarely practice good manners with our spouses. Well, unless we’re around other people. I can understand how it happens. The whole reason I got involved with my husband in the first place is because I wanted to have at least one person in the world I could be myself with. Someone I could share everything with- all my childhood stories, my secret wisdoms, my fears; someone I could feel relaxed with, vulnerable with, comfortable being naked with in every which way. But as you get deeper with someone, how do you put the brakes on before the other person discovers that secret fierce fucking animal within who will shit in your proverbial boots if you fuck with them? I just don’t think it’s possible.
You can’t live with someone for any extended period of time without this animal emerging. It’s just what happens when we take off our designer clothing (or in my case my pajamas). When we are naked, it’s inevitable that we will release unthinkable things from our depths. And it probably won’t take long before those things get flung at each other.
I think resentment in relationships probably begins when one person first bears witness to another’s beast within. We think, ‘How could they treat me like that!? Have they no manners? Everyone else gets to see them at his/her best, and I get this… monster?’
My husband and I both know we should behave with dignity towards each other. We have both attended seminars, read brilliant wisdom-filled books and articles about conscious relationships, but our animal sides could give a fat shit. When my animal within sees my husband at night lying on the bed with his computer like a side of butchered beef instead of taking out the garbage or at least asking if I’d like a massage, I’m not thinking not to take him personally. I’m not thinking, “The light within me bows to the light within you.” I’m already saying out loud something like, “You are a fucking slob. I can’t believe I married such a lummox!” And then he’ll look up at me and say, “Me? I’m a slob? Let’s not forget when I first met you, you had fleas in your bed!” And I’ll say, “Well, isn’t that funny. I didn’t have fleas in my bed until you started sleeping in it!!”
I think my favorite moments with my husband are the ones where we treat each other as strangers. Not passing strangers. But more like two people who maybe have been stationed at the same refugee camp. We are on the same survival team. We have good ideas for how to get things accomplished. We are resilient. We are busy. And can make each other laugh really hard recounting all the trials and tribulations we overcame at the end of a really hard day. It doesn’t happen often, but these are the moments I’d want more of, if I could figure out how to have them. When we are polite enough to give space for the animals that we are to roam peacefully.