Sizzle, not Fizzle

Many relationships start off with lots of intensity and sparks – in fact, some relationships start off with more fireworks than Diwali could exhibit or that could simply light up whole cities. A couple of months down the line, it is likely that what’s left of these sparks is a pile of embers. Some relationships may fizzle out completely and leave a heap of ashes while some will thrive on; it is not uncommon to hear people say that their relationships have become boring or they are not as fun as they used to be.

When relationships are new, things are exciting; there is a lot to explore (or to be explored), new discoveries to be made and even the possibility of drowning in compliments. There is an enthusiasm, a passion that in itself drives the relationship; mostly, Eve and Adam will be high on adrenaline and won’t really pay attention to the ‘fuel gauge’. Alas! for those couples that wake up and realize that they are suddenly running on empty.

There are various reasons why this happens in relationships: it could be that beneath the sizzling fire of attraction, there’s nothing more to keep two people or that as they get to know each other better, the more their incompatibilities are revealed. For some people, when the initial attraction sizzles, they will decide to call it quits and move on. Some other relationships will have something more significant: whilst the fireworks may have been reduced to embers, there is some commitment towards staying with each other and they know that will a bit of fanning, the fire can crackle once again. This normally boils down to whether and how the values that each individual holds align in a relationship; sometimes, even in a long-term relationship, values may become misaligned thereby bringing forth the “we’ve grown apart” feeling.

Long-term relationships require Eve and Adam to know how to transition from initial attraction to the rest of it all (read real life :)) without completely extinguishing the fires that keep their relationship fun and exciting. At some point in relationships, we are bound to get bogged down with life especially when we begin to bear responsibilities for one another and our ‘products’; hard work is required and passion is likely to recede but it doesn’t have to die!

We have all come across advice on how to stoke and keep those fires burning: taking a romantic getaway, surprising your partner with a gift, spicing it up in bedroom (or out of it), etc. I read an article sometime last year in one of the local magazines where one of the readers was looking to revitalize the passion in her marriage; she loved her husband, still wanted to be with him but some fuse somewhere had blown. She entered a challenge where she and her spouse would practice ‘the deed’ every day for a month – I know! At first she did not share this with her spouse but after a week, she told him. He, not surprisingly, was unsure about the challenge and the publicity and only agreed to it (only?) if it was done based anonymity. At the end of the month and thus the challenge, the spark had been rekindled and then some; but also, she had come to realize that there were other things that need to be done in order to keep the fire crackling and burning in a relationship – and they have nothing to do with in being between the sheets.

One of the likeliest casualties in a relationship that is fizzling out is communication. Most of us have come across features  in the visual and electronic media of old couples who have been together for decades and who have written each other (love) notes or even letters (remember those ;)) almost every day of their entire union; their testimonies being that this consistency in communication is one of the things that kept them together. The notes were not always filled with rosy words of affection but sometimes included expressions of disappointment, hurt, fear, forgiveness and assurance. To many of us this may seem tedious and predictable, but consistent communication was something important to the couples and they wanted to keep it alive in their own little way. This got me thinking about the article that talked about languages of love.

Now, I am not suggesting that we go out there and start writing letters or go into monthly marathons of you know what 😉 but what these experiences show is that in order to keep a relationship jazzed up, the engines have to be revved; sometimes it involves doing regular things that keep the bonds tight and sometimes it requires doing something different once in a while in order to rejuvenate your relationship. When things seem to be fizzling out, it is important to ‘diagnose’ what is causing the relationship to founder – no amount of adventures in between the sheets will rekindle a relationship whose foundation of values is about to crumble.

Sometimes it is as simple as remembering and celebrating what brought the two of you together as a couple in the first place.

Have your say.

By Joyce

“Love is like a campfire: It may be sparked quickly, and at first the kindling throws out a lot of heat, but it burns out quickly. For long lasting, steady warmth (with delightful bursts of intense heat from time to time), you must carefully tend the fire.” ~ Molleen Matsumura

Tall Dark & Handsome

Recently, I had a conversation with a certain Adam, who was telling me the fears that he has when it comes to committed relationships (this is a story for another day). This got me thinking about the expectations that we have of the opposite sex, especially when are looking for that special Eve or Adam. Even as we continue with the dialogue here on Project 44, exploring the dynamics that shape relationships between Eve and Adam, I think there is need for a reality check about the things that we long for and yearn for in our quest for a mate.

In her book titled soul mates, Carolyne Miller says that our ego is what leads us to look for an extraordinary partner. She goes ahead to say that “when soul mates describe their early impressions of each other, “nice” is the adjective that crops up most frequently. “Nice feels awfully good, but it is of no use whatsoever to our ego in its quest for glory”. According to Carolyne, it is our ego that leads us to look for a head turner, not necessarily the Eve or Adam who makes us feel good and warm on the inside, not the mate who we are in sync with, our ego leads us to look for an extraordinary guy. So while I was reading this book, I thought about back in the high school days (before getting to the maze and deciding that all that is vanity) when all we could talk about was TDH.

Many are aware of the (in)famous tall, dark and handsome (TDH) benchmark. Height is a ‘hot topic’ and to many Eves, it falls among the ‘A. N. N.’ – absolute non-negotiable (thanks IAA for that post ;)). Many of them will swear that they cannot be caught dead with a short Adam, even if he is one inch shorter!; but the reality is that Adams come in various heights, that’s how the Maker created us. It is hard to tell why Eves are very passionate about height, but many argue that a tall man looks nicer than a short one. No research out there can tell us if there is any link between how high a man towers over Eve and his ability to respect, love, and trust or exhibit responsible behavior.

The second part of this benchmark is the ‘dark and handsome’ cliché. In reference to this phrase, dark usually refers to the color of hair and eyes. Whether we are talking about people of color or not, and regardless of what dark refers to in our world, color is not an attribute that makes a good man and neither would it bring home the bacon. It is all about the outward look. If the statistics doing the rounds out there are anything to go by (Kenyan’s last Census results not included :)), it does no good to dismiss a guy based on the perception that ‘he is not dark enough’.

‘T.D.H’ is relative and it goes without saying that one cannot be in a relationship with someone they are not physically attracted to; especially in a long term relationship. The problem is that sometimes, Eves are looking for a ‘universally attractive’ guy. Does it need to be said that you do not need the universe to validate his looks, and if that were so, he would be running for Mr. Universe? Consequently, the reality is that a man is as handsome as you want to believe he is (O.K., maybe not ;)) but look around and see some beautiful women paired with not-the-most-universally handsome, dark or tall Adams. While some Eves may have made the decision based on Adam’s height when he stands on his wallet, the fact is they are paired, and they are not the ones cuddling Zenika (the cat) :), probably refusing to take cognizance of the fact that the pursuit for the elusive ‘T.D.H’ is bearing no fruit.

Relationships pundits say that when it comes to the fundamental things that matter most in a relationship, looks are not ranked way up on the list. There is only one Hill Harper in this world (insert the name of your celebrity eye candy here), and no, he does not have a 30 inch chest ;). So maybe Eves need to get over it; the choice pool is not exploding with numbers .The infamous stampede of about 10,000 mostly single women in Nairobi rushing to have a spiritual revelation on how to find a husband left many with the question: “where have the men gone?” One is left to wonder if this has anything do with the A.N.N or is it really true that most Eves cannot find suitors and it has nothing to do with unrealistic expectations?

Hill Harper 😉

Have your say!

By Fridah

The Power of Silence

At some point or other, all of us have been recipients of a very powerful but non-verbal weapon – silence. If not in our adult relationships, at least as a child when curiosity or notoriety got the better of us and we went against our parents’ orders, admonishment would often be followed with silence and no amount of tantrums would work until the parent decided that the dose of silence was enough.

When it comes to relationships, the saying goes that silence is golden. In fact, it is said that a good litmus test for relationships is when partners are able to spend quiet time comfortably with each other without a word being said. This is a plus; especially when the relationship is going well and both parties do not have any issues with each other. Neither party needs to question if there is something wrong in the relationship.

However, silence where both parties know for sure that something is not right but none of them is humble/willing enough to break the silence can be detrimental. Adams and Eves use this tool differently and also react to it in different ways. Undoubtedly, it triggers a lot of negative feelings on either side and while it may seem like a powerful tool to use, it might not always produce the desired effect.

One of the reasons that silent treatment in relationships is supposedly so ‘effective’ is because it is mostly about control. It is a power struggle that can quickly trigger feelings of abandonment, guilt, fear, or responsibility in others. Most people wield it expecting that it will make the other party ‘realize what they have done wrong and act responsibly’; the flip side is that this form of dealing with issues in relationships can end up doing more harm than good. Often times, (and mostly in hindsight), one realizes that there was no point using the weapon and some issues can be sorted out amicably without the unnecessary strain brought about by silent treatment.

A friend once told me that there is a reason why people call each other ‘baby’ in a relationship. I had no idea what he was referring to so I inquired. He told me that it is because at some point in the relationship, one partner will act like a baby (tantrums and all) and the other party is supposed to ‘baby’ the other out of the situation. I was of the feeling that since we are all past kindergarten, no one should act like a kid; instead, people should act like adults, say but in a respectful why they feel wronged/hurt and leave it to the other person to apologize or explain his/her behavior. I was reminded that in the real world, life does not always ‘flow’.

However, silence should not be confused with ‘cooling off’. You know those times in relationships where things get heated (and we don’t mean ‘that’ HEAT ;)), but rather when your partner is treading on ground that you know or feel will drive you to the edge of the cliff and because you do not want to give the relationship a sudden death, you decide to cool off before discussing or dissecting the issue. It goes without saying that even then, it might help to let the other party know that you have reached some sort of ‘boiling point’ and need to cool off and therefore need time.

Sometimes, even in the most functional relationships, a ‘cooling off time’ may be necessary but this is different from silent treatment. The cooling off period is usually where a person is overwhelmed by a situation in a relationship that they need a bit of time to mull over the situation, so that when time comes to discuss the issues, the person will produce some coherent sentences. It is usually helpful because it checks over-reactions, especially hurtful exchange of words that cannot be taken back.

Everyone reacts and handles conflict in a certain kind of way so maybe it is should be left to couples to decide how they want to treat these episodes. But then we have to ask ourselves: to what extent are we willing to wield the sword of silence and win the battle at the risk of losing the war? Can we ‘baby’ each other out of such situations?

Have your say.

By Joyce

After an argument, silence may mean acceptance or the continuation of resistance by other means. – Mason Cooley

Easter

Project 44 is taking a short Easter break and will be back on 16 April 2012.

For the Christians among us, hope this song inspires you.

Have a nice one!

PS. Please take time to read our past posts and readers’ comments that you may have missed out on.

The Journey Within

I am an avid reader of Project 44. I applaud the work that the two Eves are doing, and they call it restoring sanity. I have forwarded the link to many of my friends who have attested to the fact that this blog is a breath of fresh air – although they might sound like a lone voice in a society that is infested with cynicism where relationship matters are concerned, every Monday, they treat us to a dose of good reading, humour, and at the same time, deep insights into real issues that bedevil relationships.

I have to agree that for some time now, I have been pessimistic about relationships. I have been through experiences which made me believe that relationships are a complete waste of time. Obviously, my feeling emanated from what I had gone through, not once but many times. However, even as I harboured these feelings, I found myself desiring to be in a relationship. As one of the posts here stated, the desire to want and be wanted is innate. Often times I asked myself “when is it gonna be my turn?” I was this person who was talking ill about relationships yet deep inside, longing to be in one and wondering who ran away with the code to a good relationship.

One of the pieces that I found interesting was the piece titled ‘The Song’. I realised that the reason why I was so negative about relationships is because I had ‘sang’ all manner of ‘songs’; every time when I thought the duet was going well, I was handed a new ‘song’. I can tell you for a fact that some of the notes I was expected to hit in those ‘songs’ are yet to be discovered. With time, I gave up. I became scared of the ‘stage’, I started to hate everything associated with relationships and without knowing, I became very negative and bitter.

However, we all know that you cannot lie to yourself. I had to come to a point of honesty with myself, to accept that much as relationships are hard to navigate, even if I have ‘sang‘ all manner of ‘songs’ to the point of my voice becoming hoarse, I could not pretend that I did not want to be in a relationship. So I went on what I called ‘the journey within’. This essentially entailed looking at my life and all Adams (only the serious ones) that I had dated or had been interested in, dissecting every relationship to see what the issues were, what I did and what I would now do differently. I have to be honest with you, when I looked at some of them, it was clear to me that from the word go that these Adams were a dead end and yet I pursued the relationships.

We all know that love is not the only reason why people get into relationships. Part of the reason why I pursued some of the relationships, to be plainly honest was that I was afraid of being alone. One of the Adams, for example, acted bizarre from the beginning yet I spent six months of my life trying to make it work. After I called it off, I felt as though a heavy weight had been lifted. However, for the other two Adams, we were just different people; we had our sights on different things and that is why we could not be paired harmoniously. I did not take my time to know them before committing – this is one mistake that many people make when they get into a relationship. I guess it needs to be said here that the fact that you like each other does not mean that you need to be in relationship.

During this ‘journey’, I came to the conclusion that often times, I invest a lot in a relationship, way too early to invest that much. I ignored that giving your all needs to be reciprocated. As you can tell, the Adams got into a comfort zone where they knew I would give my all to get the relationship going even when it was clear that they were drawing more than depositing into the relationship. With time, the account ran out. Many will say that I should have realised that these Adams were not enthusiastic about the relationship because if they were, the issue of investing too much would not arise. Admittedly, I now know.

Not literally !:)

Something else that came to the fore is that although it is not possible to discuss all important issues in a relationship from the very beginning, it needs to be clear from both parties what purpose the relationship is meant to serve. Why do you want to be in a relationship in the first place? If you are looking for a long term relationship and the other person just wants only the short benefits that come from being in a relationship, needless to say, you will ‘sing’ some very high, even odd notes my friend. No one is saying you should not have some, if you are not inhibited by anything; all I am saying  is that you needto know what the other person wants. By the way, I think Eves have been told this time and time again but they do not listen. Eves, know this, for Adam, getting into the ‘cookie jar‘ is just an act. If he has not uttered those three little words, please do not expect them to come out simultaneously as he gets into or out of the ‘cookie jar’. This cannot be over emphasised – his feelings and his going in and out can be quiet incoherent!

So my ’journey’ concluded a few things as I have shared above. we all need to remember that  if we want a relationship to work, we need to be honest with ourselves from the beginning. You need to know what you want so that when you meet it, you will recognise it. This will save you the agony of getting into wrong relationships which are bound to fail and then turn around and get bitter (like I was) when  I failed.

I invite all of us who still want to be in a relationship to take a ‘journey’ by taking stock of all relationships that you have been in. Be brutally honest with yourself and this applies to Adams as well (Adams have also been through issues, it is just that they are not as vocal as Eves). I will not promise that every ‘journey’ will bring forth some revelations but it might be worth the try.

Reading this blog has  reminded me a few things and has also cemented what I already knew; that relationships are hard work and yes, it is possible to be in a sound relationship. However, this hard work can only bear fruit if you are both working towards a common goal. If you harbour different views and or expectations, you can toil all you want, you will come out bitter and with unmet expectations.

I pen off, thanking Project 44 for the work well done, remaining true to the cause and keeping it fresh and fun.

By Marylyne G – Guest writer.