When couples in movies make the decision to move in together, it’s romantic-comedy bliss.
The woman cooks breakfast in her underwear, bathed in warm sunlight; they adopt a fluffy variety of oodle dog; the girl finds the guy’s left the toilet seat up and wags her finger disapprovingly, before they both collapse to the floor in a fit of hysterics.
While this harmonious picture of co-habitation is uplifting as hell, it’s anything but realistic.
Those ‘montage moments’ – cooking nude in the morning sun, for example – do happen, of course. But instead of occurring in a positive stream of continuous love and good vibes, they’re interspersed with petty arguments, and fights about whose turn it is to pick up the calcifying lumps of canine excrement scattered throughout the backyard.
That’s on a day-to-day basis; no one likes chores, and the more physical labour we can coerce our partner into doing on our behalf, the better. Usually, one party ends up calling out the other for being lazy, a shouting match ensues, someone apologises, and the workload is distributed more equally in future. Problem solved.
Or is it? Because we tend to walk away from every argument with our partner thinking we are ‘the golden child’; that we placated them into thinking they were in the right when really, they’re a foolish, bumbling ball of intolerable.
We think we’re adorable; the innocent party. In reality, we’re contributing just as substantially to any relationship difficulties as our partner is.
The article's proposition is that when it comes to relationships - especially moving in with a partner - we are, in one way or another, insufferable. It states, "There are few people more deeply insufferable than those who don’t, at regular intervals, suspect they might be so."
It goes on, "When we’re on our own, we just don’t notice how annoying we might well be in the eyes of others. Perhaps we were in a sulk for the whole of a Sunday, but no-one was there to be driven crazy by our self-pity and our passive fury. We may have tendencies to use our work as an escape from intimacy, but so long as we are not permanently with someone, we can pass off our eccentric hours without comment. Our peculiar eating habits won’t be real until there is another person across the table to register our challenging chewing sounds and ingredient combinations."
Therein lies the reason for the following five prompts.
Prompts that, when our minds go blank to the question "How are you difficult to live with?" might elicit a candid answer.
1. When I'm annoyed, I have a tendency to...
Be it at work or at home, frustration is an emotion we encounter frequently. How we deal with it, then, is of utmost importance.
As The Book of Life writes, "It’s hard not to lose one’s temper... but the way we do it might be confusing to someone else. For instance we might have tendency wildly to exaggerate in moments of rage... Or maybe we simmer below the surface and pretend all is well when we desperately want the other to realise (without our having to tell them) that all is very far from fine."
While some methods of coping with frustration are perfectly acceptable - writing thoughts in a journal, for example - others, such as projecting feelings of aggression onto a partner, will make you difficult to live with.
2. When I feel hurt I...
Feeling hurt is entirely different to feeling annoyed. It's about shame. It's about self-regard and inadequacy and pain, rather than anger. And these feelings that can manifest in ways that are impossible for our partner to read.
"Perhaps one withdraws", says The Book of Life. "Or one gets fanatically industrious and demanding or snide or morose or boastful (as a way of trying to counteract a feeling of vulnerability). The other doesn’t know the roots of our behaviour: they’re just exposed to the outward performance."
3. I guess I worry quite a lot about...
Personally, I worry about being on time. You may worry about how people perceive you in public; having perfect skin; you may worry about getting swine flu or aliens or how much you spend annually on coffee.
These worries have been around our entire lives. We're used to them. For us, they're almost second nature.
To our partner, however, they may be completely foreign.
"It might (even after quite a long time together) seem very strange to them that we get so agitated about a mispronounced word or routine medical check up," The Book of Life says. "They don’t know the underlying worries – and what it is that’s driving our worries – unless we get clear about them in our own heads and, with all the calm eloquence we can muster, explain them."
4. I've got some routines which, I guess, can be difficult...
Don't we all.
Whether you wake up at 4am to run 12 kilometres or bang away at your drum kit every night before bed, it's inevitable that a few parts of your daily routine won't fit neatly with your partner's.
Maybe you're someone who needs to arrive at the airport three hours before a flight. Or maybe you're the person who can't even think about packing until the flight is three hours away.
The book stipulates, "We don’t intuitively grasp how off-putting or maddening our own routines might be for a partner; they hardly even strike us as routines, they’re just what seems natural and right. And that is, of course, the problem: insufficient attention to our basic strangeness."
5. Around money, I can be a bit difficult because...
Given money is an important consideration in almost every decision we make, it would be easy to become frustrated if our partner doesn't understand where we're coming from.
Some people are extremely tight, always concerned at the possibility financial turmoil is hiding around every corner. Other are far more concerned with living a 'lavish' lifestyle, when in reality they may not have the funds.
"Such attitudes feel natural to us but won’t necessarily make much sense to someone else who, of course, comes to the issue via their own equally strange and obscure path."
Listen: Ever had a sneaky look in your partner's phone? Osher Gunsberg and clinical psychologist Leanne Hall discuss what us to snoop, on Love Life.
Admitting to ourselves that we're insufferable is no easy task. Our mind does its absolute best to twist situations; to create an illusion that any relationship difficulties stem from our partner's buffoonery; from their inability to do things 'right'.
In reality, they stem just as much from our own; our own inadequacies and difficulties and shortcomings to which we're so accustomed, we consider them as 'normal'.
Maybe the best way to go, then, is to hit the reset button. To use these brilliant prompts not only in order to disclose to our partner - but also to remind ourselves - that we are difficult people. We are insufferable.
And there's absolutely no one who isn't.
You can read the original article from The Book of Life, here.