7. What thing, that I do not particularly like doing, could I do, to bring a disproportionate amount of joy to my partner’s life?
Are there things that you know your partner loves, that you don’t love doing? I bet there are! Since, you know, regardless of how compatible you are as a couple (hashtag couple goals), you are not the same person.
Write out a list of things that you know your partner loves, that you don’t love as much, and do one of those things once per quarter.
Obviously, if they are things that cross genuine boundaries for you and you would never do them in a million years, that’s not the place to start. Your partner won’t have fun if you’re simmering with anxiety or resentment the whole time.
But if there are things that are only mildly uncomfortable for you, but super fun for them (ex. watching a certain type of movie, eating at a certain type of restaurant, going on a certain date night), and you can mitigate your dislike of the thing by being able to relish in your partner’s enjoyment of it, then do those things every once in a while.
Examples in my own relationship: I don’t enjoy flying on airplanes, my partner does (so we fly). My partner loves going to poetry slams, I don’t (but I love her and I love watching her face at poetry slams, so we will go). My partner loves camping, I’m afraid that a bear will eat me when I fall asleep (so we will go camping occasionally). You get the point. Both, of the kind of things you should be looking for, and also how neurotic I am with my highly irrational fears.
8. How have I been unreasonably rigid in my relationship, and what more loving action could I take?
A romantic partnership is one of the biggest challenges of our ego that exists. We are constantly having our partner reflect us back to ourselves, simply with the consistency of their presence in our lives. Because it is our ego’s primary job to maintain a sense of separateness and autonomy, there are times where our defense mechanisms can overstay their welcome. Specifically, we can realize that we have been too rigid, or stuck, in certain patterns of behavior or thought.
Are there ways in which you feel you may be unnecessarily rigid in your relationship (or in your life in general)? If so, how are those things ultimately serving you? Is it possible that they used to be more necessary than they are today?
Now, left unattended, these themes might soften on their own. I believe that age softens all of us, and any harsh edges that we have tend to erode with time. But if changes to the most deeply held aspects of your identity are inevitable, why not give your partner (and yourself) the gift of additional flight-time with the less rigid version of you?
Perhaps you identify as someone who just isn’t good at expressing yourself (when this might not be the case at all, it is just a leftover belief that you inherited from your family system) and so don’t communicate with your partner as fully as actually want to. Or maybe you have strict rules around themes like sex, communication, alone time, etc…. and, upon reflection, it might serve you to have those boundaries be more dynamic than needing to be so black-and-white.
Whatever this process looks like for you, expect that it may be quite confronting for your ego. Our ego wants to hold on to the most tightly held parts of our constructed identity with an iron grip… and these parts are often the places where we (and our partner) would benefit the most by us embodying the opposite of those beliefs, even if only at a scale of 1-5% change.