Comfort Zones & Familiarity in Relationships: How Far is Too Far?
I love being married. And if I'm being honest, one of the reasons I love my marriage is the fact that many times I don't have to put up appearances. Although now that I think about it - I was never one to put up appearances even while dating. On our first date, Tee accused me of eating chicken with my hands - but hey I saw no need for putting up airs. Or so I thought. Anyway, I've been thinking about familiarity and comfort zones in relation to relationships. How far is too far really? Where do we draw the line between being absolutely comfortable and being overly comfortable that it takes out the mystery, attraction and allure between both of you.
I thought I'll consider some of the more popular areas - especially from the female perspective.
1. Hair & Makeup
The first time I met Tee, I had the most horrible looking braids; and from then till now, I've had such bad hair days that should ordinarily make him cringe. But he's often such a good sport about it, and in some weird sort of way prefers my real hair as opposed to any weaves. But then, I think he reached his limit with wigs! For many black /afro-Caribbean women today, wigs are the in thing - with our real hair plaited underneath in cornrows. But it gets tricky in so many ways, and for many it's a love-hate relationship.
Recently I was having a chat with someone about this, and she said 'at least you're married…it's so difficult for we that are still dating'. She went on to explain how anytime she had to skype or FaceTime with her boyfriend, she absolutely had to put on her wig. You've also probably seen memes about girls leaving their wigs on while sleeping and some boyfriends/husbands who had no idea what their partner's real hair was like.
My friend assumed that it was easier in marriage. But is it? I only recently started wearing wigs this year and let's just say the reaction from Tee wasn't all embracing. Being new to wigs and after a long day at work, there's nothing I looked forward to more than taking it off. And so if he happened to pick me up from the station, I'll happily yank off the wig in the car as I was with "my own person". I guess he couldn’t hold it anymore one day and blurted out "So babe, I'm the one who should see the cornrows yeah, while outsiders see the wig? You don't even wait till we get home". So I started waiting till we got home to yank it off. Haha.
But to be fair, after the initial shock he's very fine with it. I think the cornrows were the issue, as they were simply plaited back without any part. On one occasion my stylist put a centre part on it and he literally exclaimed "I like these cornrows, and you can even wear them out this way without any wigs". So now when I go to the salon, I simply say "please put a pat in my cornrows; centre, side, anyhow, as long as it's just not all to the back"! One other thing Tee couldn’t quite stand was hair nets. The odds I guess were in his favour on that one because those things gave me a headache and so I never wore them. I guess the plus side of wigs is that once they’re off, you don’t really need any hair nets.
For makeup, I've never been into it, and thankfully he's not as well. So there hasn't been any need for any insecurities when it comes to makeup and 'my real face'. But then there are many ladies who are unable to hang out or skype while dating, except they’ve got makeup on. Is this too extreme or is it okay in wanting to look that way while being with your partner?
2. Girly Girly Stuff
Once before we got married and after I returned to Nigeria from Cambridge, I ran out of my fave brand of bikini razors which I had only found in a particular store in the UK. So I rang Tee and asked him to please get me some and give to a friend who was heading down.
It’s always pretty funny when he narrates what happens after. While he asked the attendant for “bikini razors”, the attendant wasn’t quite sure where to find it, and in a bid to be helpful, used his mic in the store to announce loudly “this gentleman would like some bikini razors – could someone please come attend to him”. Sounds funny but I think he was slightly embarrassed.
But just like in asking him to buy bikini razors, I’ve always been pretty comfy to ask him to buy other girly stuff like pads, underwear or even have him pack these for me if we had to have a trip. But some people def think that’s way too familiar, and girly stuff should still be somewhat coded and could lead to lack of appeal in the relationship.
3. Home Clothes (and granny underwear)
So this literally happened two days ago. I asked Tee why his clothes seemed rumpled and un-ironed, and he said “babe these are home clothes. If you leave your wig on, I’d go and iron them”. I burst into laughter and told him this couldn’t have happened at a better time, as I had already begun to draft this post.
But I guess it gets tricky sometimes doesn’t it? You’re home and would love to wear your most comfy and not necessarily pretty looking outfit, while your significant other who as in my case may not have seen you the entire day or for a while would rather see you looking all nice.
I’ve also heard some ladies say how while they love their 'granny underwear' or favourite worn out night shirt, they can only wear these when their partners are away!
4. General Habits
There are a few other general habits worth noting. For some of this, people tend to go easy on them while dating or in the initial marriage phase, and then boom - once we get familiar, our 'real selves' pop up.
I’m not even sure the best way to put this. But my husband swears that all through our 6 year period of dating I never ever ‘broke wind’ in his presence. And then we get married and he’s like 'okay she’s normal after all'. I dispute that – I mean it’s a natural occurrence and say we were stuck in the same place for 5 hours, how does one avoid that? But obviously it’s probably not a peculiar situation. But does getting married mean you have the liberty to break wind in each other’s presence?
I also remember a pre-wedding shoot that went somewhat viral. It had been photographed in the toilet and made to look like the man was using the loo, while his fiancée held her hand over her house. The responses were epic. Some thought it should never happen and somethings still ought to be private, while others thought there should be no boundaries as they were too be married. While we’re still in the bathroom, is waxing your legs or lady parts in front of your partner likely to reduce attraction and should be behind close days? Again, how familiar is too familiar?
Then there’s eating habits. Eating a bag of crisps while dating is often different from eating the same bag of crisps while married. The first may tend to be quieter - more subtle. But with familiarity comes the cackling eating noise. And this applies to a lot of other things – quantity of food, eating with fork and knife, burping, belching loudly etc. A lot of that gets thrown out of the window once a certain level of comfort is achieved.
Generally, I love a certain level of comfort zones and being able to be free. What this level of freedom means will obviously vary from couple to couple. I think I should be able to go makeup free around my husband and not have to wear a wig 24/7. Because really, love should be way deeper than this. No?
But at the same time, I realise that effort is required to keep the flames in relationships and being way too lackadaisical could be detrimental. So, the balance probably lies in the middle:
- Be free, but also intentional in keeping the romance alive.
- Avoid the bad habits your spouse isn’t a huge fan of. Personally, and in the past couple of years, food being chewed loudly gets on my nerves. So no matter how free we are, please chew that bag of crisps as quietly as possible.
- Both parties should be able to communicate on this freely and let the other party know when the comfort zone is being taken to a stretch and the other be open to making amends.
- Irrespective of how free couples are with themselves, I think personal hygiene and decency is still a must! No way you should leave the toilet all messed up in the name of comfort zones.
What experiences have you had or heard on comfort zones and relationship? At what point in the relationship did you enter into some comfort zones? What are you able to tolerate and what is definitely off limits? Love to hear your thoughts.
pS: don't ask why I chose to use the synonym "broke wind". At least there's still a correlation and I didn't go with the less vague option of "cut the cheese". Haha.