Why a Healthy Relationship is Like Swimming in Pee

I really didn’t create that title as clickbait. Things should stand on their merit, so I promise to pay this off. I was simply thinking about a relationship issue I wanted to blog about and was searching in my memory banks for a relevant set of facts to use as a metaphor.

I don’t think I’ve ever made myself laugh harder than when I found these particular facts, and this particular title occurred to me. And what it made it so funny was that it really is true.

Okay, so to use my own crazy metaphor: why is a good relationship like swimming in pee?

It’s really pretty simple. My home town recently conducted a study and –surprise, surprise– they discovered that people pee a lot in public swimming pools. And it’s not the kind of thing that’s likely to stop, nor has it likely changed much in history.

Even if we’re not a pre-teen playing gross pranks, the fact is, every one of us was a baby with a diaper. And every one of us will hopefully eventually be the old person with poor bladder control, so in short: we’ll all eventually take a turn at the role of The Urinator.

Since these stages of life are unavoidable, the deal simply is: if you want to swim in public pools you’ll have to live with a fair bit of pee. And yet note, the pools are packed full of people with people who accept that risk in trade for the joy of swimming.

Like we all have muscles that help us move and digestive systems that make us pee, we all also have ways of being that are productive and other ways of interacting with the world that are us just dumping waste.

These are our low points of our lives. We all have them when we’re tired and weak, and that’s when we’ll fall back on our childhood programming. That’s why parents often sound like their own parents when they finally lose it with their kids and when couples say things they don’t mean.

We can wish those low points didn’t exist but, like with the pools, if we’re looking for a relationship to swim in without our partner’s childhood being a factor, then we’re looking for a magic pee-less pool.

Sorry, we can’t swim in that. That’s like being single and out of the water entirely. If we want to swim you have to live with the pee. There is no other way.

If we want a relationship we have to live with the fact that our partner will be at their worst when they’re tired, and they’ll act like their childhood programming for a short time.

It helps us if we know a bit about what that programming is. Then, when our partner’s the one who’s struggling, that is when it would be most helpful for us to be our most patient and tolerant. Certainly that’s when they need us most. And in the healthiest couples they’ll do the same for us.

So see? I meant it. A healthy relationship is like swimming in pee. There’s some acceptance –some tolerance– built into the process. In that metaphor no one likes the pee, but since we we’re trading it for the joy of swimming, we can largely ignore it as long as it’s not dangerous.

This is what the Buddha means when he said, if we will accept suffering we can cease all suffering. By being accepting of people’s imperfections, we’re not only agreeing to accept the ‘faults’ of our partner, we’re also providing an environment which encourages the unconditional acceptance of us as well.

pees. s

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