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. But 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.

When someone asks me if there’s a way to check how knowledgeable their guru is, the only thing I can think to say to them is, did you see improvement? Otherwise, the only other test I could think of would be to choose some random strange thing and ask the person to instantly metaphorize the truth using that thing or idea. If they can do it easily and it makes sense using; a shoelace, the 1950’s and the concept of competition, and if they do that quickly and clearly, then that’s a really good sign.

If they spout nebulous platitudes that lack clarity, then that’s often camouflage for a genuine searcher who is posing in an effort to use the fake it until one makes it approach. Then again, if you’re wise enough, anyone’s a guru, so even with a faker you don’t always lose.

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.

If you’re not currently a pre-teen playing gross pranks; the fact that 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, we’ll all eventually take a turn at the role of The Urinator. So 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.

Like we all have muscles that help us move and digestive systems that make us pee, we all 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. 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.

Like the pools, if you’re looking for a relationship to swim in without that person’s childhood being a factor, then you’re looking for a magic pee-less pool. Sorry, you can’t swim in that. That’s like being single and out of the water. If you want to swim you have to live with the pee. There is no other way.

If you want a relationship you have to live with the fact that your partner will be at their worst when they’re tired, and they’ll act like their childhood programming for a short time. And you should know what that programming is. Then, when your partner’s the one who’s struggling, that is when it would be most helpful for you to be your most patient and tolerant. Certainly that’s when they need you most.

So see? I meant it. A healthy relationship is like swimming in pee. There’s some acceptance –some tolerance– built in there. And in that metaphor you still don’t like the pee, but you can largely ignore it as long as it’s not dangerous. This is what the Buddha means when he says, if you will accept suffering you can cease all suffering. By being accepting of people’s imperfections, you’re not only agreeing to accept the ‘faults’ of your partner, you’re also giving yourself permission to have all of the fun that goes with sharing time with them in the ‘water.’

pees. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.