I keep getting asked what the secret to a great relationship is, and instead of the usual platitudes, I say £2000. ‘What?’ and a mystifying brow is the usual response. Let me explain.
You will hold your own estimate in local currency, but for those outside the UK, £2000 ($2980) is becoming the figure for one person of one months rent, deposit and moving in costs to another apartment or flat share in London. It doesn’t sound romantic I know, but nor does being trapped in a relationship that no longer works and you can’t move out.
In the early stages of a relationship spending more time in one partners place than the other is not unusual. Maybe a larger flatshare that one partner has is better than a sprawling student house for those romantic sleepovers and breakfast in bed. Sometimes the distance to get to work is an issue for one, hardly ever staying over at the others. In any major city bags are stuffed with plans ahead : the gym bag, the toilet bag and the relationship bag that’s never big enough to cart from pillar to post, 3 times a week. In the end the routine gets weary and things become ‘left over’ in one bedroom more than the other, thus beginning the game of moving in and stage 2 of coupling : romantic tyranny.
Romance has a place, but as I’ve often said, it’s not at the beginning of dating, it’s about 18 months in, when partners start being less attentive. What looks and feels like romance when you first meet is an illusion, not reality. Moving in together too quickly (to often save rental expense) is not such an epidemic as it once was, due to rental contracts putting the brake on things, but people still do it. Retaining your own space in a relationship really IS the secret key to a healthy relationship. It can also be about holding different friends that the partner rarely meets, or opposite social activities, anything really that brings air into the relationship rather than breeding one based on conditional love, or entrapment due to financial disparity, control & power games.
I know many successful relationships who prefer to live apart, to keep that air circulating, to maintain romantic notions not illusions. A romantic illusion is often based on fear of loneliness, while a romantic notion is based on the healing reality of aloneness to freshen up any relationship. It takes time to develop trust, respect and inner security, so learn to give time time. That chemical component we call love can be confused with chemically induced expectations that substances deliver but quickly fade.
During current austerity, many relationships living together are forced to endure staying put in something that no longer works because of no EXIT door to escape. What was once a romantic cosy, small love nest in the early days of romantic rush is now a cauldron of discontent & entrapment as they can’t afford to move out. This is happening a lot to relationships who got on the mortgaged housing ladder with a studio or one bedroom flat stuck in negative equity, while lovers who sign a yearly contract for rental have at least a short while to wait before termination. At least in a rental you can always fill the room to maintain the contract, but if you have not harboured that £2000 or equivalent, as the EXIT bond then trouble awaits.
Though it sounds unromantic, the most successful relationships are based on money matters, honesty, practicality, support and mutual respect, not red roses. Being in the red, having regular debt, moving in together to save rent money is not always the best option for emotional balance. Having money behind you is the most caring, romantic thing to gift yourself, and I know that people think that love conquers everything, and that money destroys relationships, but relationships are often destroyed because of lack of money not an abundance of it, and trust me there is nothing romantic about paying your partners debts.
Higher esteem comes with financial responsibility, honest communication and maintaining a life outside of a relationship, while romance is vital in continuing tenderness, affection and sexual intimacy within it. Breeding air into a living space and knowing you can afford to leave at any time actually improves a relationship because no one holds the trump card. A relationship like any startup business, needs money behind it in order to prosper, and prepare for contingencies. Money can’t buy you love, but when love EXITS, at least the door is open to leave. So if you need any advice as to what makes a great, sustaining, pressure-free relationship I suggest you get a piggy bank and start saving up.
This blog first appeared on July 10th 2013 in my weekly RELATIONSHIP GUYD on guyspy.com.