Most of my current friends are in romantic relationships. It may come as no surprise, but each relationship is vastly different from the others and entirely unique. Some have been together a long time, some less than a year. Some fight like cats and dogs, while some rarely do. Despite how much my friends' relationships differ from each other, I've come to realize that any relationship can be grouped into one of two categories: quiet or loud. These are terms I've created and I'm sure many experts have come up with other terms that more or less describe what I'm about to talk about in this blog (so if this sounds familiar, that's because it probably is!). My intention here is to get you thinking about what kind of relationship you have and if that's the kind of relationship you want. Many people, without even realizing it, are not getting the kind of love they want out of the relationship they're in now.
It may first be helpful for me to describe what I mean by quiet and loud before we go any further:
Loud Relationships: Loud relationships tend to be filled with passion and physical/sexual attraction. They are often marked by really intense periods of closeness and a feeling of adventure with one another. They can begin very quickly and progress rapidly. Sounds great, right? There are great times in loud relationships, but couples in this kind of relationship often struggle with communication. Fights can be big and blown out of proportion, but not always. Sometimes fights look much more passive-aggressive filled with days of silence, with one or both people thinking it may be best to throw in the towel. This is the kind of relationship that when things are good, they're great and when things are off, it goes downhill fast. It can feel very black and white when it comes to feeling satisfied in this kind of relationship. Why do I call these relationships loud? Well, sometimes they may literally be loud during a disagreement, but mostly because from an outsider perspective, they can feel that way. You know whether this couple is having a good day or a bad day...and it may feel unpredictable about which it's going to be at any given time.
Quiet Relationships: I want to first be clear about quiet relationships are NOT: they are not distant, boring, or passive. These couples are simply steady. The two people in a quiet relationship certainly feel attraction for each other, but this is not the foundation of their relationship. They might be a little more cautious at first with making a commitment to start a relationship because they take it seriously. When this couple struggles, it's more likely to be talked through and resolved quickly with understanding between the two people so nothing festers and builds up. To the outside world, this couple may be described as comfortable or at ease with each other. Compared to the loud couple where it's clear to an outsider if they're on good terms or not, it's probably harder to tell with a quiet couple. Why? It's not because they're "faking it" or trying to put on a good face in public if they're going through a rough patch. It's just because they have a commitment to each other that doesn't seem to waiver, even if things aren't perfect in their relationship. They still show up to things together and they're committed to showing the same amount of love and respect to each other, even in hard times.
To give some further examples here, loud relationships are more common with younger couples (remind you of your high school relationship, anyone?) and quiet relationships are more common with older couples (think about the couple you know that's been married 50+ years). However, I have known older "loud" couples and younger "quiet" couples. What's tricky is that, believe it or not, we're taught that loud relationships are actually better. You may be thinking to yourself, "No, Michelle, that's not true." But think about it. That's what is shown in movies and on TV. A plot where a couple gets together and stays together with relatively few bumps in the road does not make for a very interesting story line. It feels good to fight and make up and almost be on the brink of disaster only to decide to stay together in the end. On and off relationships exist because it gives us a "high" feeling every time the relationship reunites. If you need further proof that this kind of love is glorified, just think about this: you've probably had at least one "loud" relationship in your life but you may have never had a genuinely quiet one. They're far more rare. We see "loud" relationships around us more (at least in American culture) so this is what we eventually have ourselves, thinking that it's "normal."
But you probably already know how empty this kind of "loud" love can leave you feeling. Relationships can go from loud to quiet (it's uncommon for them to go from quiet to loud), but it takes huge shifts. One of the biggest shifts it takes is actually being okay with this kind of love. Most people (myself included) do not know what to do when they find it. It almost feels too easy. Where's the chaos to manage? Where are the "highs"? Well, you can only have highs when there are lows and if there aren't many lows, you're staying in the same, steady spot. This can become comfortable if you let it in. When you've been used to waves for awhile, swimming in calm waters can feel...unsettling. Some people run from quiet love when it comes to them because they misinterpret it as cold or boring. I urge you if you are single to keep an eye out for quiet love. It's harder to find because it's unassuming. It's gentle instead of in your face. If you're in a loud relationship right now, consider seeking out a couples therapist who can help the two of you quiet down and work through conflicts in a new way. And if you're in a quiet relationship yourself, hold them close and appreciate the pure love you have found. It is a gift to be cherished.