The last post talked about relationship makers and dealbreakers – things that are pretty cut and dry. This post is about the desires, preferences and minor annoyances that you can have much more flexibility about. There is the squee factor – those things that make you wobbly in the knees and the grit factor – the things that irritate you on a difficult day, but you’d never end a relationship over.
What is the squee factor?
Whoever you are, there are likely things that make you weak at the knees. They could be power exchange, being brought breakfast, ringlets, being cuddled or even getting a massage. Some people love intelligence, others particular bodies or body parts, still others dynamics or interactions. Whatever it is, there will be things that make you excited about a prospective partner. The trick here is knowing the difference between things that make relationships work for you when they are present, and things that simply create chemistry and excitement for you. The former is about compatibility, they later is about what I call squee.
Recognising what gives you squee about another person is important for two main reasons. Firstly, if you can differentiate between squee factors and relationship makers, you can assess both the chemistry that you have with someone and also the compatibility. If you have more chemistry than compatibility – especially if you’re also seeing potential deal breakers – it is a warning sign. Secondly, if you *stop* feeling bubbly about something that used to make you squee, that is an early warning sign that something might be going amiss. Especially if the thing that used to make you wobbly at the knees is now irritating you. Something that nearly always makes me weak at the knees is being touched or hugged by a partner, especially when it is unexpected or ‘just because’. If I find that I’m getting irritated by a partner doing that, there is usually something going on. Either I’m feeling disconnected from them, or there is a wider issue in our relationship – one that is floating under the surface that I’m not yet aware of. Of course, it could just be that I’m being a grumpy sod, in which case I can just let it go; or that I don’t like being hugged when I’m cooking – in which case it is useful information to share.
What is the grit factor?
The grit factor refers to things that are not your preference, perhaps they are even things you don’t like, but that are not relationship ending. I call these grit factors because it is a lot like having a bit of grit in your shoe. Most of the time it doesn’t bother you, but if your foot gets into just the wrong place you can’t think about anything else. It makes you want to take your shoe off. Most of the time it is hard to know what these things are before you get into a relationship – there are just so many things that might annoy a person. A big one for me is the cutlery drawer of the dishwasher. I know. It isn’t very rational. When I am feeling friction in a relationship, a partner not putting the cutlery into that draw in an orderly manner (by which I mean separating out all the different things) will drive me insane. Not insane enough to break up with them, but certainly enough to make me feel snappy and irritable. Given that I’m not an especially tidy person it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Nevertheless, it is a thing for me. Leaving the loo seat up is similar – though thankfully I haven’t dated anyone that stood to pee for over 15 years (despite dating cis and trans women and men and NB folk in that period!). Grit is not a dealbreaker. It is an area of minor incompatibility, that like the squee factor is a useful device for taking the temperature of a relationship.
While deal breakers are things you should know about in advance, it is quite normal to figure out the grit in a relationship over time. It might be that things that you thought were grit turn out to be deal breakers – or, unusually, things that you thought were deal breakers were actually grit (though this may well be wishful thinking). Grit serves an important function. Just like you may notice when you’re not longer so full of love and goo when your person does something that previously turned you to mush, you will notice when something that acts like grit starts getting REALLY annoying. When that happens, it is time to look for what is really going on in your relationship. I guarantee you, it won’t be that a partner has mixed up the cutlery drawer of the dishwasher. It is a helpful prompt to look at the deeper stuff going on between you and to do a health check on your relationship.