The Rhythm of a Relationship

When I look back at my past relationships, there are a couple that I can see were kind of doomed from the start (or at least from early on). There are a few bits of evidence of that, but here's a new one I just came across: we couldn't find a rhythm together.
Everyone has a rhythm for how they live their life. The way they like to organize their days, the flow to how they fit in grocery shopping and laundry, their bed and waking times. It is, as Toku (the author of the post linked above) says, "the beat of your life."

So when people get together, a rhythm develops for the relationship and how you do life together. This is great! We change our rhythms all the time, and it can work really well, like when we realize we need to stop ordering takeout and find a new joy in cooking. Or when we realize we will always hate cooking and give ourselves the gift of ordering takeout more often.

The problem is that sometimes there is no rhythm that feels right to both of you. You either both try to compromise, jointly butting up against the unnaturalness of your attempted rhythm together, or one person completely adapts to the other.
It can feel like a loving act to give up your rhythm for your partner. And it is. It's a beautiful sacrifice of love that is going to leave you doomed. Our rhythms are a reflection of our needs and ignoring yours to fit someone else's entirely is like when we all adapted to live under COVID restrictions: we can do it, but we aren't exactly yearning to celebrate a lifelong union with the pandemic.

This was the issue with my last serious partner. When I tried to change my rhythm to match his bedtime and quiet needs, I felt trapped and constrained. When he tried to change his rhythm to match my social and activity needs, he felt overstretched and anxious. When we tried to find a middle ground, we barely spent any time together, which also felt bad (because, you know, we loved each other). We couldn't find a rhythm.

Maybe we could have kept working at it and found a rhythm that worked for both of us. In reality, though? I think that would have left both of us resigning ourselves to a life that never really fit. Our rhythms were too different.

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