Let’s just say I’d be less than flattered if my partner described me as a “good pair of pajamas.”
“Cute,” “cool,” “fun” — I’ll take it, but baggy and not to be seen outside the house? Yeah, no.
Except, according to Ellen McCarthy, a Washington Post feature writer who spent four years covering weddings, love, and relationships for The Post, we should all be so lucky as to hear our partners liken us to PJs.
That insight appears in McCarthy’s 2015 book, “The Real Thing,” in which she shares some of the most meaningful lessons she learned on the love beat. One such lesson: A good relationship is one in which we’re comfortable.
McCarthy writes that 70% to 80% of the roughly 200 couples she interviewed mention how comfortable they feel with each other. (Some used a synonym, like “easy,” “effortless,” or “natural.”)
She writes: “Often they use the word and then immediately apologise. ‘That sounds terrible,’ they will say. ‘It sounds like settling.'”
But McCarthy knows they don’t mean that they have lowered their expectations for a relationship that’s just ok. As one woman said about the first time she met her now-husband in person, “It wasn’t forced or awkward — it was as if we’d always known each other.”
What makes finding a comfortable relationship tricky, McCarthy says, is that it’s not what we’re taught to search for: “We look for sparks, chemistry, desire, and an immediate sense of knowing.”
“Society doesn’t tell us to seek a mate who embodies the qualities of a good pair of pajamas: soft and warm, but loose enough to really let you breathe.
“In the end, though, isn’t that what we need? A companion with whom we can be our whole, unkempt, awkward, imperfect, occasionally appalling selves? Someone around whom we’re not sucking in our stomach or walking on eggshells or bracing for judgment?”
Interestingly, the ability to stop self-monitoring — changing our behaviour so it pleases the people we’re with — may be a hallmark of long-term relationships (even platonic ones).
That’s what McCarthy says happened to her when she first started dating her now-husband.
She writes: “I didn’t have to hold anything back. So I felt fully known. And then, because of that, fully loved.”
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.