When High Maintenance Is Good

high maintenanceJohn reached for his pint and muttered to himself, “The other high maintenance was easier.”

On the other side of the bar, Hank turned and said, “What? Did you just say ‘high maintenance?'”  Hank leaned over the bar, “Uh oh…”

John looked frustrated. “Yeah. I did.” He lifted his pint for a drink. “The last one was the typical kind of high maintenance. She liked stuff. All kinds of stuff. If we got in an argument, I’d buy her earrings. If I wanted to golf for a second weekend in a row, I’d pay for her to get one of those manicures. As long as I bought her stuff, or wined and dined her, we were fine.”

Hank laughed, “And, this new one? Is she high maintenance?”

John shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I can’t figure her out. It’s a whole different kind of high maintenance. She doesn’t want stuff. She doesn’t go for manicures. She doesn’t have 130 pairs of shoes.”

“Well, does she tell you what she wants?”


“She says she wants a deep connection. I thought we had that. In the beginning, it was obvious how connected we were.”

“And now?”

“I feel connected, but she doesn’t. I don’t know what changed. I wish I could buy her a bracelet, or something, and get back to where we were.”

Hank reached for a bar rag, “Did you try that?”

“Yeah… no connection. It was easier with the other one.”

Hank laughed, “Then why is she ‘the other one?’ If it was easier, why didn’t you hang on to her?”


John looked up from his beer, and hesitated. “Why didn’t I?” He drew paths in the condensation on the side of his beer glass. He finally turned to Hank and said, “I guess it got stale. Things were too routine – too predictable. And the connection wasn’t anything like the connection I have – make that had – with this one. This one knows me better than I know myself. She challenges me. My brain hasn’t fired like this in years. It’s exhausting, but energizing, at the same time. Do you know what I mean?”

“I think so.” Hank dried a wine glass. “So what’s the problem? If this connection is better, where is the issue?”

“I don’t know how to keep the connection. I don’t know what she expects from me.”

“Did you ask her?”

“Yeah. She said she wants conversation – deep conversation. We did all that in the beginning. We shared all that history stuff, you know, what makes us tick. And feelings. God, I talked about feelings. I’ve never talked so much in my life. What more is there to say? Didn’t we put everything out there already?”

“I see. I think I’ve been there.”  Hank laughed, “I’m there right now.”

“You mean you’re with a woman who isn’t that typical kind of high maintenance, too? How do you do it, man? Why do you do it?”


“Well for starters – and this is going to sound like some country western song – I’m a better man with her. She challenges me to be better, and it’s never boring. She doesn’t want the status quo kind of relationship that everyone else has. She wants better than that. She makes me want better than that.”

Hank reached for empties that a customer had left on the bar.  “I’m not gonna spend my life planted in the recliner watching whatever seasonal sport is on the tube, bookmarked by reality TV. I want more than complacency.  I learned that from her.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always easy. Some days I wanna come home and park my ass on the couch.  And that’s okay. She wants to do that some days, too. And it works to do that, if we’ve had the talks.”

“Oh, God, not the talks?”


“You know, come to think of it, it’s not so much that I have to do so much talking anymore, at least not like we did in the beginning. It’s more about asking of her stuff, and not just giving it lip service. Asking about what happened in her day, or asking how she’s feeling about some issue that is going on in the background. More than the talking, though, is the listening, without fixing. It’s not like she comes up to me and says, ‘I need deep conversation.’ It’s not that at all. It’s more like sensing a change in the weather – a barometric pressure shift. The energy between us is different. You know how you feel connected, but she doesn’t? That changes the energy.”

Hank shook his head, “I don’t know what signs to tell you to look for.  It starts to feel out of whack, and then we come together about something insignificant, like what to do for the weekend, and then, whether it’s because I seem receptive, I don’t know, but she’ll start talking. All I have to do is shut up and listen. Maybe I ask a couple questions to let her know I’m interested and that it’s okay for her to keep unloading. Anyway, we just let the conversation go where it’s going to go. And when we’re done, the air has cleared, and we’ve gotten the connection back. There’s a pattern to it.  About every two or three weeks, I sense a need – on her end – for one of those conversations.”

“What if I’m too clueless to notice that she needs to talk?”

“You’re not an idiot. You can tell when spark plugs need changing. You can tell when the lawn mower needs a tune-up. You know when skis need waxing. Pay attention, man. It’s not rocket science. But you can’t just have a talk, cross it off the list, and expect to be done. This requires maintenance, man.  There will be many talks.  This requires attention and dedication.  It’s a small price to pay, if you want it to work.”


Hank twisted his bar rag. “No one will know you the way she does. You won’t know another person the way you’ll know her. Now that’s a good kind of high maintenance.”

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  1. Boy did you nail this one for me today. Lots of food for thought. ❤️

  2. Z,

    I love it when you have time to stop by.

  3. I missed you!

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