• That New Car Smell

  • Remember the last new car you bought? No matter how long it has been, I imagine you can still recall how you felt when you drove it off the lot. Like myself, I’ll bet you felt special in some way. Maybe the car you bought was a model you always wanted and you worked hard to be in a position to finally own one for yourself. Or maybe you worked really hard in negotiating and earned an incredible deal. No matter the circumstance, driving a new car is a special experience. One that is likely to be unforgettable.

    And the new car experience lasts for some time beyond the day you drive off the lot. The car shines. It drives so much better than that old clunker you may have been driving since college. You might even promise yourself that you always take care of “her.” There, projecting a gender on to your new car is one step away from giving the car a name. You feel connected in a way to a car. And the smell. That new car smell. The very air you breathe while driving reminds you that your car deserves to taken care of.

    With time though, the gleam of the paint, the smooth hum of tires on pavement and the new car smell fades with time. It’s natural. After all, your new car becomes less and less a statement and more what it is; a conveyance. A way to get through modern life. As the years go by you might still recall the pride you had driving it off the lot but, with time there are costs. You have to make the effort to maintain your ride. And as years come and go, you might start researching a new car to buy. A car to stay new forever. You know it is natural to adapt, to become accustomed to something you use almost, if not every, day. You come to depend on your once shiny new car. When you do, you use it without giving it nearly as much thought as you did when it was new.

    Unfortunately, there are people who view their relationships like they might a new car. When the relationship is new, it’s great. Unforgettable even. Promises are made, and folks have every intention of keeping their promises. They tell themselves they will commit to doing what it takes to make their relationship work. To keep it like new. To value what they have. To love honor and cherish.

    Sadly, like that once new car in the driveway, the “new car smell” of their relationship wears off. Except when it happens in a relationship, differences in partnership begin to emerge. “He squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube no matter how many times I mention how wasteful it is” she says to herself. His thought bubble might be, “She can’t seem to stop texting her girlfriends at night when I get home.” They may not have even anticipated arguing over how to discipline the kids. Or how they were going to decide on things like whether to take that promotion, return to school, buy a new home. “It used to be so easy between us” they might say to themselves. They never say these things aloud. Unless, of course, they are arguing. They may even start harboring thoughts of trading this relationship in for a new one. Because if things are this difficult, there must be something wrong.

    Here’s a thought: Maybe the “something” that is “wrong” is thinking there is something wrong. Many people believe that when things in their relationship are no longer as “easy” as they were when they were “crazy in love” that the relationship is flawed. Some folks begin wondering what signs they missed early in the love affair that they “should” have seen. The truth is that when the “new car smell” wears off the relationship, it might just mean the relationship is maturing. The relationship, being as dynamic an entity as the two lives which comprise it, grows and develops. That’s right, relationships grow and develop just like people grow and develop throughout their lifespan.

    When differences emerge in a relationship it is like a car enthusiast graduating from buying new cars to restoring old ones. Because to restore vintage automobiles entails work to find the right parts. Keen focus on a myriad of small details. Clarity in what the owner wants the finished product to look like. Patience to do the job right. A willingness to make and then correct mistakes. And acceptance that once begun, the work of restoring an automobile, like the work of a relationship, is never really completed. There is always something more to do, to learn, to achieve and, when it comes to a relationship, there is always room for more growth.