Later this month, I will celebrate five years with my better half. Oh, how the time flies! Our time together has been filled with the predictably unpredictable ups and downs, as well as plenty of surprises along the way. Through it all, one thing has held true: we are equally committed to ourselves, our partner, and to our relationship.
Despite some stumbling and fumbling along the way, we have found our footing. More importantly, we know how to respond when the ground beneath our feet begins to shift. The only certainty in life is change. Successful relationships rely on keen perceptions, realistic expectations, and an on-going dialogue to assess what might make the partnership even better.
Considering that everyone who meets us assumes that we’re already married, I think the mister and I exemplify the traits of a healthy, lasting partnership. Thus, in celebration of our love, I’m thrilled to share the most pivotal lesson I’ve learned and actively applied in our relationship. I hope that at least one resonates with you and helps you step up your dating game or rekindle your existing relationship!
5 Lessons From My 5-Year Relationship
1) Communicate with Compassion
I’m not a mind reader, and I suspect you’re not either. Thus, each relationship depends on both parties to speak openly, listen intently, respond to one another’s emotion bids, and let each other know if they’re ever unsatisfied.
Talk about the important things early into the relationship. Are you on the same page about money, moving in together, children, and lifestyle choices? Trust that your partner is mature enough to hear your perspective without freaking out. This, of course, goes two ways. If your partner brings up a concern, you must address it calmly. You can be upset, but you must communicate with compassion. If you don’t, you may not have the opportunity to solve the next problem that arises.
Pay attention to your partner, ask questions that suggest you’ve been paying attention, share inside jokes, and respond whenever they try to engage you in conversation. All of these things show that you care. Make an effort to show intense interest, even when you’re feeling distracted, overwhelmed, depressed, or otherwise caught up in your own not-so-pleasant emotions. Successful relationships are built on this foundation of intentional, compassionate communication.
2) Embrace The Endless Honeymoon
Do you remember how you behaved when you first began dating your romantic interest? You likely dressed nicely, spritzed on your favorite perfume, hung on their every word, and held their hand. Do you still make such efforts in your relationship?
It’s important to continue these small romantic gestures that made your significant other fall in love with you in the first place. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate, nor daily effort. However, a nice dinner, sincere compliment, or tucking small love notes into their coat pockets is a wonderful way to make fall in love all over again.
Better yet, figure out what your partner’s love language is and make an effort to show your love every single day. This might entail writing “I love you” on a sticky note, an extra tight hug before departing for work, helping out with the dishes after dinner, or buying them a blouse they’ve been eyeing for awhile. We all have different ways of showing and interpreting love, so it’s vital to notice what makes your partner light up and then keep doing it.
3) Don’t Ditch The Old You
I think it’s safe to presume that most partners have their own friends, hobbies, and routines before entering a relationship. It’s important that each half of the partnership maintains some level of autonomy, as to prevent losing touch with their truest self. While it helps to share interests and embrace shared activities, it’s just as important to strike a healthy balance between “me” and “we.”
Making time to be independent helps strengthen your self-awareness, confidence, and self-esteem, allowing you to contribute even more to the relationship. By staying true to your existing values and interests, you will always have something new to share with your partner at the end of that day. Additionally, this helps fend off that feeling of losing yourself in another person.
When you continue to prioritize your hobbies and values, it’s easier to be honest with yourself when the relationship is simply not working out. Your partner fell hard when they first met you. A commitment to self-love and self-improvement allows you to grow from that space, bolstering your strengths, overcoming your weaknesses, and practicing the very quirks that made your significant other fall in love with you in the first place.
4) Pass The Baton
There will be periods where one person is sick while the other is well, and then times where one partner is unemployed while the other has hit the career jackpot and it supporting the household. Don’t keep score. Don’t hold grudges. Just keep passing the baton back and forth.
We don’t keep track of who pays for what, nor tally the other’s good deeds or mistakes. We have made the joint decision that we’re in this together for the long-haul, and we realize that we will only cross the finish line if we are continually working as a team. This may require putting aside any pride to ask for help covering the bills, declining a much-anticipated outing do to ill-health, or repeatedly offering a listening ear when you sense your partner needs to vent.
Any healthy relationships is comprised of two loving individuals. If you are with a partner who cares, they will be happy to support you–whether emotionally, financially, physically, or otherwise. You should be willing to graciously offer your significant other the same in their time of need. Love is a team sport. In order to “win,” you cooperate, play fair, and learn to gracefully admit defeat when you fail to follow through.
5) Anticipate The Future
Over time, we all fall into predictable routines. We wake up at the same time each morning, kiss our partner goodbye as they leave for work, chat briefly at lunchtime, and then share dinner together before getting ready for bed. These daily habits can become boring and monotonous, so it’s important to have something to look forward to–whether large or infinitesimally small.
Maybe you’re planning the perfect birthday gift, a surprise proposal, a weekend road trip, or trying a new restaurant. Maybe you’re planning to pop out from behind the shower curtain to spook you lover. Whether you’re talking about your dream wedding, saving up for a bigger house, or going back to school, incorporate the other person into you future plans. Discuss both your individual and shared goals, openly expressing what you can do support to one another on the journey.
Not every day will be filled with butterflies and rainbows, but when you’ve found someone you truly love, the good days will be worth the effort of navigating the more challenging ones. The goal is to grow together in the same direction–I personally love the metaphor of two individual, tall-standing trees whose roots have closely intertwined deep beneath the surface, in ways that could never be teased apart.
What do you think?
- Have you learned anything valuable from your own successful or failed relationships?
- Did you discover anything useful though observing the relationships of family members, friends, or strangers?
- What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received regarding starting or maintaining a healthy relationship?
- If you could go back in time and give your younger self dating or relationships advice, what would you tell them?
- What advice would you give to someone who was actively trying to improve an existing partnership or discover true love?
- Would you add anything to the above list? Is there anything you disagree with?