Saturday, February 14, 2015

5 Things I've Learned from 5 Years with Joe

Seeing how it is Valentines Day and love is in the air and all that, I thought I would do a post sharing some important things I've learned about love and relationships in my 5 amazing years (so far!) with Joe.  I feel like there are a million and one posts out there about all the lessons we learn from bad relationships, but there is I think a shortage of posts on lessons learned from successful healthy relationships. So that is what I'll be chatting about today!

1. Love is easy; relationships are hard

Falling in love is easy. It is natural. It happens when you least expect it and there is very little you can do to stop it once it starts. And it is so beautiful and just the greatest feeling in the whole world. Building a relationship, on the other hand, takes effort. When we first meet someone new they are all shiny and glowing and seemingly perfect. When we first start dating someone new we always make sure to put our best self forward. We don't take our insecurities and imperfections on first, second, or even third dates. We want to impress. But that glossy finish only lasts so long and eventually all our little cracks start to show through. For a lasting relationship to be built you have to work together to navigate each other's quirks, imperfections, and irritating habits.  Relationships don't just work naturally; you have to put in the effort to make them strong enough to last.

2. Settled down doesn't mean boring

When I say settled down I do not mean married or even engaged or anything like that. I just mean that point in a relationship where everything has become, well, normal. When you have been together long enough that you've discovered most of their secrets and your first kiss is a fond, but distant memory. I think a lot of people panic when they reach this point, because according to Hollywood a good relationship is always electrifying, so when that starts to go away some of us start to worry something is wrong. I'll admit that I've felt like that before. I've come to realize that for Joe and I, this was just the beginning of a new kind of excitement. The fact that laying in bed watching Markiplier play horror games is a regular occurrence in my life is exciting. The fact that I am comfortable enough to be a complete dork around him without ever feeling self-conscious and the fact that he kisses me when I've done or said something particularly ridiculous gives me butterflies now. It is not the same as the new couple feeling; honestly it is so much better. You might have to redefine excitement once you get past the honeymoon phase, but don't for a second thing that means you've lost it. If nothing in your relationship excites you, you are either not trying hard enough to keep it alive or you are in the wrong relationship.

3. Dates do not always require dollars

Something that I think is absolutely crucial to any relationship is learning to spend quality time with each other without having to go out. Going out to dinner and a movie is great, don't get me wrong. Joe and I spend more money than I care to admit at the cinema. But we also spend a lot of Friday nights curled up on the couch watching Markipiler (we really like Markiplier alright) and playing video games together. We became really quite good at this because for the majority of our relationship neither of us had a car so getting anywhere was tricky, so I admit we go out more now that we can, but that hasn't taken away from our cozy nights in together. Never underestimate the power of a well planned date-at-home. Your relationship and your wallet will thank you.

4. Communication really is everything

I know this has been said a thousand times, but it really is true. If you and your partner don't communicate with each other you will not last. This means you have to feel comfortable enough with them to talk to them if something is bothering you. You have to be able to share you fears, problems, and needs with them. And that does not just mean talking to them about helping with dinner. It means talking with them about times they hurt your feelings. It means being comfortable enough to talk about what you do or don't (especially don't!) want in terms of physical intimacy. Passive aggression a healthy relationship does not make. I know it isn't easy, but it is necessary. And your relationship will become so much stronger once you both open up.

5. It is okay to have doubts

This might be the most important thing I've learned so far. It is completely normal and okay to have doubts sometimes. Long term relationships are difficult and are sometimes a little intimidating. It is okay to get a little freaked out sometimes. Talk to your partner about it. Tell them what you're thinking and how you're feeling and why. Just don't let those doubts take over. If you really love them and if you are really happy with them, it will take more than an existential crisis to break you up. Joe and I had kind of a rough summer because I was having a lot of doubts, but the more I thought about the more I realized I was really freaking out over and questioning my entire life (its a thing we 20 somethings do from time to time; you know how it is) and our relationship just sort of got dragged in. Once I calmed down and started working out what I really wanted out of life, I knew I couldn't imagine giving him up. And on the other end, he was absolutely amazing through all of it. He was very patient with me and gave me the time I needed to make sense of my crazy existence. And that is what your partner (or you, if its your partner struggling) should be able and willing to do.

I do apologize that this was such a long post, but I really couldn't find anyway to make it shorter. I hope it was helpful, whether you are in a long term relationship yourself or are going on your first date tonight. Or even if you are single at the moment, I hope you'll keep these in mind when your next romance begins!

What are other important lessons you've learned about love and relationships?

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