Yes, you read that right.
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 9 years. Although dating hardly seems like the right word after all this time. Is “going steady” still a thing?
I know. Our relationship is as old as a young child, and we’ve been dating longer than most married couples are, well, married.
We met in middle school, began our relationship in high school, and stayed together through college. He wrote in my middle school year book, “will you go out with me?” and we never looked back.
But now I am looking back. On all of the lessons we’ve learned along the way. Maybe you’ll learn from our mistakes or maybe you’ll just laugh at them.
Never give or take relationship advice.
As you can imagine, I’ve been asked for a lot of relationship advice throughout the years. Unfortunately, I gave out a lot of it. That is, until I realized that it doesn’t really do anyone any good. You are different than me, thus your relationship will be completely different than mine. What will be your line in the sand is just my Tuesday. Your final straw will be my latest mistake.
So, really, the argument of this blogpost just collapsed in on itself. If you’re still here when the dust clears, go onto #2.
Relationships are hard. Make it easier by dating your best friend.
Like I said, I don’t give out relationship advice. But if I did, I would tell you to date your best friend. Tim and I work well together because at the end of the day, I’m still excited to tell him how my day went. He shares my interests and my goals, but he isn’t afraid to disagree with me.
Sometimes, people that are completely different than you make the best partners in life.
People have argued with me on this point, which also supports my thesis about why relationship advice is completely bogus. But I believe it. Tim is a chemist, and I’m a writer. Our brains are wired differently, and when we do argue, well. To put it in his terms, we can go a bit nuclear. And sure, there are times we don’t see eye to eye. (Mostly, because I am a foot shorter than him…) But I can accept his opinion, and he can accept mine because we respect each other. Respect is not something I see in a lot of relationships these days. Tim and I try not to talk over each other (although it happens), and we try to support each other, as a result. Most days, if we give each other the time to blow off steam, we can avoid an impending argument.
I once heard that soul mates are not the people who are exactly like us, but the people who make us better versions of ourselves. Most people cannot even be in the same room as their soul mate because it is so hard for people to accept their own flaws. Tim is a rare soul mate, who pushes me, albeit gently, to be the best person I can be. We like to think that we knew each other in a past life but were unable to be together for some reason. This is why we’ve been given so much time together in this life. (Cue the “awww’s.”)
Every relationship experiences growing pains.
I think the hardest thing about dating someone during high school is that we are all trying to find ourselves. Yet, Tim is one of those rare people who has always known who he was. I had a pretty good lock on my identity during my high school years, but my center of gravity started to drift when I got to college. I felt the need to reinvent myself, which caused a lot of unforeseen heartbreak.
Kids, don’t be afraid to break up for a little while, if you have to. Sometimes, you need to figure out your own situation without dragging someone else into it. Trust me, love will find a way. There are too many success stories of people who went their separate ways only to end up back together a few years down the line. So, if it doesn’t feel right, try to take a break. Tim and I tried to take one, but we found it was much easier to keep each other in our lives while we went through the rough patch then to be pushed away. What can we say? We’re masochists.
Don’t force it.
I can’t say this enough. I’ve seen too many couples try to “work it out” when they are really two soggy puzzle pieces: they may have fit together once, but they don’t anymore, and that’s okay. Sometimes we grow out of people, like old clothes. This is natural. If it happens, don’t fight it. Appreciate what the person has brought into your life and kindly show them the door. If it feels like you are truly unhappy with any part of your relationship, besides the little things (he/she snores, he/she leaves the seat up, etc.) then you should get out of there.
Don’t have a lot of expectations for your relationship.
I used to wear myself out. Every anniversary, I would wait for Tim to ride in on a rented white horse to take me to a duck pond where we could spend a moonlit night feeding the fowl. When this didn’t happen, I would get upset.
Finally, I realized I was looking at everything the wrong way. Tim works hard to show me how much he appreciates me in his life every other day of the year. I started to realize that anniversaries were a special day for me, but for Tim, they were just another chance to prove his love, just like any other day. I’ve accepted that he isn’t going to ride in on a white horse, but we still have a rule that he must make me/buy me a card on our anniversary. For a few anniversaries, when we couldn’t drive, we didn’t even get to see each other. Now, I’ve learned to appreciate any time we spend together. Try to remember that the other person is probably doing the best they can with what they have. Cut them a little slack.
Be vulnerable and communicate.
I don’t really believe in the “your my other half” business. I believe in being my own person while the other person is their own person. If you can be yourself together, then it’s perfect. However, when you try to hold back your emotions, or you don’t communicate exactly what you want, feelings can and will get hurt. You really want that white horse? Tell him/her.
Check your pride at the door.
I see a lot of relationships fail because one person is really concerned with being right all of the time. While we have an element of healthy competition in our relationship, Tim and I don’t let it get the best of us. We begrudgingly say the other one is right, this time, and we move on. Instead of repeating “I’m right” in your head, maybe try listening to what the other person is saying for a change of pace. I believe people show their true colors through conversation, but sometimes we are too busy thinking of our reply and we miss it.
Be the other person’s cheerleader.
This is something that I didn’t know how to do until I met Tim. I’m sure dating a writer can be really scary at times. We want fame and fortune, but we are usually full of self-doubt. Also, I expected Tim to write me poetry for the first 4 years of our relationship because I thought, “I can, why can’t he?” But he’s always supported me, no matter what. He doesn’t ask why, but how. He always reminds me of what I am capable of, even when I don’t see it. He’s proud of who I am and what I am going to become. Most days, everyone just needs someone to believe in what they can do and who they are.
I love you, Tim. I always have and I always will. I’m not sure I deserve you, but I’m going to spend the rest of my life proving that I do.
Here’s to another 9 years…
4 thoughts on “9 Things I Learned From Being in a 9 Year Relationship”
My wife and I were partners and best friends for 36 years. After she passed away and I started to date again I always posted on the dating sites that we had to become best friends first. My only advise is that the Human body changes every cell in its body every 7 years. The average marriage lasts 13 -years. The trick to this is understanding that after 14 years the person next to you is two persons different from the one you fell in love with. Both of you must fall in love with these new persons and new bodies.
That’s beautiful, Alan. Thank you! And thank you for the wonderful books as well!
[…] myself in a position to give out romantic advice. Although I have been in a relationship for 9 years, I don’t suggest that what may work for me will work for […]
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