This is starting to become an annual tradition. (If you didn’t see last year’s post, click here.)
Let me catch you up. My boyfriend and I started dating 10 years ago. Today, we celebrate a decade of being together. And now that our relationship is the same age as a child, I am going to impart some gems of wisdom (which are probably just like fool’s gold).
Of course, I am going to give you fair warning before you move forward. By no means should you adhere to my relationship advice. Everyone is different, and what is true for me may not be true for you. But I think we’ll have fun talking about what is my truth, and hopefully, you can relate on some level to the zaniness that we all call love.
Find someone who will eat your pickles.
Listen, it’s great to have someone who shares your passions and who will have an adventure with you. Of course you always know that one couple that’s like, We run, bike, garden, and cook together. We’re inseparable, and we haven’t slept for weeks. But it’s also wonderful to have someone who has completely different interests than you. This way, you get to share your likes and help them to discover something new. For example, my boyfriend and I have this perfect arrangement where he absolutely despises pickles, and they are my favorite food. So, he just plops them down on my plate, and I gobble them up. He could buy my love for pickles, and yet he gives them to me for free.
At the beginning of our ten years, we talked on my sister’s phone (there were only two landlines in my house) and on AOL instant messaging. (I bet the words “away message” just flashed before your eyes.) Since then, we have skyped, texted, DMed on Twitter, telegrammed, snail mailed, passed notes, etc. I’m sure we would have talked through a can on a string if we felt that it would have given us better reception than our pay-as-you-go phones. (It probably would have.) Our relationship has truly experienced plenty of technological advances, but our own communication has not. Sure, there are days that we don’t get to talk to each other nearly as much as we want. But the point is that the other one knows that he or she has someone in his or her corner, no matter what. I may not have texted back in the last hour, but I’m always a phone call away. (Well, maybe a voicemail message away…)
Difficult doesn’t even cover it.
I think sometimes The Notebook comes the closest to reality when it comes to relationships, which is why it is such a favorite among chick flickers. The reason I think it is so accurate is because Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling fight. They don’t just bicker about whose turn it is to take out the trash or whether Zooey Deschanel is the cutest thing on Earth or what, they actually have knock down, drag out arguments. And yes, that’s accurate for us, too. I don’t think there is anyone on Earth that has faced the full brunt of my anger, the screaming and the insults, like my boyfriend. I’m surprised he still has eyebrows because my fury could burn them off if he got too close. Which is why it’s always important to take a step back and start over because it is absolutely never easy to be with someone you love. They know how to push you, and that’s good, but then again, they know how to push you. So, tread carefully, and practice the phrase, “I’m sorry.”
Flowers and battles should be picked carefully.
Which brings me to my next point: try not to take your anger out on each other. #8 makes it sound like most couples are fighting all of the time. That’s probably not true for most healthy relationships, but you will surely feel moments of acute irritation. Like, oh my god, he just double-dipped. That is so disgusting. He literally only thinks about himself and that bowl of guacamole. Now, are you going to go nuclear over such a little transgression? Probably not, but there will be times when you will feel like you should burn the bridge that connects you to your shared apartment. This is also a good time to step back. You have to ask yourself if you are willing to lose this person over something, anything. If you truly love them, the answer will be no, until he double-dips again.
This is just general advice for life, but I cannot stress how important this one is. I met my boyfriend when I was just 14 years old. (I’ll let that sink in for a moment. You can keep reading once it does.) I don’t pretend that this isn’t completely weird. But I owe our success to the fact that I have always been the person that I am, and so has he. We are a bit mature for our age, but we are comfortable with ourselves. Sure, I’ve changed. But not in ways that matter. Not in ways that detract from the person I am at the core. And neither has he. So, to attract your life partner, don’t do anything but be yourself. The right person will find you. (Maybe a little later than 14, but better late than never.)
It should come as no surprise that I am not generally a fan of surprises. I avoid horror movies and perfume stalls in the mall because I don’t like when people jump out at me. However, my boyfriend is a master at listening to what I’m saying and then surprising me much later with the exact thing that I was describing. Baby stuffed penguin? Found it on Amazon. Trip to your favorite restaurant? Let’s go tonight. Need to unwind? Here’s some chocolate I bought on the way over. Those little unexpected treats are so pleasant for me because even after 10 years, I can’t really predict when they will pop up next. (Especially the chocolate. Just sayin’.)
Trust that the other person knows where he or she is going.
I could probably write an entire book on the importance of trust in a relationship. Truly, it is the only thing that will help you move forward in life. But it’s hard, right? Giving up that control and possibly allowing yourself to get hurt goes against our survival instincts. But even when we know the person is reading the map wrong and has a malfunctioning GPS, both literally and metaphorically, you have to let them figure it out first. Trust can sometimes be the only thing that the both of you are able to fall back on, and so you need to build it up, brick by brick, by not pulling over to ask for directions immediately when your partner has gotten you lost.
As a strong, independent woman, I am often faced with the choice of hiding my emotions and figuring it all out on my own or asking for help. It’s actually hard to call it a choice because I almost never end up picking the latter. However, in a relationship, it is critical to admit that you’re not really sure how to proceed when you really don’t know. Again, it can be difficult to give the reins over, but you’re in this together. If you’re going to share your successes, you will also have to share your pains. And most of your food.
You’re dating a village.
When you have been together this long, there are a lot of people involved in your relationship. Whether they simply hang out with the two of you, or were the ones to set you up once upon a time, or have eavesdropped on your arguments, there are a lot of people who have an investment in your love. This is why it’s incredibly important to make an effort with the people that your partner enjoys the most in life. You may be dating a village, so make sure that you surround yourself with support.
Get mad, get over it.
I have a heady heritage of Irish/Scottish/German. I have a short fuse and a long cooling off period. And, don’t forget, I am incredibly stubborn. So, when we are bickering or I am not choosing my battles wisely, things can go downhill very quickly. For example, this past weekend my boyfriend and I were out to dinner. We were arguing about something very trivial when we suddenly got so irritated that we refused to speak. I stared moodily off into space, and he went to the bathroom. When he got back, I tried my best to soften myself, but I was having trouble working up the nerve to apologize. I looked over at him briefly, and even in that moment, I could see that I was forgiven because he reached up to wipe away some of the food on my mouth. He even licked his finger to rub it off. And it was all at once the most mundane and caring response. It said, I may be mad, but I will always love you. Having someone who wants the best for you even when he or she is seeing red is the best gift a person can give. It is the gift of true acceptance.
And so, 10 years has passed. I knew I had someone special all those years ago, but I didn’t know how important you would be, Tim. Thank you for this adventure. I can’t wait to see where life brings us.
And thank you to everyone who has ever stood by us, listened to our arguments over the phone, encouraged us to be with each other, or simply hung out with us. Your importance cannot be overrated.