Like most Americans I was raised in a world where true love was considered a magical event. There were soulmates who would fall in love, brought together by undeniable fate and they would continue to live their life blissfully and constantly in love until they died in the same breath holding hands on their hospice beds.
Now, while that is a beautiful sentiment, that is the only version of that story we were fed. I’m not a cynic, and trust me I do believe that love is magical and can feel like a warm blanket on a rainy day but it can also feel like you're on the phone talking to an automated machine that can’t understand anything you’re saying so you just push buttons and end up throwing your really expensive phone across the room.
Issues in relationships were never spoken about out loud and if they were, it was usually in the form of hushed gossip between friends.
“They’re not doing too well…Rumor has it, they’re thinking about the “D” word.”
Divorce was usually portrayed as a traumatic screaming match filled with all of the hatred two humans could muster and quite possibly the worst thing that could happen to you.
Divorce = bad.
Perfect Marriage = good.
Now, things have changed in recent years but that antiquated thought process is still engrained in most of our human psyche.
I think that’s why when a lot of us get into relationships, we are always expecting one or the other. No in between. Fireworks or just..fire. This unrealistic expectation about how everything either goes perfectly, or horribly awry, does not set us up for a very balanced or healthy relationship.
Perhaps if more people began to get honest about relationships, these extreme black and white lenses would stop taking a hold of us and fueling us to have these ridiculous expectations that cause so much heartache, fear and disappointment.
So I guess I’ll start!
These are some things that no one ever tells you about being in a long term relationship.
Sometimes it gets boring.
When you first start falling in love with someone, it’s exciting. There are butterflies (or nauseating anxiety as I like to call it). Your mind is always racing, thinking about them and hoping they call or text you. Your dates feel like adventures and every time you hang out, no matter what you’re doing, it seems like it’s the most fun you’ve ever had.
Anyone who has experienced this giddy stage of a relationship is familiar with the strong whirlwinds of emotions.
Your brain is literally pumping feel good chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin into your body, yet you may also feel the insecurity and anxiousness that new relationships often carry.
As magical and life changing as this stage is; it is not sustainable. For my people in the first or second year of a relationship, this may seem like a bummer. But let me assure you, that this is a good thing!
First of all, our brain starts functioning normally again. We can start making decisions based off of logic and reasoning rather than that overwhelming feeling of attachment that tells us; “this person is my only priority in life and I will die if they’re not next to my side at all times.”
Secondly, no one wants to be an anxious mess all of the time and you can stop checking your phone every five seconds. Phew.
With that being said, nights where you stay at home and watch television on the couch turn from cute and exciting to boring and routine. Plus, it doesn't help with the constant influx of social media stories from friends who seem to be out living their life to the fullest like some hollywood socialite (by the way, they’re not.) Your single friends seem to be constantly telling you about new dating drama every week and you listen with equal parts intrigue and relief.
There is definitely a lack of drama in healthy long term relationships, which is a good thing! However, the harmonious way of life can also leave you with a feeling of boredom.
When we first get into relationships, they tend to take up most of our time, which is important in the bonding process but also causes us to neglect the things that once made our lives fun. So before you go and blame your partner for your dull and monotonous combined life, examine your own lifestyle habits. Chances are you're not bored with your relationship; you're bored with you. Ask yourself if you feel challenged and fulfilled in your career. Are you able to participate in hobbies that excite you? Do you make time to go out with friends?
If you can answer yes to all of those, then you can look at the dynamics of your relationship. This is a great opportunity for you and your significant other to get creative, pick up a new hobby together, explore a new city, start a side business venture, volunteer, start new traditions, change it up. You two are growing together through this difficult thing called life, you have to make time for fun sometimes.
You get way too comfortable with each other.
Hate to break it to you my one year-ers but there will come a time when your significant other will see you at your absolute worst. I’m not just talking about no make up and bed head, I’m talking through sickness, hangovers, emotional breakdowns; the whole shebang. Which also means that you will see them at their lowest point, and sometimes it’s not the sexiest thing in the world. However, you will take comfort in the fact that you can be completely yourselves while still being loved and accepted. Which is pretty great and maybe worth all of the gross farts.
Chances are you'll get crushes on other people.
I know this one makes people cringe, but I swore myself to honesty here. We can’t go through life blind folded; we are going to be attracted to other people at times. A stranger who flirts with us, a coworker, maybe a former fling you ran into.. But here’s the thing, a crush is just that; a crush. Most likely it will fade as quickly as it came, so don’t freak out and immediately break up with your partner. This is another time to reflect on your life. Ask yourself, what do you attain by having this crush? Is it just attention? Do you feel neglected by your partner? How have you been feeling about yourself lately?
Once you figure out what the root of this crush is, you can tend to those areas more closely. Are you missing the feeling of new romance? Try and make up a special date night with your significant other. Are you working through self esteem issues? Change up your gym routine or learn something new, there are plenty of healthy ways to raise self esteem without becoming dependent on the opposite sex’s attention.
Crushes will fade and if you are in a healthy loving and decidedly monogamous relationship you will come to the conclusion that no fleeting attraction would be worth the risk of losing someone you love. After all, it’s your actions and choices that prove your love, not your thoughts. With every reflection of why you choose your partner over the next new shiny thing, you’ll start to really appreciate the bond only the two of you share.
Your fights will get more stupid.
In the beginning it seems like your first fights are traumatic and important. You’re just figuring out how to sync together your lives which brings up issues like scheduling, date nights, and who’s parents to go to for Christmas. Ah, the early fights! Which hopefully ended well because you love each other and you want it to work out.
When you decide to cohabitate, your fights will become about a little less important; like fights about laundry and restocking the toilet paper rolls. Once again, I’m sorry to tell you but the fights only get dumber from there.
If you’re in a longterm relationship you now know how to push each others buttons and exactly what to say at what time to get the maximum response. You are no longer afraid of conflict and sometimes it just gets silly. (I once had a full blown, sleep-on-the-couch-argument about what kind of eggs we should buy. Cage free obviously, I don't care if you think it’s a lie.)
Good news is, that the longer you’re in a healthy relationship, the better you can figure out HOW to fight and the best way to makeup and apologize. Do you give each-other space? Do you write down your feelings before saying them?
At that level of intimacy and closeness, fights are inevitable but if you use them as constructive tools to help the two of you reach a better understanding, they can be good!
Also you can learn the valuable lesson of loving someone even if they don’t share your exact same viewpoint. (Even though cage free chicken eggs don’t get bleached either so they’re better for you either way, okay?!)
It gets better.
At times I reminisce of the earlier days of courtship, and how wonderful and magical they seemed before we really knew each other, but the truth is I would never go back. Being in love isn’t as glamorous as we all originally thought it would be, but being in a longterm relationship with a good person is amazing. And worth it. And it really does only get better.
It’s having a sleepover with your best friend, all the time. It’s having a teammate in life; having a person who undoubtedly has your back and is always there for you no matter what kind of mood you were in earlier. It is living life with your favorite person and getting to do everything with them. It's raising a family together and creating a life. It’s knowing that you two have been through so much and still survived. Sometimes we may get so intertwined with that person that we don’t even ‘see’ them. I know that too often I take my person for granted, because sometimes I think that if I was constantly aware of how much I really loved that person, my heart would explode.
Let me know of some of your stupidest relationship fights, so we can all feel better about being a little crazy sometimes.