At 23 (and a half) years old, I've had approximately six boyfriends, each of which lasted between one month and two years. I've dumped and I've been dumped; I've had my ups and I've bottomed out. I've learned what I can handle and what I can't handle in relationships (that's a whole other post in itself). It hasn't always been easy. If I'm being honest, a lot of the time, dating was just plain hard.
Fast forward to my sixth and what I hope will be my last - my relationship with Ryan is completely different than anything I've ever experienced. Why? Because it's easy. Always. Even when life isn't easy, our relationship is easy. I'm not saying it's perfect, because that's far from the truth. But I can say that most days, I'm effortlessly happy, and I think that's because rather than growing out of my relationship, I'm growing up and into it. Does that make sense?
Let's get real, I'm no expert on love. I'm pretty sure I dropped out of the only psychology class I ever took in college. I could have absolutely zero idea as to what I'm talking about. But I'm in a happy relationship, and these are my personal guidelines as to how you can be, too:
- Fight less, discuss more. Figure out what's worth fighting about. Ask yourself, "will this matter to me in an hour? Tomorrow? Next week?" If the answer is no, then drop it. If the answer is yes, take a deep breath and calmly explain to your partner how you're feeling and why you're frustrated. Ryan and I rarely fight, but when we do, I want to make sure we both learn something from it. Ignoring your feelings to avoid a fight isn't the point; it's learning to work through your problems instead of screaming about them that causes you both to grow.
- Talk about the future, but live in the present. Ryan and I talk about the future quite a bit - where we want to settle down, what we won't have at our wedding, who we'll invite to our wedding (fun fact: we're not engaged). It's important to have conversations about the future. After all, isn't that the point of dating? But it's also easy to get caught up in the excitement of the 'what might be's, which takes away the fun of the 'right now's. Plus, too much talk about the future can lead to unnecessary expectations and stress. Point of this particular rambling: keep your future in mind, but remember to enjoy the journey.
- Understand that being comfortable does not mean boring. After you've been dating for awhile, that "spark" fades. I don't care what your Nicholas Sparks novels tell you, I don't care what your rom-coms tell you - being in love does not mean forever butterflies, passionate make out sessions and 50 Shades of Grey style freak shows in the bedroom. Sometimes being in love means staying in on a Saturday night, sitting on separate ends of the couch, watching four episodes of Homeland in a row, scrolling through handheld technology and only using your vocal chords to ask, "more wine?"
- Don't go looking for problems. Don't go through Facebook messages, don't go through text messages, don't check call logs. Trust your partner. If you're looking for something to be upset about, you'll probably find it if you're looking hard enough. Fight the urge.
- Be each other's best friend. When Ryan and I first started dating, he said something to me that really stuck. He told me, "I don't want a girlfriend...I want a best friend." At the end of the day, your partner should be the person you can tell your darkest secrets to, free of judgement; the person you can confide in when it feels like your world is falling apart; the person you can be your silliest self in front of.
Anything to add to the list? What works for you?
Happy weekend! XO