4 lessons from my long-term relationship
Tomorrow night, my fiancé and I are going out for our favorite kind of fancy dinner: Omakase style sushi. We did this on our first anniversary together and it sort of just stuck as a tradition we look forward to every year. October 1st marks 7 years together.
We got the typical reactions from friends and family when we told them we’re celebrating 7 years as a couple: “Wow! Congrats!” or “Has it really been 7 years!?” or “That’s a long time! What’s your secret?” I usually offer the stereotypical responses back “Thank you!” or “Yep, sure has!” or “Just keep choosing each other every day!” …And then the conversation switches to something else -- people ask us about our travel plans over the next few months, how our jobs are going for us, or what wedding planning has been like.
Yet, this lack of relationship curiosity I feel from loved ones is usually the opposite experience for single people after they’ve gone on a first date with someone new. Everyone wants to know all of the juicy details: if they clicked with the other person, what their chemistry was like, if they kissed (and how good the kiss was), and if they think they're going to see them again. And if it’s not the beginning of relationships we ask about, it’s usually the end of them -- the hardships, or breakups we help our friends get through. We ask: what happened? How are you feeling? How can I support you? We make time to hear their sadness and heartbreak and encourage them that “this too shall pass”.
While I definitely fall in the categories of “beginning-relationship gossiper” and “end-relationship supporter,” I think it would behoove all of us to learn from the people in the middle of their romantic journeys with their partners to understand what works -- for people who have been together for 1 year, 5 years, 40 years and everything in between (and beyond!). Since my partner and I have 7 really full and wonderful years under our belts together, I figure I can offer a handful of lessons I’ve learned that may work for others seeking a successful long-term relationship.
So, here's my advice for long-term relationships…
Prioritizing easy, quality 1:1 time together feeds our connection and closeness. It’s the little moments we spend together that lead us to truly enjoy each other’s company: going on a walk, hanging out on the couch watching Seinfeld, or cuddling for 5 minutes before bed. Or just being alone together. One thing we love to do once a week is go to a local bar, grab a drink, and sometimes he’ll draw while I read a book. These activities fill us with appreciation for one another and their sole purpose is to experience joy without needing to spend a ton of money or make a bunch of stressful plans.
Conflict is necessary and inevitable but needs to happen with good intention and respect. At the end of the day, I know there are going to be things he and I disagree on -- and that’s okay! It’s about how we disagree and how we come back together that are the most important things. We’re able to gently suggest remedies that may help for one another (a walk around the block, a snack, or reading a book are some of our favorites). Typically, after conflict, we feel closer to one another -- more able to articulate where the other person is coming from and what’s behind the emotions that were coming up for us. And we’ve gotten better at conflict over time which feels like progress, however small.
I still have a crush on my fiancé 7 years later -- this does wonders for our passion and chemistry. I think he’s incredibly sexy and hot and cute all at the same time. I adore how much he loves my body and how much that makes me love my body. Our sex is a 10/10. This chemistry we have is raw and real. It excites me and feels like there is novelty in our relationship despite us being together for some time now. Keeping that alive takes a little work (the work looks like: us communicating about prioritizing sex and intimacy, continuing to compliment one another and tell each other we love one another on the daily, and dressing up for each other once in a while) but is totally worth it.
- He makes me want to be a better person and I feel lucky to have grown with him. I started dating him when I was 23 (a mere youth!). While I’ve always been confident in who I am and what I stand for, being with him has undoubtedly made me a better, stronger, more empathetic person. Him showing up at every single one of my band’s performances (there were well over 20!) made me feel like my talent and love for music were important and should be celebrated. His unwavering support when I started my business full-time showed me I could do anything I set my mind to. And the feeling is mutual; I support him in his art, encourage him to pursue his passions around rock climbing, and watch him excel in his career. I want to be his biggest cheerleader.
Every relationship is different -- there is no instruction manual for how to find the love of your life and keep the partnership going (“forever” is the default framework!) in a healthy, happy way. But if you are lucky enough to find someone who you can grow with, who makes you feel whole, who supports and loves you for who you are, and someone whose clothes you can’t wait to rip off, try everything you can to put your whole heart into it.
If you want to learn more about maintaining a healthy long-term relationship and keeping the spark alive, check out a recent episode of Sex Ed with DB here.