New Year's Eve marked my 7th anniversary with my lovely boyfriend Andy (together, not married). A lot of people ask me how we have sustained our loving relationship throughout that time. Not that we're special (7 years isn't such a long time in the scheme of things, after all) but since we're only 21, it is a little unusual for people our age to have been together for so long. I usually meet their questions with a shrug, a smile and silence, because there is really no definitive answer to their question, and it is a fairly private one at that. But today I thought that I would share my "secrets" to a happy, loving relationship (or, to put it more succinctly, "observations"). Please keep in mind that these words come with a waiver: all relationships are different, every single one, and there are no universal "rules" to reeling in a man or a woman and keeping them forever. Not in my book, anyway.
So, here goes...
- I have gradually come to the conclusion that love has nothing to do with the art of seduction. Love is not about ensnaring somebody and wooing them into submission, flaunting your best self in order to persuade somebody to care for you. It's not about beautiful presents, fancy dinners, sexy lingerie or mix-tapes. To be sure, those are all nice and they may be constructive in the beginning stages of a relationship (it's been so long since I've been there that I'm really no expert) but there comes a time when, inevitably, the games get too exhausting and the façade falls away.
- When I talk about love, by the way, I mean real, living, breathing, gritty love. Grounded, full, heartfelt, everyday love. And that love is not about courtship. It is about choices. I know that doesn't sound as romantic as being swept off your feet and love at first sight and the spark and all that but when you see it, when you experience it for yourself, you will cherish it even more (because it is real). Love is about making a commitment, each and every day, to love the one you love. Both of you making a pledge, said or unsaid, to love each other with your whole hearts and to love every part of each other (the good and the bad, the virtues and the flaws, the beauty and the rolls), even if you don't particularly like all of those things.
- Of course, not every flailing or broken relationship is salvageable. For one, not every relationship is worth fighting for. It's just a simple calculation of whether the good outweighs the bad. And naturally, both parties have to keep their end of the deal. There cannot be one person fighting for their life and the other giving up (like in Blue Valentine). As Anaïs Nin says, in her ever-astute style: "Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings." Because, when conflict ensues, it can be tempting to surrender. But it takes strength and courage to persevere, to keep trying to make things work, to choose love, even when the ease and adoration begin crumble, reality sets in, and things get really hard.
- Love is making sacrifices for each other, but not for the glory or the expectation of reciprocation. Just because you love them.
- Love is...
best of friends, partners-in-crime
the joy of pillow talk
watching your love from across the room, with fondness
relaxing into your own special nook in their arm
finding comfort in the rise and fall of their breath
divulging your worst fears, your darkest secrets
silently watching their sleeping face
letting things slide, most of the time (picking your battles)
giving them space, when you know they need it
sitting through family dinners, befriending their friends
taking each day as it comes, and not keeping score
rising above their melancholy, soothing their anger
sharing dreams of a mutual future
the flattery of knowing that you are lovable and
taking pleasure in the pursuit of their happiness, as if it were your own. Through thick and thin, good times and bad, until (the) death (of love) do us part.
That's it. It's not simple, but love never is. And it is the intricacies that make it so beautiful.
"Here is a relationship booster
that is guaranteed to
Every time your spouse or lover says something stupid
make your eyes light up as if you
just heard something