This past weekend, I celebrated 5 years with my boyfriend. Previous to him, my longest relationship was 6 whole months. Back then, I thought that was pretty long and I always prided myself on knowing a lot about relationships. I felt I knew the jist of what it meant to be a good girlfriend, supportive partner and all around maintaining a healthy relationship. Boy, was I wrong! In the past 5ive years, I’ve learned a whole lot about what it means to be in a relationship. I’ve learned the difference between settling and compromising, and so much more. Since five years is such a huge milestone for me, I thought I’d touch base on the things I’ve learned. If you’d like to know what I have learned out of being in a long term/long distance relationship, continue reading!
PS, I know a lot of the photos are quite old but Gil and I only take crappy phone selfies together now and I figured I’d share some of the really nice ones.
You’ll change. They’ll change.
I was 25 when I started dating Gil, and he was 34. I might have been more mature than I have been in previous relationship, but I was still a baby in the grand scheme of things. I had different priorities, different dreams, different needs and wants. I used to fear changing in a relationship, because sometimes that can mean growing apart. However, I’ve learned that it doesn’t always mean doomsday for your relationship. Changing can also mean rethinking the construction of your relationship and developing a deeper bond.
Compromising and Settling are entirely different.
Before Gil, I hated the idea of changing myself even slightly for a person. Why should I? Why would anyone deserve that? At the same time, I expected it for ME. I expected mountains to be moved to better cater to my needs, and I operated like that a lot of the times. I had completely unrealistic expectations out of a relationship. It took a lot for me to realize that compromising and settling were entirely different and I was confusing the two. Settling means completely tossing your standards out the window, whereas compromise is about working together and finding common ground. Gil and I operate in different ways, and sometimes we want different things. Finding common ground between our two needs in a healthy way is not always easy, but its part of being a unit.
You decide what you can and cannot deal with in a relationship.
I’ve been through some shit in my relationship that most people wouldn’t stand for, and while I don’t feel comfortable disclosing the dirty deets here, I found it important to not gloss over that. We had a rough few years during the beginning of our relationship, but I stayed committed to trying to work it out. When venting to friends, or seeking advice for people I trusted, I often had them judge me for my choice to stay. When it comes down to it, we all pick what our breaking points are. When weighing my options, I found the positive would almost always outweighed the negative. Previous to Gil, I have been treated in ways that I’d never want to experience again, and it taught me some of my hard limits. It taught me how I never want to be treated by a person, and to value those who pick kindness and support over control and bitterness. At the core of it, we decide what we can and cannot put up with in a relationship. Those choices will always remain yours and yours alone.
Your partner cannot make you happy.
This might sound morbid as hell, but its so freakin’ true. It’s also a lesson I learned somewhat recently, and it blew my mind. Gil can make me laugh, make me smile, fill my heart with joy but he isn’t responsible for my overall happiness. I’m also not responsible for his. I used to seek out people in hopes that they’d wipe away all of the bad feelings, and it created an unhealthy need in me. I have a history of codependency because guess what, I have a history of depression. Whoever I dated was responsible for my overall wellbeing, whether they knew it or not. Imagine that kind of pressure! Imagine how little room it leaves a person to have their own needs and wants! Imagine how volatile YOUR emotions would be. At the end of the day, your partner can be your support through hard times and emphasize your happy state but they cannot be the sole provider. That is on you, and you alone.
It won’t always be 50/50.
Man, is this a hard one to navigate. Sometimes you need to be the more giving person. Sometimes your partner will compensate for you. 50/50 isn’t about equally giving and getting at all points. It means that when your partner is at a 20, you pick up that 80 for them. I want to clarify that I don’t mean you turn a blind eye to unhealthy behaviour, or that you allow your partner to slack heavily on the things you need. However, when your partner is depressed, down or otherwise struggling, it might be your time to stand up. Gil and I have taken our shifts on and off in our relationship, and we do it because we love each other.
There’s a lot more after the honeymoon phase ends.
As I mentioned above, my 2nd longest relationship lasted 6 months. Previous to that, 4 months. I had a string of short lived relationships that never made it passed the honeymoon phase. We all love the phase when its grabby hands everywhere, constant sex, passion at every turn and we’re living in a perpetual romance novel. That shit ends. It ends once the illusion of a person comes crashing down. It ends once you settle into being with someone. It ends once real life catches up with you. I’ll admit, I had a really hard time with this one. Movies typically end during the honeymoon phase, and the only examples we have of long term couples seem to be miserable people who can’t stand each other. I never, ever want to be in a relationship like that, so when I realized we were transitioning out of our honeymoon phase, I really panicked. However, love comes in stages and waves and whats beyond the honeymoon phase can be incredible. It means a deeper connection and understanding of a person. It means comfort and security. It means safety, kindness and incredible love. A lot of couples go through a rough patch around the 2 year mark when these big changes occur and not everyone survives it. I’m so beyond happy we did.
To be entirely honest, I grew up around fighting so it was never a huge thing for me. In fact, it was kind of the way I expected things to be. Even though it was more normal for me, I still feared it a lot in relationships. Don’t worry, I’m not glorifying fighting here and I’ve definitely had my fair share of too many fights in a relationship, but its just inevitable. Whether you’re getting into a small tiff over what movie to watch, or fighting about something bigger, these things happen. It’s how you come back from them and learn thats a hugely important lesson.
You’ll never know everything.
I am still learning how to be a good partner, and Gil is still discovering how to be one for me. I really thought I’d had it all figured out by now, but the truth is, you never will. As I already said, people change and you will, too. That means your needs will change, and suddenly your partner has to relearn and vice versa. Give up the quest to know it all, I promise, you’ll be happier that way.
You decide what your relationship looks like.
Gil and I have an unconventional relationship. This is the first time I’ve openly said it, but we have an open relationship. This means sometimes we see other people, and sometimes we don’t. Our relationship has been scrutinized up and down by people I know and people he knows for as long as I can remember. But this is OUR relationship, nobody else’s. We are allowed to determine what it looks like for us, what our guidelines and boundaries are. You’re allowed to play by your own rules, and its such a liberating feeling to do so.
Dates are important.
Just because I’ve been with someone for 5 years doesn’t mean I want to give up the romance. Hell, I NEED the romance! When I’m back home, we’ll Facetime and watch a movie together. When I’m visiting him, we’ll go out for dinner or have a special move night in. I don’t expect the same level of wining & dining as I did in the beginning, but I certainly do expect and hope for date nights to continue. Dates are crucial for maintaining the romance, and keeping your relationship out of a rut.
There’s definitely a lot more that I have learned in the last five years, but I didn’t want to make this list excessively long. With that being said, I know that I’ll continue learning as the years go on. I hope you all enjoyed my little post!