I have been with my boyfriend since we were both 16 and it was both our first and only relationship. This means that we have gone through our late puberty stages, long-distance while I was at University and now are early adult life. Along that way it has been a rollercoaster and not all of it was down to unstable hormone levels.
I am in no way presenting myself as a relationship guru and someone who knows and has it all. I still have a lot more to learn, especially as my boyfriend and I embark on a new adventure of moving in together hopefully next year. However, I do pride myself on having sustained such a long (largely) positive relationship through some key life changes.
Lesson 1- Communication is key, closely followed by honesty
One of the hardest lessons for me was the importance of communication. Because I kind of suck at it. I hate talking about my feelings and I hate confrontation so most of the time it is easier for me to rely on the silent treatment.
But it is not fair on your other half for them to be left to mind read and then you get even madder when they don’t read your mind correctly. It has probably taken me the full 7 years to learn that, but I think I am finally getting better at it.
It is also important to be honest. Say when things aren’t going right or when you made a mistake and talk through the issues rather than sugar-coating it. The quicker things get resolved the better as a small probelm can keep growing and explode into a giant unecessary argument.
Lesson 2- Compromise
The second hardest lesson, as an only child, compromise was not in my vocabulary till I moved out for university and had to compromise a lot with housemates. You can’t always get what you want, and half of the work in a relationship comes from compromising. Whether it is as small as what film you want to watch to something a lot bigger such as where you want to live or qualities you want in a house. A positive relationship requires two happy individuals, so it is no surprise that the way to achieve this is to compromise.
Compromise also relates to little things that may aggravate you about the other person, for instance, if they snore of if they leave the spoon out after making their tea instead of putting it in the sink. These aren’t make it or break it habits for a relationship but will require compromising and being more accepting of them.
Lesson 3- Opposites attract is only half true
Of course, compromise becomes a lot easier when you have some things in common with your other half. The typical opposites attract mandate is only half true. Yes, there are significant differences between my boyfriend and I but we also share a lot of the same interests, hobbies, values and goals in life which makes things a lot smoother. It means we have things to talk about and discuss but the differences also mean that we can learn from each other and have debates and be introduced to different viewpoints than the ones that we have.
Lesson 4- Remain an individual
It is important that while you share some common things with your other half, you still remain an individual. You have your career and your goals, your own hobbies and interests, your own group of friends etc. Being in a relationship does not mean becoming the same person. You should never lose sight of who you were as a person before your other half came into the picture.
You should have your own experiences and problems that your other half can support you through rather than share with you. Plus having your own hobbies and interest means you get to spend some quality time apart just enjoying your own company which is also key. Spending too much time together seems like the ideal when you are a horny and emotional teenager, but when you reach adulthood you really do appreciate those times of utter silence by yourself, and you should be able to keep a hold of those moments even with a partner around.
Lesson 5- Pick up on the little things
Most articles of this kind will advise you to learn your other half’s love language; however, I think something common among most people is their partner picking up on the small things. If she says she likes a particular flower and she’s had a rough week, a bouquet on a Friday will make her a week. Little things that are said are often avenues on how you can treat the other person and while it can be a small gesture, it may mean a lot to them. This of course will be aided by your other half’s love language. Whether its acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch or words of affirmation, a simple passing by sentence may be an opportunity to treat them to little things that mean a great deal more.
Lesson 6- Always try and spice things up
Getting into a routine or rut can be one of the worst things for a relationship. My boyfriend would come to visit me at uni, we would binge-watch films and TV Shows, order takeaway, maybe do the occasional night out. But it became very routine. So, it is good to spice things up with fun days out or ensuring that you have a monthly or weekly date night where you do something like a dinner or drinks or something completely out of the normal. Having new experiences together is the best way to build and sustain a bond as well as gathering a nice bank of memories that you can look back on.
And I think this goes without saying that this applies in the bedroom too but be mindful of lesson number 1 above in that respect
Lesson 7- Support, love, value, cherish and make it known
The worst thing that can happen in a relationship is the other person not feeling like they are valued or loved by you. All of the above will help show this but this is the core to a good relationship. It’s respecting boundaries, understanding the other person and their feelings, respecting those emotions and never making them feel like their feelings have no value. Appreciate them for who they are highlight that to them, every damn day if you can. Once you lose that, you may lose them.