10 Things I've Learned In My Relationship

When I first came to Kenyon, I had very low expectations for finding a romantic partner. I had never been in a long-term relationship before, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to be. Yet, it was not until I had firmly decided that I was uninterested in romantic pursuits that I met my boyfriend of three years. While the past three years have been wonderful, they have also included their fair share of ups and downs as I have grown as an individual and have learned how to be a good partner. On the same day that three years ago, I was asked to be my boyfriend’s girlfriend at 2 am after a classically disruptive, yet well-timed McBride fire alarm sent us outside to meet up after an initial goodnight where we were both too chicken to DTR, I thought it would be fitting to share some of the important lessons I have learned during my first long-term relationship.


1. Not all fights are important to have.

Both my boyfriend and I are fairly argumentative people and could start a debate over the tiniest things. Yet, I’ve learned that while it’s important to communicate when something your partner says or does upsets you, it is more important to know when to let things go or when your discomfort is coming more from a place of insecurity than from anything your partner actually did wrong. This is a lesson that was especially important to learn as much of my relationship has been long-distance, as my boyfriend and I are from different states and spent a semester abroad in different countries. When you’re far apart from someone you love, you don’t want to spend all of your time arguing. It makes you really stop and think: is this worth it? Eventually, you realize that it’s not and learn to focus on the positive instead. 


2. Communication is key.

Like I said before, healthy relationships need healthy communication. Yes, it’s important to share when something bothers you, but it’s more important that you learn to frame your concerns in a way you know your partner will understand and be responsive to. Even more so, it’s important to communicate when your partner makes you happy or you’re proud of them! When you see someone every day, it’s easy to forget to tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life, so it’s good to remind them and yourself that you do. 

3. Not all college relationships are the same.

At the beginning of my relationship, I was constantly worried that we weren’t a “typical” college couple. Neither of us loves PDA and, because we saw each other a lot within our friend group and shared activities, much of our alone time included studying or watching movies in one of our dorm rooms rather than going on typical “dates.” When I thought of what a romantic relationship “should” be, as shown in cheesy rom-coms and YA novels, I was worried we were doing something wrong. It wasn’t until I took a step back and asked myself, “What do I want my relationship to be?” that I realized I was happy with how my relationship was and that if I felt something might be “missing,” I could have a healthy conversation with my boyfriend about it (always comes back to communication!).


4. Your significant other does not have to be your whole life, but it’s okay to want to spend lots of time with them.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in a new relationship, but I’ve noticed that my relationship is at its best when each of us is also spending time with our other friends or taking time to be alone. But, it’s also completely normal to want to spend much of your time with someone who makes you happy and you enjoy talking to! It’s all about balance.


5. Be spontaneous!

This is something I think I’ve learned more from my boyfriend specifically than from being in a relationship in general. I’m the type of person who feels like I have to have a plan for everything and constantly refers to a to-do list. My boyfriend has helped me learn to live in the moment and allow my plans to change. Whether it’s going on a walk together on a surprisingly nice day or enjoying a longer than usual dinner together in Mount Vernon, I always find that the time we choose to spend together is more valuable and makes me feel better than getting a little further ahead on my reading for class. 

man and woman balloons kissing

6. Learn to compromise.

This goes along with communication, but being in a relationship allows you to really learn to understand how another person functions and how their brain works. And while you might be very compatible, you’re not always going to think the same way. It’s all about finding common ground and figuring out the best way to make you both happy and comfortable in the relationship, even if things don’t always go exactly how you would have decided on your own. Plus, sometimes your partner’s different way of thinking can open your mind to ideas that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise!


7. Be your own person.

At a small school like Kenyon where you share many of the same friends, and in my case, an a cappella group, it’s easy for people to lump you two individuals together as a “unit,” and sometimes you can fall in the trap of doing so as well. It’s been very important to me to have activities both at and outside of Kenyon that are just mine, but that I can share with my boyfriend by talking to him about my experiences. I am not one half of a couple; rather, I am an individual whose life is enhanced by being in a relationship with another individual. 


8. Friendship is just as (if not more) important than romantic love.

I can honestly say that my boyfriend is one of my best friends. I know I can always talk to him about anything and that we care about each other immensely. There was a small part of the beginning of our relationship where I worried that this was an issue, that “romantic” partners shouldn’t feel like close friends. But I quickly realized how wrong I was. We definitely have romantic feelings for each other that are different than what I feel for my other close friends, but I think having a strong foundation in friendship is what has led our relationship to be so strong and healthy.


9. Learn to love new things, and not just because they love them.

Before I started dating my boyfriend, I had absolutely no interest in sports. However, baseball is a huge part of his life, and I wanted to learn more about it because it is so important to him. People ask me if I enjoy baseball now merely because my boyfriend does, but I can honestly say I enjoy it out of my own accord. While I wouldn’t have been exposed so deeply to baseball if I hadn’t started dating my boyfriend (I most likely never would have spontaneously started following it), now that I’ve been exposed, I’ve found something new that I enjoy. Similarly, I have been able to expose him to many of my favorite musicals and tell him why I find them so special, and now I often catch him listening to their soundtracks when he’s in his room. It’s important to show the people you love the things you love, but it’s also okay to admit you don’t love something as much as your partner does. You want to be true to yourself, and if something’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. It’s as simple as that. 


10. Not every day will feel like the “honeymoon phase,” but every day will make you feel grateful to have them.

Rom-coms, books, and celebrity couples’ Insta feeds will have you believe that when you’re in love, you’re 100% in love ALL the time. But no emotion works that way. Relationships require time, energy, and effort to maintain, and some days might feel off, just like they would with any person in your life who you have any type of relationship with. I had to learn that this is completely normal. It’s important to check in with yourself to make sure you’re still happy with how your relationship is functioning, but even on the days where I’m not feeling entirely mushy over my boyfriend (and trust me, I’ve had plenty of those days), I’m still incredibly thankful to have him in my life. On good days and bad, he is the person I want to talk to and be around, even if I don’t feel like talking or doing anything. And when I do need some space to decompress and be by myself, he is always the first person I want to see when I’m done decompressing. 


As our relationship continues, I am excited to continue growing alongside my boyfriend and adapting to whatever life brings our way, both individually and as a couple. These past three years have changed me for the better, and I thank that freshman who burnt his toast in the McBride kitchen every day for setting off that fire alarm.