3 Things I’ve Learned About Love in 3 Years

On November 9th, my partner and I rounded the corner of three years dating. There are a lot of things I could write about that, from anecdotes to advice. However, reflecting on the right way to wrap up three years together into a neat package, I realized that perhaps the most important takeaway is what I’ve learned about love.

 

1. It is not easy.

When I moved into my dorm my freshman year at MSU, I didn’t fully expect maintaining a relationship with my partner back home to be so difficult. I expected that with our strong communication, an hour between us, and a busy semester ahead, that it would barely feel as though I was gone. But long distance requires a type of communication that is completely different from a normal relationship, and a true, lasting relationship needs even more than that. It takes time, effort, and investment, not only into your partner but into yourself. Growing complacent and stunted in your self-growth from either side gnaws holes of resentment, codependency, and fear in your thoughts of each other. Being in a loving relationship means that you say things that feel naked and uncomfortable, and communicate about topics neither of you want to talk about. Love is not carefree; it sets boundaries, it apologizes, it doesn’t suppress. I’ve learned how to swallow my pride, how to speak openly about insecurities and jealousies, and how to draw clear, mutual boundaries both emotionally and physically. None of it was easy and none of it came without work.

 

2. It will tear you apart.

I’m a relatively emotional person. Mental health issues aside, I feel joy acutely and pain intensely. But no matter how you express or manifest your emotions, love is a whole nother beast. When we were on a hike once, my partner was stung by something. It became rapidly clear something was wrong once he began to have trouble breathing, and in the twenty minutes it took to get back, I got acquainted with a pain I had never felt before. Once he was dosed with the proper medication to treat anaphylaxis, after his mother had come and was sitting in the other chair in his hospital room, I sat with them for hours and I realized that I had no choice. When someone you love is in danger, you can’t do anything else. I learned this again when his car flipped on the interstate coming to East Lansing to visit me, and again during a crisis in his family that happened at 8 pm for him and 3 pm for me, time zones away in Germany. Love can be soft, and it can be kind, but it can also be fierce and devastating without warning.

 

3. It is strong.

There are a thousand things that can and should break a relationship: political beliefs, religious differences, incongruity in future goals, a lack of respect, all of the above. But what is truly remarkable is the relationship that doesn’t break. In three years with my partner, we have faced many hospital visits, long nights, long distances, car crashes, family emergencies, personal traumas and loneliness. More than once, I walked into a long conversation with him unsure if I would walk out without him. But love, in the right place, the right time, and with the right people, seems to have the ability to overcome. There are a thousand reasons why this relationship is right for us, from big emotional ones to tiny, comfortable compatibilities. I know that as long as this is the right relationship, it will be strong.