Things to Remember in Long-Term Relationships

At almost 22 years old, I’ve had the same partner for nearly seven years, or roughly a third of my life. Brandon, my partner, asked me out in the early early hours of June 11, 2011 via MSN Messenger, and since then, we’ve been bumbling along life together. At this point, we are notorious for being the “impossible couple” due to our ages and initial long-distance relationship. We are, however, living proof that you can find meaningful love and a long-term partner at a younger age. What people don’t know is that these romances aren’t like on the movies and books, and require actual effort to maintain. Luckily, it is absolutely worth it and you can even use some of these lessons in non-romantic situations. For the longing single to the long-term couple who just needs a boost, here are the tips and things I’ve learned in seven years.

All images from Kaitlin Kenny. Collage from BeFunky.

“Through thick and thin” is an actual thing

Said quickly and bluntly, watching your loved ones suffer and be sick or be at their worst is a punch in the gut. It’s so paralyzing knowing there’s not much you can do, but it’s so important to do what you can. As a disabled person, I get sick, sometimes seriously, very often. Brandon is there for every instance. He makes sure I take good care of myself and I don’t go flying off the rails. On the flip side, he gets migraines periodically and had appendicitis last year. It was one of the scariest moments of my life, and I cried the entire 9-10 hours we were at the hospital. I have a crippling fear of anything medical, so it was even harder. Even after his surgery, I did my absolute best as a caretaker. He couldn’t do much, so I had to be there to help.

When you’re with someone, you always want to see them at their best. If you want to be there, you also have to be there at their worst. Sometimes, love isn’t 50/50 and you have to pick up the slack, and it will be 80/20. It’s exactly as the Marilyn Monroe quotation: “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”

Photo by Matheus Ferrero

Communication is ALWAYS key

Real talk for a second: being passive aggressive is never cute. If you want to make things work, stop angrily texting “k” and bitterly snapping “I’m fine” when something makes you upset. There are so many memes and jokes about women acting like this and it’s becoming stereotypically accepted. If you do this, stop. It will only lead to resentment and let issues fester. It is absolutely crucial to talk to your partner, but more importantly, to listen to them. Once you do that, you understand them better and your bond will be closer. You’ll understand why they’re upset one day, or why they do something. More importantly, you’ll know big things like hopes, dreams and aspirations. Listening doesn’t even have to be about major life-changing things. It can be asking about their day or what they want for dinner. Communication is the best way to see if you’re compatible and stick together.

You’re not just an “us”; you’re also a “you”

Something I see happening with relationships of all kinds is a loss of self. You lose your “you” and merge into a “we.” There should definitely be a “we,” but you should never completely abandon yourself and your old life. It is critical to hold onto your identity, friends, family, hobbies and so on. This can also lead to resentment. By ditching yourself, you become empty as a self. You rely more and more on your partner until you’re completely dependent. You become lost.

For a while, I merged completely into a “we.” I had packed up and moved all the way across the province, away from my family, friends and lifestyle. I was in a strange city with only Brandon and nothing to do. I was very dejected for a long time, until I rebuilt myself. I rekindled former friendships through messaging apps while going out and making new friends, and taking up old and new hobbies. I used to become incredibly stressed or even angry that he would go out and hang with his friends, as he was my only source of companionship and activities. Now, I’m able to leave the house to have fun without him, and when he leaves, I just lock the door behind him and carry on with whatever I was doing.

Fights happen, and that’s okay

I can’t even begin to count how many arguments we’ve had, but I can tell you the first one: it was, of all things, about the civil war questline in “Skyrim.” I picked the Imperials and he picked the Stormcloaks, and it got to the point where it was a full-on argument. To this day, he will sometimes tease and razz me about it. We’ve had countless arguments, and that’s completely healthy. If anything, they show that a couple is willing to have differing opinions and is comfortable enough with each other to not just pander. It was a major problem in my prior relationship. I was terrified to disagree, because it might lead to me getting dumped. (I got dumped anyways, so maybe I should’ve put my foot down.)

What’s important is learning how to effectively argue. There’s the standard advice about using “I feel” vs “you always” statements, but my personal advice is to never name-call. While arguing, do not use insults. You can apologize, but the words can never be unsaid. I like to think of the future or the past and all of the happy moments and hopes and dreams, and ask myself, “is saying this mean thing worth it?” The answer is always no. I’d much prefer going out with Brandon to the aquarium or go camping than call him a bunch of swears.

To read more about how to have an effective and healthy argument, check out this article by Business Insider or this one by Prevention.

Photo via Pixabay

Let’s get (and stay) intimate

This section is a little sexy (sorry Mom) but very important. A reason why many of my friends’ relationships fail is because they eventually just stop touching each other. It can be a lack of sex, kissing, sleeping in the same bed and so on. It can also include “touching” things, like saying “I love you,” giving gifts or saying appreciative things. This romance really helps couples bond and stay in love. A quotation that I like to tell people is that the secret to maintaining relationships is to do what you did when you first started going out. Staying physically intimate means the brain literally releases “happy hormones,” called oxytocin, which help people remain close and feel important and loved.

Photo via Pixabay

Comprises will exist

I wanted an apartment in a complex. He wanted an open-concept bi-level basement apartment. We rented out a place that we both loved. Sometimes, it’s not fair to completely give up on what someone wants for the other. Like so many of the other points, this leads to resentment. Compromises are actually fantastic for all kinds of relationships. They show a willingness to be flexible, an appreciation for the other person, and selflessness. Just be sure to compromise on something you’re both actually happy on, or else it’s not quite an equal match.

 

My favourite thing to do at night is to flop into bed beside my partner, and his is to grapple me into a cuddle. I won’t lie; relationships, especially older ones, are hard work! They’re also incredibly rewarding and mine has given me infinite joy and love. Hopefully, these pieces of advice will offer you the best in making long-lasting and significant relationships.