TL;DR: Phillip and I met in a hot tub five years ago and have been through our share of challenging moments. But we’ve learned a ton about being in a rock-solid relationship, from facing conflict head on to delivering on our promises as much as possible.
It’s a funny (and sort of embarrassing) story, the way Phillip and I met. I was 26 and living with my parents at the time. A friend invited me to a Sunday night shindig at his boss’s boss’s house that he was house-sitting. The place was a few blocks up from my parents’ pad, so I walked up like a backpacker who was game for some exercise.
“Bring your bathing suit,” he told me over text.
I decided not to, thinking I wasn’t going to participate in hot tub shenanigans.
But a beer or two in, they started warming up the jacuzzi, and I started to feel some FOMO like a typical teenage Instagrammer.
“Fuck it, I’ll strip down to my underwear and enjoy some warm water. Underwear is like a bikini, but in a different material, right? Hardly anyone is here, anyway,” I rationalized.
So, I did. Of course, minutes later, more people showed up, including the “twin towers” named Phillip and David.
I played it cool, though. (What else do you do in that situation? Get out and run?) I knew David a little already, but I shook hands with Phillip for the first time.
Long story short, the beer gave me a Sarah Silverman mouth that made some people laugh, and Phillip wouldn’t stop staring at me. Looking back, he reminded me of a little boy intently watching someone playing with a drone. (His nephew had that look on his face recently when we played with ours.) He asked for my number at the end of the evening, just before my dad picked me up as if I were a high schooler.
Five years later, we’ve been through what virtually every couple in a healthy relationship has been through. We’ve had both trying times and the best of times.
We’ve had some intense fights like a gladiator match. We’ve cried in each other’s arms like a soap opera. We’ve laughed together as if we’d smoked all of the town’s weed while watching Pineapple Express. We’ve had serious conversations like those movie moments that reveal lessons learned.
Speaking of lessons learned, since we celebrated this landmark moment (our five-year anniversary) this month, I’d like to bestow upon you the wisdom we’ve gained over time. We can’t ramp up a roller coaster, only to have a slow, tiny, anticlimactic drop that ruins every adrenaline junkie’s day.
So, what has made our relationship rock-solid? Among other things…
- Whether or not we realize it, every argument is a learning opportunity.
- The relationship isn’t over at the first sign of conflict. We work it out, even when it’s uncomfortable, and we use “I” statements as much as possible. (“I felt hurt when you said that.”)
- We have a team mentality. You go down, the relationship goes down, and vice versa.
- We have realistic expectations and boundaries, and we communicate early and often.
- We know full well how imperfect we are as humans. We’re not superheroes, which means we need to forgive each other when one of us fucks up.
- We constantly work on our trust. That means delivering on our promises as much as possible.
- We make each other a priority.
- We put effort instead of work into our relationship. Because we’re compatible and treat each other well, our relationship is a well-oiled machine.
- We’ve created a balance between what we like to do together and separately.
- Our relationship is built on self-love and self-care.
- As two different hormonally-driven beings with different upbringings, personalities, and preferences, compromising gets you over the bridge.
- Every relationship runs at its own pace; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Not ready to move in together? Fine. Not ready to get married (if that’s your thing)? Fine. (Phillip and I are five years in unmarried and without kids.)
- However, if one of you is stringing the other along or enjoying the status quo for eternity (for example, one of you has been waiting for the other to propose, but it hasn’t happened after several years), you have the power to end the relationship if it feels like a waste of time.
- Score keeping (for example, keeping tabs on each other’s past faults) can hurt more than help your relationship. You get past that as you mature and find peace within your relationship.
- It might be an unpopular opinion, and neither of us has cheated on the other, but I realized I would be more willing to stay in a relationship after infidelity over staying in an abusive relationship. People will stay in abusive relationships but leave those who stray. To me, it’s the difference between staying with someone who had a lapse in judgment (infidelity) over someone with a serious mental illness (abuse). To me, forgiving infidelity (unless it happens multiple times) says much about the forgiver’s self-esteem, even if the act of forgiving is difficult.
As you can see, relationships with ourselves and our partners are always a work in progress and never a one-and-done deal. John Lennon even said in an interview:
“Love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard, or just think it’s gonna to get on with itself. You gotta keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it, and be careful of it, and keep flies off and see that it’s alright, and nurture it.”
Five years down, many more to go!
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