This past spring I ended a relationship of three years. Since I was the ender of said break up, I felt like everything that went wrong in my relationship towards the end was my fault –and my burden to bear, since I was the one bowing out and exiting stage left. Now, almost 7 months later, I realize that both people are almost always both responsible for the demise of any relationship. With that said, I outlined some things I hope to do differently next time around — lessons I’ve learned, which also happen to be lessons in how to make a serious relationship work:
1. I’ll nag less and encourage more
A lot of the questions to my ex’s during our relationship centered around me wondering when he was going to do the things I needed him to do. “When are you going to do the dishes? Why haven’t you taken out the trash? Who’s going to go to the grocery store?” I fell into the heterosexual norm of thinking men are slow and useless thus needing consistent nagging instead of encouraging the behavior I liked instead of the behavior I didn’t.
2. I’ll engage in serious talks – and not just when I’m angry
All serious talks in my last relationship happened when one of us was yelling and screaming (or about to start yelling and screaming, see above). This time around I want to have serious talks about religion, and politics, and our future when we’re blissfully happy and wanting nothing more than to go down the rabbit hole of deep and interesting conversations.
3. I will give space when space is needed.
I use to be obsessed with over-communicating every emotion and problem until we were blue in the face instead of just realizing when time apart could have been the biggest conflict resolution. Having time to process, reflect, and change my perspective while allowing him to do the same is going to be a bigger tool in my tool belt next time around.
4. I will leave the past in the past and keep my mind focused on the present.
I can admit that a lot of fights centered around things that had happened or things that were going to happen and not a lot about what was happening. My mind was so focused on the things I couldn’t change or couldn’t control instead and in the end I wasn’t enjoying the moment at hand.
5. I’ll watch more sunrises and sunsets
That perfect time everyday when it’s quiet and beautiful — yeah, I’d take advantage of that more. Just to start or end my day feeling grateful with the person I love will be a better use of my time than whatever other non-important things I was usually doing instead.
6. I’ll accept more kisses and hugs
There would be times when I was stressed with work or busy with other things that we’d be lucky if one of us received a kiss on the cheek let alone a kiss on the lips or a hug. Next time around I want to make sure I give and accept more small tokens of affection to help us along on our days.
7. I will listen less to outsiders’ advice and more to my gut instinct.
I spent a lot of time reading articles like this one that told me where, when, how and what my relationship should look like at any given point instead of just trusting my gut when something felt wrong or off. Sometimes these outside perspectives created problems where they weren’t any and often times didn’t have the solutions to the preexisting ones. In the future I will chose to listen to real advice from family or friends and most importantly to myself rather than from people I don’t know and who don’t know my relationship.
8. I will forget about the linear timelines and societal pressures
Whenever you’re in a long-term relationship in your twenties, the pressure to move-in together, get married, and start pushing out babies eventually becomes the only thing anyone can think about. I want to spend more time enjoying just being together before putting a unconscious timer on what and when things need to progress.
9. I’ll try to keep the magical things magical
Long live romance. Long live lazy weekends in bed exploring each other mentally and physically. Long live doing the crazy Cosmo sex positions and doing special things for each other just because and being happily (almost obnoxiously) in love for as long as possible before reality seeps in.
10. I’ll enjoy their family through the good and the bad.
Because now I understand that when you fall in love with someone their family comes with them. Those skeletons in the closets and dysfunctional arguments – those come too. Everyone has a crazy family and it’s a lot just to deal with you’re own flesh and blood but this time around I’ll learn to accept and embrace my significant others family too.
11. I’ll pay just as much attention to my own healthy and mental stability as I do my relationships.
In learning how much work a real adult relationship takes I lost myself. I forgot that in order to maintain a healthy relationship you have to stay healthy. You have to nurture yourself first before assisting others. I won’t forget that in my next relationship because now I understand how important it is to balance both and how that makes all the difference in a relationship.
12. I’ll remember that love is powerful but it’s not all you need.
Ever since I was a little girl people told me that love is all you need – that if you have love everything else falls into place. But the thing about relationships is that yes, they need love, but they also need trust, honesty and communication. They need laughter and compatibility and timing. In my next relationship I’ll remember that you need all these things to make it work — not just love.