My boyfriend is a pain in the ass. And so am I. In fact, I’m a much bigger pain in the ass.
I once heard that we are the meanest and nastiest to the people who love us the most because we know, no matter how awful we are to them, they won’t ever stop loving us. It’s the definition of unconditional love.
Sometimes it’s hard to always be nice. To say the right things, be considerate and compassionate. Sometimes we’re just too tired for all that. And we lash out. To be with someone who, in those moments of weakness, knows how to love you even more…that is what it’s all about.
It’s not about remembering anniversaries or perfect proposals or honeymoon phases. It’s about loving someone at their worst. When they are most raw and vulnerable. At that moment where all their strength has evaporated and their resolve has completely shattered. Being able to wrap your arms around that person and love them when they’re not being so lovable. That, to me, is true love.
Over the course of our two-year relationship, my boyfriend and I have dealt with deaths in the family, career changes, buying and selling a home, moving, training a puppy, raising his children, fear, grief, loss, success, pure happiness and rock bottom lows. In two short years, we’ve lived through a lifetime of experiences. And I know there are plenty more on the way. But I truly view it as a testament to our relationship that we continue making it to the other side of every hurdle, more in love each time.
These are a few things that, looking back, have made all the difference in our relationship. Of course, we didn’t enter the relationship knowing the other needed these things. We’ve learned each one, over time, after landing on the other side of a hurdle. These are some of the things we need in order to give & receive love in our less than loveable moments.
Living together means splitting responsibilities of daily life. Cleaning dishes, taking out the trash, walking the dog. But sometimes, your partner is not in a place where they can equally contribute. They’re going through their own life stuff and need a break from being a contributing member of the relationship. By recognizing that and stepping up to take on some of their load, you are showing them love in a thousand different ways. When I’m having a crappy day and my boyfriend takes it upon himself to wash all the dishes or take the dog out at the crack of dawn, sometimes that’s all it takes to bring me out of my funk. Knowing that I have that extra support from him, someone who can pick up the slack when I’m slacking at life. That’s a real partner.
I’m the type of person who’s better left alone when I’m angry. So is my boyfriend, to an extent. I guess you can say that about most people. Nobody likes to be poked and prodded when they’re feeling all sorts of irritable. It just stokes the fire. My boyfriend and I have both learned this the hard way, getting burned each time we accidentally fan each other’s rage flames. But, our burns have scabbed over and we’ve learned our lesson. Sometimes, the best thing to give your partner is space. Let them work out whatever it is on their own. It’s not always about you. It’s almost never about you. It’s about them. Something that they need to work out about themselves. Let them.
This is the tricky one. No matter how confident you may be, everyone’s trust gets shaken up at one point or another in a relationship. Maybe a past hurt rises to the surface or jealousy wraps that vice grip around your heart and sends your anxiety into a frenzy. It happens. We’re only human, after all. I think the best thing we can do when this happens is be honest with our partners about it. Communicate the emotion. Let them know what you’re feeling, even if you’re not sure why. This honesty will strengthen the trust in your relationship. Keeping those feelings to yourself may lead you to harbor resentment toward your partner, which leads you down the road to passive-aggressive city. And nobody wants to go there.
Be with someone who you can have fun with! My boyfriend and I have gotten to a point where we can tell the difference between the moments when the other needs some space and when they just need a good laugh. To be with someone who so perfectly complements all of your weirdness is the most beautiful thing in the world. Silly voices, awful dance moves, hilarious inside jokes that have been collected over time. We have an arsenal of gimmicks to make each other crack.
Above all else, listening is the key to longevity in a relationship. This is a craft that takes precise cultivation. It takes effort. It takes trial and error. Because everyone needs something a little different when it comes to listening. But when you’re with someone you truly love, it’s worth taking the time to figure it out. For example, I need undivided attention when I’m working something out. I don’t necessarily need my boyfriend to contribute. In fact, I prefer he doesn’t. But I need to now he’s paying attention to what I’m saying. On the other hand, my boyfriend needs a sounding board. He needs to vent out his frustrations without any sort of filter, which oftentimes leaves me absorbing whatever negative emotion he’s working through. So I’ve had to learn how to listen to his frustrations with my ears and not my heart. Whereas I need to know he cares about what I’m saying.
Long-lasting relationships aren’t all smiles and kisses and perfectly filtered vacation photos. They are a partnership. Two independent people coming together to bring out the best in each other. In the process, yes, you’re bound to bring out the worst. But it’s what you do in those moments of weakness that solidify the foundation of that partnership. You can walk away, or you can sink your roots deeper. Ground the relationship in fierce, relentless love. If you can choose to love them more, every time, that’s a good sign you’re with the right one.