1. The best gift you can give your partner is to wake up every day and be the best version of your authentic self. But there will be days when you’re inexplicably grumpy and there’s absolutely nothing the love of your life can do to make it better except sit there and tolerate you.
2. Loving someone means caring enough to give them the space they need to be an asshole or a curmudgeon some days for no apparent reason—to appreciate them when they’re at their darkest as well as their happiest. You won’t like your boyfriend or girlfriend all the time, but you won’t like yourself every day, either.
3. No matter how compatible you are, you won’t agree on everything simply because you’re two different people. You’ll disagree on political candidates, throw pillows, and how much salt to use while cooking.
4. And because you’re both destined to change over time, the person you’re dating might start to look different from the person you fell for to start with, which can be scary. Since we evolve as a function of our experiences (some shared, some not), the person you love today might very well develop new interests, hobbies, habits, or opinions that you don’t very much like.
5. That means that you will absolutely have to compromise regularly. You will have to bargain on an ongoing basis, accepting the rug you only sort of like in exchange for the right to keep the teddy bear your boyfriend or girlfriend despises displayed on the bed year round.
6. Sometimes, you won’t even be able to reach a compromise. You will negotiate yourselves into a corner, at which point you might have to rely on measures like rock-paper-scissors or a good ol’ coin toss.
7. And you will have to accept defeat sometimes, because you will not win every round of rock-paper-scissors or every coin toss because that’s life.
8. Your partner is definitely going to offend you occasionally—sometimes on purpose, during a massive fight because they just can’t help themselves, and sometimes totally by accident.
9. There’s no one better positioned to hit you with the lowest of low blows than the person you love the most in life because they know you better than anyone else. If you abuse your power to cut deep, you have to expect an equally cruel response.
10. Sometimes, your partner will say or do something foolish in public. It’s your job to cover for them as best you can, and to love the fuck out of them regardless.
11. Because sometimes, you’re going to make a fool of yourself, and you’ll need their support whenever that happens.
12. There’s a time and a place for honesty. Sometimes, when your partner tells a joke that falls totally flat, they’ll need you to fake laugh in response to make them feel good. And if they ask whether they look okay as they rush out the door, there’s only one right answer.
13. You will both probably covet other people sexually, and that’s okay. You’re both human, so you’re both susceptible to crushing on other people and/or lusting after their bodies.
14. Flirting can be innocent, and entertaining naughty thoughts about strangers, colleagues, or even friends doesn’t mean you love your significant other any less.
15. Because love doesn’t make you immune to temptation. Resisting temptation takes work on an ongoing basis, and there’s no shame in that.
16. It’s up to you and your partner to set boundaries you’re both comfortable with, and to honor those boundaries to the best of your abilities.
17. No matter what, you will both fuck up. You will hurt each other over and over again because people make mistakes no matter how old they get, or how good they are at heart.
18. There will be painful times riddled with doubts and apologies and breakdowns. Times when you will have to wonder whether or not your partner will be able to forgive you, or decide to move on instead. There are never any guarantees that a person will stay with you forever, even if you’re married.
19. And you can never be 100 percent certain about what’s going on in your significant other’s head. Even if you feel a connection to your partner that’s stronger than anything you’ve ever known, their mind will always be their own.
20. Similarly, your relationship will always be unique from every other couple’s, and there will only be two people who ever truly get it: you, and them.
21. Although it’s natural to make comparisons, no one is perfect and no relationship is ideal, no matter what anyone’s carefully curated social media feed says.