1. The greatest gift is getting to be yourself day in and day out. It is such a relief not to pretend—ever, not even for a second—because you are so certain that you are loved by another person for being exactly who you are. It is a blessing to say what you think and express how you feel without thinking twice, fully trusting that your significant other won’t think any less of you, even if they disagree with you vehemently. A person who loves you authentically will make space for differences of opinion and all of your less desirable qualities.
2. You can’t curate a memory. You can try. You can plan every minute of a vacation or special night out, but the truth is that the best memories are made when you least expect them. You can’t set the stage for a truly memorable moment. All you can do is trust that the memories will come—that they will blindside you at seemingly odd hours—and that they’re worth holding onto.
3. The little, in-between moments count the most. Yes, it’s fun to dress up and go out. Yes, it’s fun to surprise your significant other with a fancy gift or a meal you’ve slaved over for hours on end. But your relationship will not be defined by the series of vacations you take, the presents you exchange, or even the major sacrifices you make. Ultimately, your time together will seem like a long chain of tiny but meaningful moments. The particular way your partner smiled at you that one random morning when your eyes met theirs by chance as you dressed, the impromptu game of chess you played in the park one afternoon, the calming sound of their voice when you called them in crisis mode midday.
4. Laughter really is the best medicine—better than any alcoholic beverage or drug out there. Whether you crack up together or one of you makes the other laugh their face off, the sense of connectivity is electric. You quickly remember why you’re together, and why life is worth living.
5. Great relationships take great work. There’s no way around the reality that you’ll have to work hard at staying together. Unexpected problems will arise, and you will have to work things out again and again and again. You will have to evolve together and lean on each other, even when you want nothing more than to run the hell away.
6. You will have to keep forgiving each other. You cannot reestablish a sense of relationship harmony in the aftermath of a fight unless you genuinely accept each other’s apologies and move on from every mistake that’s made. If you don’t genuinely find the room in your heart to forgive someone for whatever they’ve done or said to hurt you, the contempt you harbor will continue to grow, eroding your relationship, bit by bit, until it implodes. If you want lasting love, you absolutely must learn to let go.
7. Apologizing properly is an art form worth embracing. It’s not always easy to say “I’m sorry” because doing so sincerely requires humility and introspection. The most heartfelt apologies occur when someone looks deep inside him or herself and shelves their ego to consider the other’s perspective. No two apologies are the same because the context will always vary, but you can improve over time if you commit practicing diligently—to pausing when you’re most upset and most convinced that you are right so you can see how your partner might view things instead.
8. You have to earn intimacy, and continue to nurture it. True intimacy is earned over time—through listening, doing things together, and learning as a couple. You both have to invest in the love at the heart of your relationship. And you both have to work towards maintaining it.
9. Even so, your heart will never be fully protected. Finding the love of your life doesn’t guarantee a life free from heartbreak. It doesn’t matter how crazy you are about each other. Your significant other will break your heart occasionally. They will disappoint you and fail you sometimes and it will crush you. Because they’re human. The thing is, so are you.
10. In spite of everything, your relationship will never be beyond repair. As long as two people are truly in love, their bond can withstand the deepest troughs and most difficult times. You just have to trust in the love that first drew you together—that which rests at the core of who you are as a couple—and hold onto it at all costs.