Top 5: Relationship Tips

Today I’m celebrating my 8 year anniversary with my husband! And since everyone knows that the traditional gift for your 8th anniversary is Listicles, here are the top 5 tips I learned from Matt about happy relationships.

1. Invest

Investing doesn’t mean money. It means time, and energy, and thought, and emotion. Investing is kind of scary, because it’s an admission that we care so it makes the prospect of rejection scarier and more personal, but as they say: no risk, no reward.

Matt and I got together when we both had basically no money. But when he’d leave me a little note to find in the morning when he knew I was going to have a particularly rough day, or when he’d bring home something for the kitchen from his mom’s because he knew that I liked baking, I knew that a life with him would be truly beautiful.

And still: trading gifts on special occasions for little surprise gifts once in a while, spontaneously bringing home junk food when I know he’s had a particularly bad day, or just remembering to ask how the other person’s day was or asking for updates on a story from a while back, are the kinds of things that make a relationship a partnership.

2. It doesn’t get better

Along the same line as the above, we can’t ignore when the other party is unwilling to invest in the relationship. Matt taught me that I shouldn’t have to hope to be treated well in a relationship – I should expect to be treated well.

Don’t make excuses for someone’s bad behaviour. The earlier in the relationship, the better the behaviour, and the longer you’re together the less they’ll be able to hide of their true nature.

If a guy doesn’t make any effort to remember your birthday or to remember the things you like, or to remember your friend’s names, it’s unlikely that they’ll spontaneously start to care more after a few years. If someone cheats on you or lies to you or ignores you or is mean to your friends, expect that it will keep happening. Drop’em.

3. Make memories

I’ve never understood the value of a movie date. Even the dinner part of a “dinner and a movie” date seems unideal. The date is half no interaction and half intense interaction.

Dating is way more tolerable, and way more informative, and way more relationship-building when you do things together! Play pool or go for a bike ride or play a board game. It gives you something to talk about other than yourselves, it lets you see how they interact with the world around them, and it gives you a shared memory. Even if it’s a totally miserable experience, finding out that the other person could be good-spirited or encouraging or comforting is invaluable to picking the right partner.

Matt and I got to know one another by reading each other’s articles in the student newspaper, we had the big “I love you” talk after he’d spent the day helping me get through emergency surgery, and tonight we’re going to a play because that’s what we did on our first date and we’ve made going to different plays in different places one of our favourite shared hobbies.

And, as our relationship evolved, we kept doing things together. There are little things, like watching every episode of The Bachelor series together; and bigger things, like road tripping across the country together; and future things, like learning to speak Italian together.

Life can be monotonous, and it can make your relationship feel monotonous, but there’s no better way to find out / remember why you like someone than by making a memory together.

4. Be honest

I don’t know how many times I’ve had strategy conversations with people about what I or they should respond to a particular text or when they should reply to a text. The premise of these conversations is that we don’t want to scare the other person off. The deeper issue, however, is that after so many failed relationships, we start to believe that the only way we’ll find someone is if we fudge the facts about who we are and what we want.

But we won’t get what we want unless we admit what we want to ourselves and others. It’s not to say that you have to be forthcoming in an aggressive way, but in my experience people prefer candour over speaking in code. It’s entirely possible that when two people are speaking honestly about what they’re looking for and what their expectations are that they won’t be compatible. But it saves both parties a lot of time and heartache to find it out sooner than later, and to know that the incompatibility isn’t personal instead of the insecurity that comes with being faded after a few dates.

Whether you’re just looking for a good time or you’re looking for a partner in life, the best outcome always comes when both parties are on the same page. Unfortunately, the better a relationship works, the higher the stakes of scaring the other person away. Even now, I sometimes get nervous to have Big Talks with Matt. But the basis for those conversations was built 8 years back on our third date when we sat down and laid all our cards on the table. And I know that if I stopped being honest with him about what I want and how I’m feeling, I’d be destroying the thing that makes our relationship so great. It comes down to faith that the right person won’t get scared away. 

5. Choose the person who makes you more yourself, not less

I think that this is the most important lesson: there are some people who help us be more ourselves, and others who coerce us to be less ourselves.

Having different interests and hobbies shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Matt likes heavy metal music and reading plaques in Europe, I like most music other than heavy metal and all of my least favourite places to travel are in Europe. BUT: If the person you’re dating gives you the stink eye when you tell them about what you enjoy, such that you don’t feel comfortable talking about the things you enjoy with him, that’s going to be unsustainable.

Matt has been my rock for the past 8 years. Having someone who really knows me and who supports me and who is so stable has given me the confidence to go off and do all of the audacious things I dreamed of. I don’t know that I would have been able to apply to law school a third time if Matt hadn’t helped me keep believing in myself after the first two rejections. I definitely wouldn’t have this blog without Matt helping to convince me that I had something to say that was worth sharing.

So today is for thanking my husband for giving me the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten: the confidence and freedom to the best version of myself.

I can’t wait to spend another year figuring out together how to build the best relationship we can.

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