5 Elements of a Healthy Relationship
This post is inspired by Bree Ryback's 5-year wedding anniversary, written about on her lovely site Capitol Romance. For as hyped as DC is about weddings, I assume you've heard of it. Bree's reflecting this week spurred a quick Twitter exchange sharing our desire for more people to talk about (write, actually) their successful, loving relationships.
There are TOO MANY articles on, "how to win the guy", "when to lose the guy", "how to gay-flirt in a straight culture", "how to know when a relationship is toxic", and not enough expounding on what a good, healthy, long-term relationship looks and feels like.
I don't claim to know.
I'm here to acknowledge the void and need for such material (to be present on more mainstream media outlets, I'm sure it's somewhere, but no one's digging for it). I am 9 months into a healthy, intimate, strongly committed relationship and I'm basically in the dark here. How do I gauge if we're "doing it right"? What did 9 months in look like for couples who are together 9 years? 29 years? My co-worker, Janna, is celebrating her 10 year anniversary this winter and I try to ask her about it regularly.
What I do know:
- Attraction isn't a question. I dated a 'good guy' for a long time not knowing if I was actually attracted to him. Now, this isn't to say looks are everything - they are not and they fade. But there is something I see when I look in my partner's eyes that makes me want to connect with him, physically, and emotionally.
- We want to do the work. A lot of people acknowledge that relationships take work but I would love to see some anecdotes on what this has looked like for long-term couples. Alex and I talk openly and honestly, however, we also seek support outside our partnership to sort of balance our emotional level before returning to any specific discussion. Also, having a tradition of 'surprise dates' helps reintroduce fun and play if we're too steeped in stress.
- My partner can handle my weaknesses. This falls in the "makes me want to be a better person" category. I struggle with food. My partner's obsessed with green smoothies. He struggles with tidiness. I find organizing really enhancing. Super nerdy, but there are also deeper emotional examples. To be able to hold each others vulnerabilities, I've heard, is what enables a pair to last.
- Dan Savage has taught me well. I didn't grow up with an extensive or helpful sexual education and it hindered me. If you don't know something and you want to know more, learn about it, don't just hope the problem corrects itself. In my 5-year span between serious relationships Dan Savage started a podcast, and I'm grateful for it. It has really served me to learn about being Good, Giving, and Game, rounding up to "the 1", and how to not let the past determine the future (also what 'sounding' is but those early episodes were wild).
- We value the same things. Nature. Quality time. Trying new things. Music. Travel. Spirituality. I worry sometimes that our sense of humor isn't the same or we don't hit certain socially-determined dating expectations. However, we have fun. Moreover, we have fun doing things we both value deeply. I grew up swimming in the ocean by my father's house but hadn't in well over 5 years, when I got out from under those waves this past August, Alex could see I was lit up in a way I hadn't been in too long. When I accompanied Alex to his childhood home and watched his daughter play along the lake as he did as a child I watched him overcome with emotion and how glorious life and love can be. He takes me out of my Washington, DC social media hyperdrive and we exist together in real life, in pure enjoyment. From the terrifying pitch-black darkness of Violet Locke at midnight to the most rambunctious Foo Fighters 4th of July, it's been incredible fun, in a slowed-down, be in the moment sort of way. For that, I am grateful.
I have no idea if these 5 things mean it will last. The Buddhist philosophy Alex has opened me to emphasizes impermanence. However, I'd like to think we're meant to last. Regardless, we do our best to stay in the now and focus on everything in front of us today. To see how that's worked for couples like Bree and Andy or Janna and Yao is encouraging and I'd love to read more.
All the love. x/Amy