Disclaimer for this post on learning to love: We are not therapists, or experts in anything. More info here.
As you probably know, we have been together for a few years now and are engaged. We’re both still pretty young and learning how to like do life. There are plenty of things that we do to keep our relationship healthy and progressing. Most of the stuff we do is kind of unconscious. Like we don’t really think about it. We just let our relationship grow and change. But, like everything, our relationship has taken effort and has required us to learn to love and express love in different ways.
What are some of the things we’ve learned in our relationship to keep it strong? Read on for a few important ones
Acknowledge Your Relationship is Unique
One of the things that is necessary in learning to love is just acknowledging that your relationship is going to be completely different from your friends’ relationships, your parents, the random people on social media, etc. That’s just how it is. Even if you’re the same age and in the same careers as another couple for example, there are so many factors unique to you and your significant other and the same goes for the other couple.
I think in the age of social media it is difficult to not compare yourself or your relationship to what you see online. Even though we have a whole blog and instagram account about us, we don’t actually talk about our relationship that much. I don’t think many of you know how we met or other details like that. We just talk about our journey right now together. Part of that is we’re not trying to “show off” or be “#couplegoals” (although I use hashtags like that just to stay relevant). I think some of the couple stuff on social media can be obnoxious. I’m picturing those luxury travel couples who somehow travel constantly, but also don’t work and are like 20 year old models. Most of us don’t have that privilege and genetics. Idk, that’s just me though.
We are that obnoxious annoying couple in person, just not online too much.
Anywho, so your relationship is not going to feel like how someone else’s relationship looks, if that makes any sense. What you perceive someone else’s relationship to be is probably not how it actually is. Expecting yours to seem like that is kind of pointless.
In addition to looking at what other people’s relationships are like, you may also feel that you have to do certain things at certain times to be in a “normal” relationship. For instance, Evan and I have been together for about 3 and a half years, but military people get married reallll quick fairly often. That just wasn’t something either of us wanted to rush into. Now you can bet that if he gets called back to the service we’re getting hitched ASAP so that I can go with him wherever he’s stationed, but that’s generally not the reason military people get married after knowing each other for like 3 months.
But aside from military stereotypes, society generally has the expectation that you date for a few years, get engaged, get married 6 months to a year later, and stay married forever. But I’m sure you know of many relationships that don’t fit in that cookie-cutter pattern and time frame and are still perfectly happy and healthy.
What can you do to focus on your relationship and allow it to grow in its own way rather than to try to make it fit what you feel others expect it to be or even what you think it “should” be?
- Simply say that your relationship is different. Not in the “I’m different than all other girls” type of way, but like all relationships are unique.
- Notice your relationship’s strengths and weaknesses
- Unfollow people if they give you crazy expectations for your relationship
- Mind your own beeswax. If you’re not involved in everyone else’s relationships, then you’ll just be involved in your own
- Think about why you’re in a relationship to begin with. If it’s just to look good, to compete with someone else’s relationship, to do what you think people expect of you, or other things like that, then you shouldn’t be in one. It’s not a miracle cure. It’s not going to make you happy.
Communicate About Everything
Evan and I overshare. Whenever people in tv shows lie to their spouse about something, we can’t really comprehend it. It’s not that we’re overly controlling and try to monitor whatever the other person does. We just like each other and want to share everything. Even if you’re more independent and don’t feel the need to share every single detail of your life with your significant other, it’s good to communicate about everything to some degree. By everything, I mean like you’ll talk about work, friends, chores, future plans, etc. Just something about whatever is going on currently, so you’re not completely disengaged from each other’s lives.
In learning to love someone else, you’ll figure out where the limit of communication is – what repeated topics bug someone else, what topics always lead to arguments (check out our post on differences in relationships), what should you have brought up that you didn’t. It’s not even something that you just have to guess at. You’ll probably also communicate about communicating. If you have issues, address them. Communication is going to be something you work on throughout your relationship, because like every other relationship and situation, stuff changes and the dynamics may be different.
- Communicate often
- Talk about things that matter
- Talk about things that don’t matter at all
- Use non-verbal communication as well
I’ve pointed to this a few times in the above paragraphs. But your relationship will change over time. Outside factors will change. You just have to roll with everything and not feel like you have to stay in the same spot, otherwise you’ll just be unhappy.
I think the most dramatic example in our relationship is really just where we started vs. where we are now. When Evan and I first met, we didn’t want to be in a relationship with anyone, let alone each other. I thought boys were stupid and just spent time with them to ride motorcycles because I didn’t know many women who did. Evan didn’t want any commitment since he knew he was getting deployed in the near future. If we had both stuck to our guns, we obviously would not be engaged and living together now. We just kind of let the relationship develop and change our minds.
Both of us are planners, but we’re also kind of accepting of new things that come in to our life and realize that not everything is going to go according to plan. I think that’s pretty crucial to staying together and getting through life. You have to go “ok, this is not what I expected, but it is what it is” and just keep moving. Otherwise, you get stuck at each hurdle and it takes unnecessary strife to get over it.
- Be aware that if your relationship lasts long, both of you will change as individuals, which will change your relationship
- Don’t over-anticipate change because that can lead to problems before the change comes
- Communicate about changes
Put in Effort
Your relationship is not going to make itself get better. You and your person have to put in effort, especially when life gets rough and effort is really not what you want to be giving.
In learning to love someone else, you learn that it’s not all about you (I mean you as an adult probably already know this to some degree, but I think until you’re in a serious relationship or have kids, you are still the main focus in your life). You have to learn to express love in your own way. I’m not a super lovey-dovey person, but Evan knows what stuff I do to show I love him. Learning what your and your significant other’s love languages are can be helpful with that. We both like spending time together, so that’s one of the ways we put in effort. Not that we have much of a choice with covid, but even before the pandemic we’d spend as much time together as possible.
- Do small surprises
- Learn what they need and do things for them
- Communicate your needs as well, so they are aware
- Give hugs or whatever things you do at random times
In learning to love each other, it’s helpful to learn to love routines. It can’t always be spontaneous and different. You probably have routines in your relationship. For us it’s stuff like always kissing and hugging before I leave for work. At 10ish I almost always ask Evan how trading went. One problem with routines like this is that they can become mindless, so you’re not totally present. So, you have to appreciate the routines. We mean every “I love you” whenever we say it. If I ask Evan how trading was, it’s because I care and want to know what’s going on in his world while I’m at work.
When you’re not in a good place, routines can keep you connected. For instance, even if we’re grumpy at each other, we’ll still do our goodbye routine. Even if we’re so annoyed that we’re not talking much, we still talk about non-relationship things and do our normal stuff to keep our life going. We continue to work together in our daily/weekly routines like doing laundry, even if we’re frustrated.
Be present in your routines and keep them going even when you’re not getting along.
- Figure out what routines you have and try to pay more attention to them if you feel like you’re just going through the motions
- Create new routines, but don’t make everything a routine or it gets boring.
Every relationship is unique, but many of the things that keep one going will keep others going and growing. Effort, routines, communication, and acceptance are just a few to start focusing on.