Kevin and I have been dating for three and a half years. In some ways, our relationship is not the relationship I pictured having when I was young. We bicker about mundane things. We often spend Friday nights binge watching bad Netflix series and eating pizza, asleep by 10 p.m. We disagree on major topics like politics and feminism. We don’t have in-depth philosophical discussions nearly as much as I’d like.
The first year of our relationship, I was on Cloud 9. It may have taken him a bit longer to get there but he floated up to join me eventually. The second year we learnt more about each other, the good and not so good. The third year, we moved in together, and it went pretty well, despite his giant TV (which I hate) and my hair that coats every surface in the apartment (which he hates). Year four, we moved across the country together and are taking on a new province. Through all of this, our relationship has remained solid. Our surroundings, however, have not.
I often wonder how we’ve managed to maintain a successful relationship through it all and, more importantly, why I’m still just as happy as the first few blissful months.
I’ve read and been given unsolicited advice about maintaining a relationship, but in my experience – and my relationship – this is what I’ve learnt that, so far, works.
A relationship is a careful balance between give and take. When I take something out of our relationship, I have to put something else back in. When Kevin takes something, he has to even it out, too. If I take more than I’m giving back, Kevin will begin to feel he’s being underappreciated, as he has more invested than I. And these ‘things’ that are taken and given are not tangible items. They’re not fancy jewellery or expensive date nights. They’re a simple ‘thank you,’ or ‘can I get you anything?’ The simplest words can show the greatest amount of care.
The first couple years of our relationship were relatively easy. But as life began to interrupt, our rhythm changed. When we moved in together we began fighting more often. Naturally, when two people spend more time together, they will fight more. But I still worried. Did this mean it wasn’t going to work out? If we were arguing more now, where would we be in five or 10 years?
After a particularly vocal disagreement, I realized in the silence that followed, how grateful I was for our fights. Fighting is passion. Fighting means you care enough to figure it out. I know that there will always be arguments; we’ll both say things we don’t mean and that may not be true. But I also know that Kevin will always stick around afterwards, when we’ve each cooled, to figure it out.
One of Kevin’s strengths, and something he’s taught me, is to swallow your pride and apologize. He’s usually the first to traverse the barrier, and say he’s sorry. Often, I’ll admit, he’s not even the one in the wrong; I am. But I’ve always believed that admitting defeat in an argument means there was something to lose. What I’m learning now is that there is no winner or loser. Understanding and reconciling whatever obstacle caused the argument is necessary in order to move past it.
Our relationship is my first – and hopefully last – long term relationship. Before I met him, I believed in soulmates, I believed that perfect couples never fought and that we’d always agree on everything. This is not the case. No relationship is easy. Love is just stumbling through life with your best friend.
– Shawna Bannerman, Assistant Editor