My relationship with my partner Will has passed its 7th anniversary (back in September, and it’s taken me a long time to write this post), making it officially my longest relationship. With that, here is my advice for getting this far.
Actually love each other
Relationships are not for show. If you don’t actually love the other person, you are in for a bad time. Because that’s kind of the whole point. You should care about them and want to contribute to their well-being. You need to value them and want to be around them. I have seen people treat relationships like a fashionable accessory; there’s a lot of showing off but not much substance behind the scenes, so it all goes wrong. That’s not to say you have to avoid taking photos together during nice moments, but the relationship itself should be the most important thing. If you’re not content being with this person unless you get to say “look how relationship I am, everyone!” then this is probably not right for you.
Be true to yourself
Don’t stifle parts of yourself for another person. It will only make you miserable. I’m sure this is a very tired cliche, but, the right person will love who you actually are. This is especially important at the start of a relationship; “they suddenly seem like a totally different person” is something you might hear if someone’s partner has relaxed about all the things they were hiding. Don’t hide yourself in the first place.
Having said that, if you do have some especially bad habits or horrible traits, then yes, learn to change those. But do that in front of your partner rather than hiding yourself.
Accept that you will get in each other’s personal space
I am lucky that I have found the only person I am willing to have in my personal environment long-term.
I am not a huge loner, but also, I get worn out from having to interact with people too much. Even if someone isn’t actively interacting with me, if I know they are in a room in my house somewhere, I will spend the whole time being tense and exhausted. I need to be alone (animals excepted).
I mean, people are so frustrating. They move my stuff?! And I put it back when I see it, and they move it again? They inexplicably feel the need to go around taking my Assistance Dog’s rope-pulls off the door handles?! They drink my drinks and eat my food even when I explicitly tell them to leave some stuff alone?! Guests get so irritating after the first couple of days.
My partner grates on me too sometimes; he’ll move a thing, or eat a bag of grated cheese that I got in for a specific meal. He fills the bathroom sink up with beard hair and doesn’t see why that’s gross. But I can live with all that stuff, when he’s the one doing it. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t stop doing gross stuff, it just means it’s not the end of the world. I’m sure I annoy him too. But we’ve loved each other for a long time and so these things aren’t going to destroy us.
I couldn’t, on the other hand, be in a relationship with any of the guests who’ve irritated me. Some people aren’t meant to be in prolonged close quarters with each other.
With everyone except for my partner, I am very much the Personal Space Show man from Rick & Morty:
Realise that you will have big fights sometimes
Fights are a normal part of relationships to an extent. People who never fight might not be communicating properly, or might not take the relationship all that seriously. A certain amount of conflict is natural when there are such strong feelings between people.
Some fights are bigger than others and it might seem like the end of the world at the time. Over the last almost-8-entire-years I’ve learned to slow down and have a think while I’m arguing.
I ask myself:
- Do I love Will more than I care about the thing I am arguing for? (so far, the answer has always been Yes)
- Will I still care about this in a year?
- Or will I even care about it in a week, or an hour?
Like everybody, I have dealbreaker issues that I care about, and other things that I can compromise on instead. Compromise has always been preferable to me than giving up my future with Will. The whole point of living my life is getting to my future with Will. Nothing else matters. I’m lucky that he is compatible with my dealbreaker subjects and so there is no contention there. Believe it or not, I don’t actually have strong feelings about 99% of things, so the fights that we do have are never going to take precedence over the rest of our life together.
Establish what you want for the future
This is a bit of an intense thing to do when a relationship is new. But when things have been going for a while, it can be helpful to work out whether a relationship actually has the potential to become a long-term one. You might want to go in totally different directions with your lives, in which case it’s unlikely that you’ll end up together forever. Some people do have long-distance marriages and they make them work, but that’s certainly not for everyone.
Will and me fell in love very quickly, we lived together after 2 weeks and started renting our own place after 2 months, and never looked back. He’s my soulmate, my basherter, and it was obvious very quickly. I expected my soulmate to be a woman, but life is full of surprises.
Will and me have always wanted very similar things. A home that we own, in a semi-rural location, with multiple dogs, cats, and some form of livestock in the back garden (most likely ducks, although we’ve flirted with the idea of alpacas), and some space for growing veg. We also love to host and have guests stay with us; we usually hold something for the NFL SuperBowl, Crufts, a yearly summer barbecue, and a Halloween party at the very least.
There are obviously some variations in what we are both aiming for, but our stated ambitions are along the same lines.
If you are determined to stay in your hometown and live out your life there, whereas your partner has committed to moving to Iceland for their career, then they are probably not your forever person, and it’s worth finding that out as soon as you can.
Have your own hobbies
So you need somebody you can have in your space and have a shared future with, but you also both need to do your own thing. You need time apart from each other so that you maintain yourselves as individuals, and also so that you don’t drive each other entirely mad.
Will likes to play D&D with his friends, I prefer to have people over to do things like watching bad horror films. I also like sewing and other such things that I can do on my own. You need to be a complete person outside of your relationship.
Address family issues
Family can be a real problem for relationships, and you can’t stick your head in the sand about it. One of Will’s relatives openly said that I should be “got rid of” because I am a wheelchair user (I guess people like me are meant to be single forever?). This same person cannot seem to fathom why Will now does not see them very often.
People can be really nasty, but you have to address it and tell people when their behaviour isn’t cool. People don’t like to make things awkward with their families, but the choice comes down to two things; make things potentially awkward with the relative who has done a bad thing, or earn simmering resentment from your partner for not standing up for them, which may just build to the point that they leave you.
Work on it
Relationships are not always plain sailing, no matter how much you love someone. Problems arise and life gets in the way. It doesn’t sound very romantic, but sometimes you have to literally schedule times to go to bed together or to have other time alone.
Even though we are in the same room every night, Will and I still have a date night every week wherein we make an effort to do romantic things. Little efforts like this can make the difference between a relationship that keeps going and one that ends in frustration.
Sometimes, you can do all of the things I’ve written about and more, but the relationship just doesn’t work out. Sometimes you can love each other so much but still not make it work. In Judaism we believe that soulmates cannot always stay together for various reasons. The person is still your soulmate, but sometimes you just can’t make things work on a day-to-day basis. It sucks but it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault either.
Be happy with each other and see how it goes.