There’s nothing more paradoxically comforting yet restricting than a long term relationship. The pitfalls of monogamy are lightly charted and impossible to predict. For better and worse, here are a few things that I wish someone had told me about being in a long term relationship. Who wants to learn things the hard way?
Settling Is Not Necessarily A Bad Thing
Now, this may sound like it both contradicts contemporary standards of dating and thoroughly insults my partner, but hear me out. It does neither of those things. I promise.
What I mean by this is that it is critical to let go of some conception of the perfect partner. You may have certain prerequisites for the privilege of dating you such as financial status, a chiseled jawline, or an immaculate musical palette, and that’s fine. Having features to look for in a prospective partner can be advantageous to narrowing down your search, but having too many expectations can be dangerous.
If you’re not careful, you may end up creating some imaginary amalgamation of traits to which no real person can possibly live up. Even if you did somehow meet your “perfect match,” there’s no guarantee you will even like them.
These unrealistic partner goals may manifest themselves in ways that are detrimental to even the most healthy long term relationship. If you still have this idea of the perfect person in your head, there’s just no way your partner can live up to that. It isn’t until you let go of this imaginary person that you can truly begin to appreciate your partner for their truest self. Little things that you wouldn’t normally look for in another person can suddenly become exceedingly lovable attributes.
To be clear, I am absolutely not suggesting that you should settle for someone you don’t love, or for someone who treats you poorly. The word “settle” has such a negative connotation with respect to relationships that it may create toxically high standards. Appreciate your partner for who they are, not for how they compare to a figment of your imagination.
You Need To Dig For Common Ground
Any first date will always feature some probing for shared interests. If you have nothing in common at all, there probably won’t be a second date. Unless you somehow meet someone with which you share every single hobby, you’ll need to unearth some other activities if you want a long term relationship to work.
Yes, you will have to excavate the mysteries that lie beneath your partner’s crust. It’s only a matter of time before you start running out of things to do together. You can only re-watch The Office so many times together. Plus, it’s not even on Netflix anymore! How many couples had to face some tough questions in the wake of its removal?
It is of the utmost importance to actively search for more things that both of you like and to meet your partner halfway. Does one of you constantly sing every word to Hamilton and Frozen while the other thinks the Tony Awards are somehow about The Sopranos? You have to compromise. The latter must give musicals a chance without wearing a curmudgeonly stink-face the entire time, while the former needs to learn that scream-singing their favorite songs in their partner’s ear isn’t getting them anywhere.
Learn To Enjoy The Silence
Speaking of your partner’s ears, any long term relationship is going to spend thousands of moments in complete silence. What sounds uncomfortable to a brand-new couple can sound like the most wondrous symphony of peace to experienced lovers.
Implicitly, I think we all understand that the void of sound can’t possibly be filled at all times, but I don’t think most people appreciate just how much silence there is going to be in a long term relationship. There are few things better than just holding your significant other tightly and just shutting up for a while. It’s romantic and meditative at the same time.
Holidays And Milestones Lose Their Meaning
I’ll never forget how important my first Valentine’s Day with my partner felt. We were just 15 years old, and I felt like nothing in my life up until that point had ever mattered as much as this. I remember having my father chauffeur us around to dinner and the movies, where we even saw the movie “Valentine’s Day.” It was as perfect as perfect could be at that age. We were so happy and excited to spend such a special day together.
Fast-forward to the present, our eleventh Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I couldn’t possibly care less. The pandemic greatly hinders our options, and that doesn’t bother me at all. In all likelihood, we’re just going to exchange chocolates and get Taco Bell together, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. That’s love.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to occasionally make an effort to show your love for one another in the most flamboyant and spectacular of ways, but being in a long term relationship means the pressure is off, and that’s beautiful.
Years Of Gift Giving Is Difficult
In a similar vein, coming up with new ideas for gifts gets harder and harder as the years go by. While the holidays and milestones may feel less essential, the sensation of giving the love of your life a gift they don’t really like is unflinchingly terrible.
The act of gift-giving is supposed to be the ultimate form of selfless expression of love, yet it always ends up feeling like a competition. You don’t want to feel like a loser, do you? Of course not. Nobody does. Exchanging birthday presents begins to feel less like a fun tradition and more like a war of attrition. Prepare yourself for a battle that never ends.
It’s Actually Amazing
Despite what any perpetually single person might tell you, despite any cynicism in my words, being in a long term relationship is the most fulfilling thing in my life and there’s no close second. Of all the inane constructs humanity has concocted, monogamous love is my favorite.
It’s truly not for everyone, but for me, it’s the greatest source of security and esteem I could imagine. Never let anyone dissuade you from committing to one person if you believe that is what you really want.