Happy Anniversary, J!
I can’t believe that we’re steadily approaching the big FIVE year marker.
J: “It sounds long, but felt like it went by fast.”
Each year of our relationship was in a completely different stage – literally and figuratively. One year in undergrad together, the next year in a long distance, the third & fourth in LA together, and the final stretch now back in the Bay Area. Each year carried its own particular set of issues and lessons.
While I would never want to repeat certain years again (ahem*second year long distance*), I’m grateful for the experiences as well as the knowledge that we were able to work through those times together. I don’t think a relationship can really grow until it faces some trials – those are the moments when you are forced to compromise with your partner as well as with yourself. It truly tests your boundaries and expectations.
Number one crucial element that I’ve learned in a relationship: COMMUNICATION
Without effective and clear communication with your partner, everything can become a problem – listening issues, not being romantic enough, going out with friends too much, cleaning up around the house, or even what movie to watch on a Friday night. And the frustrating part is that it probably could have been prevented had there been better communication.
I learned long ago that I needed to voice my expectations if I wanted them to be met. I also learned to give up on the hope that he would just understand what they were just because he should on his own. I discovered that the more I communicated clearly with him, the more he began to understand and anticipate my needs on his own.
For awhile, J couldn’t understand why I would get upset whenever he failed to ask me questions. He figured if it was so important, I should just be able to say so without waiting for him to inquire. In a sense, that’s true, but I want to feel as if he cared to listen. Why would I waste my breath on someone who didn’t want to listen? Soon he realized that by asking me about my day or about something important in my life, it made me all the more receptive to happily share with him as opposed to feeling withdrawn.
In my relationship, reciprocity certainly paid off. Both of us were willing to give in to adapt to the other person and, in the process, found ourselves wanting to do so because it made the other person happy. I didn’t think something so simple could have such a profound effect.
Yes, we still fight. J and I are still completely different people – adapting to the other person hasn’t changed our essential characters. What has changed is the way we approach our disagreements.
A few weeks ago, we had a minor argument at a Thai restaurant. It could have easily escalated (and probably would have in the past) if I chose to stay angry and give him the silent treatment for the rest of the evening. Instead, I reached over and grabbed his hand. His tightened shoulders immediately relaxed. Of course, a tough discussion followed suit, but that small gesture melted part of the ice.
It took us nearly four years to work on our open and effective communication. It’s not perfect, but it’s something that works for us. There are still plenty of things I’m trying to figure out in this relationship, but I suppose that’s what the fifth year is for.