Relationships are easy. It’s the people in them that make them complicated.
After over a decade committed to the same person, I’ve learned along the way that it really does take both people to make things work. We’ve realized there are three fundamentals that have kept us together: Love, respect, and kindness. When both people commit to these values, they can foster a fulfilling relationship.
Love is at the core of all long-term commitments. Without love, there really is no reason to be invested in a relationship. It’s about looking at the person, even on their worst days, and remembering what drew you to them when you first met–be it their asymmetrical smile or the way a single look on their face way can wordlessly communicate so much. Love occurs when you remember that endearing characteristic that gave you butterflies in the beginning and you see your partner through those rose colored glasses again for a moment. Love is the easiest quality for most people to embrace, making it the most fragile to lose.
What love means to us: We’re each other’s best friend and lover. We fight and we make up. We still are the first to tell each other everything that happens. We crack each other up and can make each other madder than anyone else. We trust each other and frustrate each other. It’s all about balance. Taking the good with the bad and riding the tides together, hand in hand.
Respect gives a relationship it’s value. It’s something that builds over time. It’s earned on trust and honesty, both with your mate and within yourself. Respect becomes your behavior, making it the most difficult to control at times. Respect is having the ability to consider your partner in your actions, even in the toughest situations.
What respect mean to us: Over the past 15 years, we’ve hit just about every bump and boulder in the road that one could imagine. But we’ve figured things out and how to get through whatever life has thrown our way by always considering one another and never losing sight of how grateful we are for each other. Every day I am grateful for having found my twin soul. Having grown up not being a strong believer in marriage, finding someone to spend my life with didn’t really seem like a probability for me. But as life sometimes likes to do, when you’re not looking for something, it usually has a way of presenting itself to you. I wasn’t ready for a committed relationship years ago when I met my boyfriend. It took me growing up and getting my head on straight to recognize what was in my heart. Part of growing up is learning that love is only one part of a successful relationship–I’ve come to embrace respecting myself and my partner. And my life was forever changed for the better.
Kindness is what sustains love. It’s about finding the right words during the wrong times. Kindness is also about mindfully approaching conflict–picking your battles and leaving out the personal attacks, not saying things that can’t be taken back. Being kind isn’t about who’s ‘right or wrong;” it’s about reminding yourself that you love and respect the person you’re committed to, even when your heart and your head are clashing.
What kindness means to us: I know more about him than anyone else ever has. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes. He remembers things I’ve said in the past that were important to me and reminds me of them, just when I think he hasn’t been listening to me. He knows that anything related to butterflies, avocados, or shoes can make me happy. He knows what makes me cry, what makes me laugh, what makes me insecure.
And he loves me. And respects me. And treats me with kindness. And vice versa.
I still look at him today and marvel at how we found each other. I still get goosebumps when he gives me a certain look, and 10 seconds later can be grossed out by his burp. Like I said, it’s about balance. But I’m happier today and more in love than I ever thought possible. I can’t imagine having not shared a life together. The honeymoon stage was over a long, long time ago. But this real life–real love is here to stay for long, long time.
Also by Danielle: How I Left the City and Moved into a House in the Woods
Related: Love: Is Your Independence Keeping You from Happiness?
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Photo: Nathan Walker via Unsplash