When I met my now-husband nearly seven years ago, I was fresh out of college and ready to dive into my graduate program. I imagined that the following two years during which I would pursue a master’s degree would be a time to focus on my intellectual growth, my inevitable career in academia, and my life as an increasingly independent adult.
Things worked out differently, of course.
Although I certainly grew intellectually during that time, I discovered that a career in higher education as a tenured professor would be nearly impossible given the current market—and that my initial ideas about the field were mostly incorrect. I suddenly wasn’t very sure what I wanted to do with my life—other than spend time with the outgoing, outspoken post-doc I’d met mere days before my first graduate class. Very quickly, I felt less independent, less personal growth-y.
The sensical choice would have been to resist a serious relationship and actively carve out time for myself to be independent. I also worried about long-term commitment. Being a serial monogamist (guilty as charged), I’d witnessed my share of relationships reach a natural end-point, so I was familiar with feeling claustrophobic in a relationship I no longer was fully committed to. And I knew that feeling wasn’t healthy for me (or anyone).
Things worked out differently, of course.
I discovered that a long-term relationship with the right person could continue to be fulfilling and not peter out but evolve and deepen. Further, one’s identity and sense of independence may fluctuate (in or out of a relationship), but it’s more about fostering a balance, being comfortable with the ebb and flow of personhood…but more on that below.
7 Things I’ve Learned From Being With The Same Man For 7 Years
You will learn amazing life lessons from each other. My husband has taught me a variety of things, from how to question everything I read to the important truth that Han shot first. In all seriousness, though, the way his mind works has shaped my own thinking, and I’m sharper for it.
I’m not exactly sure what I’ve given him in return, but my hope is that I’ve shown him how to be healed by the small moments of the day. Anyone can enjoy the little things, but it takes a special heart to live in this crazy world and still see the beauty.
Okay, I know that sounds very gender-normative, like him = mind; me = heart, but as he’s reminded me, that’s actually a false binary, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Your sense(s) of humor will start to blend together. When I met my husband, his sense of humor was that of a Normal Person. From animals doing funny things to jokes about deserving politicians, the things he laughed at were reasonable. But my sense of humor is silly, like weird-silly. I make up words. I have outbursts of giggling in public places. I’m unabashedly absurd. But time made our senses of humor grow into one large, glorious beast. Now, I enjoy his political comedy shows, and he’s the one calling our cat “Critter Pants.”
Sometimes you’ll stop truly seeing them even when they’re right in front of you. But this doesn’t have to be for very long. There are times when I probably take my husband for granted. I try not to—I try to always see him. This doesn’t always happen, however, when you’re trudging though life’s Kafkaesque challenges—like trying to get on the same health insurance before the deadline (that day)—or, I don’t know, just trying to exist as an adult human. When I feel like my heart is kind of “zoned out,” I reflect on what makes my husband so wonderful—and how those things have always been right there—and I can see him with fresh eyes.
You will re-fall in love even if you never fell out of love. There are periods in our relationship when we happily coexist; these are periods of quiet supportiveness when we’re focused primarily on doing our jobs, taking care of the house, etc. It probably seems pretty boring from the outside, but I promise there are still moments that make my heart beat faster, nights when I lose track of time because we’ve been talking non-stop, and times when I feel giddy getting ready for a date. I think what keeps life interesting with the same person is that you can both still grow as individuals and still discover new things about one another.
You may redefine romance. To me, romance is my husband carrying me
across a pristine beach out of bed at 4 AM while I have the flu and I’ve completely sweat through the sheets, tucking me in on the couch, stripping the bed, putting the sheets in the laundry, making the bed again, and carrying me back to bed.
Romance is showing up for your person. Even when it’s hard. Even when there are bodily fluids.
Your sense of independence may feel challenged. I remember having a moment of shock sometime shortly after we started dating. While casually grabbing something from his kitchen as if I was in my own place, I realized it was a little crazy that I would be raiding the fridge of this person I didn’t even know a few months ago. But such was the speed of our romance.
Since then, I’ve realized that I can still be my own person in a life of sharing nearly everything—from groceries to major life decisions. It’s not always easy. Like a romantic relationship, your relationship with yourself takes work and sometimes requires advocating for your needs even that means eschewing the path of least resistance.
You must cherish what makes you who you are (distinct from your mate).
Although you learn from one another and your interests often meld, it’s crucial for your sanity to not let go of the values, hobbies, and pursuits that truly inspire you. A truly loving partner will encourage you to stay with those as well as explore new things—even if they don’t fully understand or aren’t inspired by those things themselves. You will know the difference between someone happily letting you go do your thing and someone devaluing something that’s part of you. Head for the hills if you experience the latter.
Get more like this–sign up for our newsletter for exclusive inspirational content!