My husband and I complete 16 years together today. My vanity forces me to clarify that we have been married only 7 years, the rest was a bit of friendship, childhood romance, agony-filled courtship and dreamy-eyed times - when every song sung was written for us and every romantic novel was the story of our lives.
It's been a crazy journey, one I would not change for the world, though I hope sometimes that I had cherished a certain moment a little longer, cried less and laughed more with my soulmate and with myself. When you are in a new relationship you don't imagine a day when you will be able to write about your feelings objectively. But 16 years later you realize you can, and it's liberating and romantic all at the same time.
I wanted to think about what I learnt about relationships, and how my other relationships can benefit from my learning. But most importantly, I wanted to know what to teach my son if he ever asks for relationship advice.
Commit to your love. I don't mean this in the conventional sense of marriage. Whether you decide to be together in this moment or forever, whether you have 15 minutes to spare in a day or 5 hours with each other, whether you live together or have a long-distance arrangement - commit. Listen, speak, share, love, fight, or spoil your partner to the best of your ability. Don't do anything half-heartedly thinking about the future, the past, or the silly thought that you'll spoil them too much for your own good.
"[W]hen the path you're on is hazy and bumpy and makes you shed a tear, just stop and take a nap"
Let go. I wish I knew this one earlier on. This seems easy and logical. But in a relationship, we often act like a crazy person applying 72 types of remedies to a wound when all it needs is time to heal. I believe now that when the path you're on is hazy and bumpy and makes you shed a tear, just stop and take a nap. Sometimes it's easier to just change the path altogether and not be stuck in a limbo waiting for things to change. Re-visit the difficult road again; be sure to - just do it when you're ready. Let go in the mean time. Not all loose ends can be tied and sometimes time sneaks up on those lonely nights like elves and fixes broken hearts with magic.
Lift your partner up. There are enough reasons for us to not feel good enough, and who wants to come home to a person who doesn't make us feel good. I don't mean flatter (well, maybe sometimes), I mean see the best in your partner. Often we feel like the ones we love bring us down the most because they know our deepest fears and darkest secrets. Don't be that partner; I know we all are sometimes. Be someone you want to be with, not someone who is making you an extension of his/her own ego. No one is perfect, not even you. Besides, perfection is boring, it has no sense of humour. Revel in the flaws.
You are the only reference point of your relationship. A lot of us think that other husbands are more indulgent, other wives more understanding, other mothers more supportive and other fathers more attentive. You are at the center of your own unique relationships. Accept things for what they are without labeling them 'better' or 'worse'. Comparison only looks good on pie charts, and not even then. Own your relationships completely without confusing yourself with notions on how you think others are living their lives.
Have a personality. Be the interesting person who you'd like to have a chat with. Not having a job is no excuse to be boring. You can be raising a child, but if you do that with passion and enrich yourself with interesting books, blogs or conversations with other mums, you will have the most interesting facts and stories to share with others. On the other hand, having a hectic job is no excuse for being boring. You needn't be the party joker to be fun. Just be interesting and have things to ask so that the conversation doesn't look like this.
You: Hi, what do you do.
Random person: I'm a banker.
You. Wow, that's nice.
Hmm. Nice? Don't speak in monosyllables. If you don't know what a banker does, then ASK.
"I agree that it is an amazing thing to be intuitive, but calling it a guide is a bit dramatic."
Be conscious. I must say this took me the most time. I was a complete dork in this area and thought that 'good' relationships are the ones that just go with the flow - until I read somewhere that only fishes are meant to go with the flow. No seriously, I know a lot of people still believe that intuition is the best guide to a relationship. I agree that it is an amazing thing to be intuitive, but calling it a guide is a bit dramatic. Every successful venture, love or baby making, requires some thought, some planning. A lot of people misjudge this as manipulation. Trust me your partner will be happier if you learnt to consciously manage your time or anger better. You aren't perfect remember?
I often read articles that are titled 'how to find your soul mate' or 'when to know it's time to quit' floating around the internet. Hopefully what you read here will make you feel more grounded and help you work on your relationship from right where you are, instead of the high pedestal of good relationship advice-land. No romance is only a fairytale, though it has its moments. Be prepared for bad days, and deal with them in the best way you can.
Many times relationships will fail you, but we can only try to not fail our relationships. It's hard to not take things personally when you are living with someone and have emotions invested in them. However, it hurts less sometimes to think about where they are coming from before we indulge in self-pity.
16 years spent and if we are lucky, a lifetime to look forward to. I think we can take our time my love to learn and share and love. Grateful for you, now and forever.