I am by no means a relationship expert.
With that said, I have been in relationships my entire adult life, and now I find myself single for the first time at 31.
My last relationship spanned eight years, four of them spent engaged. Five weeks before the wedding, he informed me he didn’t want to get married.
That was one of the hardest things I had to go through. But necessary. It gave me the perspective I needed to re-evaluate what I want and need in a partner.
I may be a hopeless romantic, but I understand that no partner will be perfect. There will always be compromises. Reflecting back at the past eight years, all those things I thought were compromises I now realize are deal breakers.
Lennon said, “Love is all you need.” Well…I’m going to respectfully disagree. Granted, I am a case of one, and others may have different priorities, but these are the other things I think a relationship needs, ranked by importance:
You can respect without love, but you cannot love without respect. Your partner should honor you, not speak ill of you, not put you down, and not mock you when their sarcastic joke doesn’t land and you don’t take it with a smile on your face. If there is one person in the world who should fully respect you (besides you!), it’s your partner.
You’re in this for the long haul with your partner, through good times and bad. Through sexcipades and libido deficiencies. When loving them is tough — which, at times, it will be — knowing you have a deep friendship will get you through to the next stage.
If you love this friend whom you respect, you are on the right path to maintaining a lasting relationship.
You’ll notice that love is not listed as number one. I subscribe to the belief that my mother has always told me : you’re going to spend your whole life falling in and out of love, whether it’s with the same person or many people.
This goes both ways. Not only does your partner need to be trustworthy, but it’s important that you give them your trust. If this friend loves and respects you, trust should be easy. Respect your partner by trusting them.
In my opinion, you need to fully trust someone in order to be truly intimate with them. The best intimacy requires at least some surrender. With all the pillars listed above, you should trust that you have the freedom to surrender to true intimacy.
For a lasting relationship, you need to both be headed in the same direction.
Know that you are on the same page when it comes to wanting children, getting married, where to live…all the biggies. And if you aren’t, discuss if there is room for compromise. If not, well, you may have all the other pillars, but at some point, they may not be enough to carry the weight.
Getting dumped five weeks before my wedding taught me so much about myself, more than even what I want and need out of a relationship. The ending of a relationship is always painful, yet strangely, I highly recommend it. Growth comes from conflict.
If I’m missing a pillar, or if you think they should be ordered differently, please comment below. All I can do is share what I’ve learned. But the more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know know. So impart some wisdom on me/us if you have it!
P.S. Since the time I wrote this, I’ve been (happily) married, and we recently welcomed our son into this world.