Some days, my relationship feels like a full-time job.
Obviously, it’s a “job” that I love, that I choose to show up for each day. But at times it definitely feels like work.
We live together. We both work from home. We are in constant conversation about all the day-to-day minutia that makes a life: what we’re making for dinner, how much the air conditioner repairs will cost, whose turn it is to walk the dog, what we’re doing this weekend.
There are moments when this back and forth banter, this routine chatter feels so comfortable that I smile to myself. I smile remembering all the nights I spent alone wishing I had someone who wanted to bicker with me about doing dishes or who’d pop his head out of the office to ask if I wanted to watch a movie. Someone who cared enough to make plans. Someone who cared enough to consider me in every aspect of his life.
But there are also moments when this routine chatter escalates into major discussions about intimacy and trust and communication styles and control and a host of other less comfortable topics that make me long (slightly, and in the darkest back alleys of my heart) for the nights I spent alone.
Relationships, particularly long-term relationships, are not for the faint of heart. Or the lazy. Or anyone who isn’t willing to deal with the mess, both in themselves and their union.
What I’ve learned in the past four-plus years of loving someone every day is that love is full of tough stuff, hard conversations, and difficult lessons. The trick is figuring out how to embrace those lessons without letting them break us or the bond we have with our partner. Because tough doesn’t always mean hopeless or unfixable. Tough doesn’t always mean the end. Sometimes it’s just the beginning of something different, better, or more real—if we’re both committed to doing the work.
Yesterday, while dealing with some mundane relationship tough stuff, I asked our readers “What’s the toughest lesson you’ve learned from a long-term relationship?” So many of these responses felt familiar to me while others served as a bit of a wake-up call.
Let these lessons ground you on the days your relationship feels more like work than play:
You’ve absolutely got to like the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. It may sound simple, but there has to be a foundation there before anything lasting can be constructed. ~ Allyson
That trust has to be earned. That love and trust are not the same. ~ Tomi
Don’t ever expect the same love you give. Give it to yourself instead. ~ Cari
You don’t know someone until hard times happen. Do they stick with you and actually support you? Or does your pain make them back away because they don’t know what to do with you? ~ Marsena
Stop saving people, then losing yourself. ~ Simon
Trust your gut. The signs are there in the beginning. But they will prepare you and help you appreciate when you find the really good stuff. ~ Debbie
Keep your independence. It works in good relationships as well. ~ Cat
Date each other! Work on your relationship daily, not just when it feels tense. ~Megan
That I should have become more self-aware before entering any long-term commitment. Unresolved childhood trauma will dictate the kind of partner you choose, and not for the better. ~ Han
Love is definitely not a feeling, it’s a choice we must make every single day. Take the good with the bad (regular bad, not abuse). ~ AMarie
Letting go of your ego will result in the deepest love possible. ~ Wayne
Communication. We are not psychic. The other person is not intentionally trying to hurt you. ~ Elsje
Your partner, along with yourself, is always changing, therefore you are not the same couple you were when you met and unless you are in conscious awareness of these changes, and evaluating these on a regular basis, whatever you have built together will gradually fall apart. ~ Job
Drama doesn’t mean passion. ~ Ann-Marie
We are taught (in religion) that the two become one. That is the biggest bull crap ever taught. Two never become one; you will always be individuals with likes and dislikes. ~ Cynthia
Work it out, compromise, seek counseling, forgive. You fell in love for a good reason. Look for the best in your partner. ~ Sally
They didn’t change; their mask just fell off. ~ Terri
Learn to communicate your needs, wants, and desires and be willing to hear those which may not align with your own. Be curious, not defensive. ~ Mish
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