I’d never been in a healthy relationship before I met Jake, my current boyfriend. Though we’ve only been officially dating since January 2016, I feel like I’ve known him forever. We met in November when I accidentally moved into his house- little did I know that the attractive male student with the absolutely to-die-for smile from my biology and chemistry classes lived there. We were friends at first, but not for long. Though both of us have our own relationship pasts, I can assuredly say that this serious relationship was a first for both of us. We continued living together until June when my lease ended and he moved in four boys (– yuck, I didn’t want to share that bathroom with them) while I moved four blocks away. Needless to say, I spent every night sleeping over at Jake’s house.
“Roommates that date never work out”
is something that people commonly tell me. Well, they’re wrong because Jake and I clicked and set the necessary boundaries so that our relationship could become as healthy, functional, and enjoyable as it is today (beyond me being absolutely in love with him). Reflecting on our history together, I realize now that there are so many aspects about our relationship that make us work and that have kept us together.
The key concepts:
Communication is Key
Clearly emphasizing what I really want, need, desire, or prefer in any situation instead of what I think he wants to hear is imperative. I also expect the same from him. Getting straight to the point, deciding not to drop endless hints, and putting an end to me expecting him to pick up on my subtle body language are some of the best things that I personally did for our relationship. And, openly discussing this. Second, putting my phone away (even when I really don’t want to) when he wants to talk with me has been so helpful. Before, I didn’t realize that he minded and I realize that I can get kind of dazed when I’m not paying attention, causing him to stop trying.
There’s a Time and a Place for Disagreements (and it’s not in public)
Disagreements are bound to happen at some point. If they don’t, then I’d actually be concerned about each individual’s independence in their relationship. But Ladies, if he does something in public that’s embarrassing to you or if he says something wrong or if you absolutely disagree with him about something, do not make a scene because that’ll make it worse (especially if he has an ego lol). I’ve learned the hard way, trust me. If I start an argument or confront Jake in a public setting, he ends up frustrated and embarrassed with me for starting the disagreement in public and my initial point never gets mentioned. However, when I’ve actually waited to discuss something that bothered me, we’ve made insanely productive breakthroughs. Speaking of which…
Let Him Know that You Listen to Him
Have you ever told someone that you’d change, but then just don’t? Well, I’m most likely way more guilty than you. I’ve learned that actually changing my behavior in the small ways, and then pointing them out to him (in a nice discussion… not in a snarky tone) to show that you are changing both 1) helps him see that you actually are doing what you said that you’d do and B) keeps you accountable, too.
Love Vulnerably, Not Cautiously
Relationships begin, and either continue or come to an end- even kids could tell you that. But what I’ve realized now is that holding back, protecting my heart, and/or trying to stay available outside of the relationship too was stupid when I was doing it. It was hurting our relationship: I was constantly sad because I thought that the perfect relationship I was in was going to end, and the fact that someday it’d end really scared me. I didn’t want to connect with Jake because it hurt too bad. But then, I realized that I had it all wrong. If you really think someone’s the one, you have to be vulnerable. If not, if the relationship ended all that I would do all day would be wish that I had made myself more vulnerable for him.
Finding A Routine Activity to Do Together Has Brought Us Closer
This might look like joining an art class, doing yoga, online shopping, or crosswords in a park. It could even be committing to walking through the neighborhood after work, or cooking together. For us, it’s going to the gym and lifting weights together. Even though we often do our own activities (we definitely don’t do couples’ lifting exercises ha), we still wander over to each other and mingle between sets. We see each other working hard to accomplish our individualized personal goals and we’re there to celebrate each other’s successes. We always walk together on the way there and try on the way back, which helps me feel more emotionally connected to him. For him, I just don’t know what goes on in that brain. Anyways. Our thing is going to the gym together. Of course we can go apart, but it’s always more special when he’s there with me.
If Your Boyfriend is Your Best Friend, That’s Just Fine
As long as I’ve known, I’ve read articles about why your boyfriend shouldn’t be my best friend. And yes, these articles bring up great points because what would I do if Jake broke up with me? I could tell you that I would have like 2 friends, and the articles are trying to make sure that your only support network doesn’t happen to be your boyfriend. But I can safely say that Jake is my best friend for so many reasons: he offers great feedback and advice, his parents are basically my parents, I eat his food, I wear his clothes, we’re each other’s confidants, we hold each other accountable, we have so much fun together, we do every day stuff together, and soooo much more. What makes us more than just a platonic friendship is that he finds me adorable, he wants to protect me and cherish me, and he loves me beyond a physical attraction. And me, well… you’ve seen how much I simply adore him. What we have is better than just a romance or just a BFF-ship: we have both. It’s way more intimate and it ties us together on all levels. It’s the ultimate combo- and I have no regrets.
Spending Time Apart is Just as Valuable as Spending Time Together
I used to be devastated when Jake would imply (kindly, but obviously) that he wanted to hang out with his friends/family/self/etc. without me. I can’t promise that I never currently react similarly, but I can say that I’ve found a value to being alone. Him wanting alone time is not a metaphor of rejection. It doesn’t mean that he finds me annoying, unpleasant, boring, ugly, smelly, etc. Sometimes, it just means that he actually wants to hang out with his friends and if I’m there, I just change the dynamic a little bit. And, I’ve also found that taking time to do my own thing or work on things that I like to do has been so productive for me. I have been more refreshed, more on-task, and less last-minute. I’ve been more excited to show him new things, new projects, and new ideas. I’ve loved the time I’ve had to do the things that I never let myself do before, and it’s been as amazing (if not better) than when we are together.
Don’t Lose Yourself While Trying to Like What He Likes
I’ve seen so many articles telling its readers that to love him better, we need to learn to enjoy the activities that he does. So, I tried: I taught myself how to play his UFC game on his PS4, including learning how to use the buttons that I didn’t even know in the first place. I learned how to play Madden, I tried to watch sports, and I tried to like what he did. But through all of this I learned that it’s okay to not like the stuff that he enjoys doing, if I’m respectful of his tastes AND if I try it before I decide not to like it. Because honestly, If I liked watching ESPN in my free time, I would have had to have gone through an identity crisis.
Finding the Healthy Balance Between What’s Best for You and Him is Totally Possible
In the beginning of our relationship, I never let myself communicate that I couldn’t do something for him because I had stuff to do. I would always drop whatever I was doing to do him a favor, to help him with something, or just to do little things to make his life easier. But, I lost myself in this uneven balance and it left me feeling overwhelmed, empty, and really unbalanced. Now I see that I can balance doing things with/for him and doing things for myself: it’s all about prioritizing because I am a priority too.
Choose your battles wisely.
This one has been really difficult for me, but I’ve learned over time. I don’t want to be the girlfriend that’s always griping about something. I don’t want him to cringe whenever I open my mouth, thinking that I’m going to be criticizing him in some way. So, when he leaves the washcloth all coiled up in the bottom of the sink for days and never hangs it even though I’ve asked him to, I’ve decided to do something about it rather than complain about it, giving me one less thing to ask him to do (I bought a non-porous sponge and threw the washcloth away). And that’s only one example, leaving me tons of time to talk about other things and when I do have something important to discuss, he takes me more seriously.
These ten reflections have revolutionized my life, my stress levels, and my idea of love for this man I care so deeply about. Here’s to a lifetime of making lists inspired by the one I love most!