When I first started dating my boyfriend Steve, I was just a shy 16-year-old schoolgirl (OK, I’m still kinda shy now!) who didn’t have the faintest clue how to apply mascara properly, let alone be somebody’s girlfriend. But fast forward 10 years (and more changes to our life plans than I can count) and we’re still together! I’m no expert when it comes to relationships, but I love what Steve and I have and I’ve learned A LOT – so that’s what I’m going to share today.
1. It takes effort.
I definitely believe there needs to be a certain level of comfort and chemistry between two people, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think the best relationships are natural and effortless. No matter how in love two people are, it still takes time and effort to properly communicate all of your thoughts and feelings and get all of your expectations on the same page (at least it has for us). Effort is the key to an amazing relationship, so put the effort in!
2. If you think something nice, say it.
Every night for the last three years (and counting), Steve and I have told each other our three good things about the day. And I always try to squeeze in something good about the day that has to do with Steve. It’s usually something really little (maybe we got to Netflix and chill or he gave me a lift from the train station) but I truly believe that telling Steve the little things I appreciate about him has had a hugely positive impact on our relationship.
3. Don’t keep score.
Steve and I don’t really keep track of whether we’ve been ‘paid back’ for the nice things we do for each other. He’ll pick me up from the train station without making me feel like I’m inconveniencing him, and it’s the same when I do nice little things for him. And because of this, we actually help each other more often than if we kept track – when someone does something nice for you and doesn’t make you feel bad about it, you want to return the favor! To get this started, remove the phrase ‘you owe me one’ from your vocab.
4. Have your own friends.
I’ve always been a strong believer in having my own friends and making sure I see them without Steve (the gossip’s never as good if he’s there!). Having my own friends helps keep my identity as an individual, and the same goes for Steve (which means Steve usually sees the boys without me). Mutual friends are amazing but you always need a ride or die!
5. Spend time apart.
As you might have guessed from the last one, I’m not afraid to spend time apart. Out of our 10 year relationship, I’ve spent nearly a year traveling overseas without Steve. Long-distance absolutely sucks, but time apart is OK – especially if you want to travel the world and your boyfriend doesn’t.
6. Be quick to apologize.
Not going to lie, I can get a little snappy (especially when I’m hangry). But I’ve learned that apologize quickly, and sincerely, is better than trying to pretend it never happened.
7. Different priorities are OK.
I’ve learned that just because something is important to me, doesn’t mean it’s important to Steve. And that that’s fine. But I didn’t figure this one out until quite recently, full credit to this episode of The Life Coach School Podcast for that!
8. Be a cheerleader.
Obvious, right? But I don’t know what I would have done without Steve’s blind faith and support as I’ve tried to figure out what the hell to do with my life – especially when he’s had no idea what I’m even trying to do! He never fails to encourage me and it makes all the difference.
9. Have your own goals.
It’s amazing to have goals as a couple but it’s even better when you’re both also working on your own things. Support each other always, but be your own people too.
10. Create traditions.
One of my favorite little “traditions” that Steve and I have is tucking into our candy drawer when we watch Netflix on my laptop in bed. I know this definitely isn’t the healthiest thing to do, but we both keep the top drawer of my bedside table filled to the brim with our favorite chocolates and candy at all times. I love going out for a fancy dinner, but there’s nothing better turning on the fairy lights, lighting a delicious candle and tasting all the new things we’ve bought as we watch our shows.
What have you learned from your relationships?
Let me know in the comments below!
And just so you know, you can find more advice about how to make the most of your twenties on my blog Smart Twenties.