Four reflections after four years in love

Four Relationship Reflections

//The matching outfits were not planned//

Well everyone, we did it. This month, my boyfriend and I celebrate four years together. Believe it or not, the man agreed not to break up with me despite my insistence on continuing to blog about our relationship. I know, I have a real winner ladies. I think I’m going to keep him around for a while.

I knew I wanted to write about our anniversary, but I honestly didn’t know where to start. I thought to myself, what’s so significant about four years? I guess it’s a long time, right? My friends certainly think so. When I reminded them, I got the “OMG, has it really been that long?!?” response. I laughed. The past four years have flown by, and at times, it doesn’t feel like we’ve been together that long. But then I started to really think about us, where we were four years ago, and where we are today.

And the truth is, four years changes a lot.

It changes your life. Remember yourself at 18 going off to school and then four years later receiving your diploma at graduation? You’re a different person, with an entirely new perspective on life.  I’ve officially been in a relationship for as long as it takes someone to get a college degree. And would you hate me if I said this anniversary feels a bit like graduating? I’ve spent the last four years studying and learning the ins and outs of being a good partner to someone. Shouldn’t I at least get a certificate to hang on my wall?

No? Fine, I’ll settle for sparkly earrings.

Myself in year one of this relationship probably wouldn’t recognize myself in year four. Those years changed me.  I’m a different kind  of girlfriend with a new perspective on love and relationships. As I look back I can confidently say I’ve learned a lot. Hell, I’ve earned my degree. So in honor of my anniversary and for the sake of keeping with the theme, I’ll share four relationship reflections that stand out.

1. First comes friendship…then comes love. 

One of my favorite cards from Q reads, “You’re more than just my girlfriend, you’re my best friend.” I always heard that great love is first built out of great friendship, but never fully understood it until now. I’ve had best “girlfriends” my entire life, so I wasn’t used to a man filling that role, never mind someone I happen to be in love with. But now, it just feels natural for him to play both roles. I think we wouldn’t be as strong of a couple if we hadn’t been friends first. The nature of our relationship is far from“platonic”, but our roots, what keeps us sturdy and grounded, is the friendship we built in the beginning. We joke around that our relationship started out painfully slow, but now I’m grateful for that time. We really got to know one another, and from that, grew a deep mutual respect. Respect that helps when passion gets the best of us and fights inevitably occur. Which reminds me…

2. There’s a right way to fight. 

In the beginning I thought, “How could I ever fight with you? You’re so amazing!” And now, four years in, it’s more like, “I love you more than anything, but wow do you drive me fucking crazy sometimes.”  After years of fighting with the same person, you learn a thing or two about conflict resolution and compromise. I’ve noticed how some couples are afraid to fight, or how when they start fighting, they think it’s time to call it quits, and I think it’s a shame. For me, fighting with my boyfriend was inevitable. We’re human, and emotional, and trying to figure one another out. But over the years I found that focusing less on the fact that you had a disagreement, and more on how you were able to work through it, makes all the difference. Sure my boyfriend and I had our moments, but I’ve always been really proud of how we fought. I know it sounds silly, but it’s true. We fight to solve problems, not create more of them. We don’t yell and we don’t scream. We talk and we listen. Sometimes it takes years to get the hang of, but I do believe there’s a right way to fight.

3. Appreciation goes a long way. 

My therapist (yep!) once told me that couples who consistently express appreciation for one another have more successful marriages. In theory, it makes complete sense. In practice though, it can easily go overlooked. After years of being together, I’ve grown to expect certain things from Q: a spontaneous afternoon love text, planning a fun date, getting my mom a good birthday gift. These aren’t necessarily big ticket items, but I have found that just because I expect this from my boyfriend of four years, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t appreciate them as well. Sometimes I have to remind myself to remind him just how thankful I am for who he is and what he does.

4. Fight the urge to be lazy. 

I always used to find it funny that 20-somethings could ever get lazy in their relationships. Aren’t we supposed to be in our prime years? But then year two happened. I started to feel comfortable with our routine. I could of easily sat  on the couch, ordered in, and watched Netflix together every single night. I saw how planning a special date or outing as a couple could get pushed down the priority list until it’s ultimately not a priority at all. Now my boyfriend and I love a good Netflix series, but complacency was the kiss of death for us. We made a precedence early on to always go on dates. Our rule? We each plan a date or outing at least once a month. As a result, we’ve had so many unforgettable experiences together. Most importantly we kept things interesting, and had fun. We even developed hobbies. Our trial salsa dance class (my idea obviously) turned into six months of couples dance lessons. And ladies, let me tell you, there’s nothing sexier than a man who can spin you on purpose.

We met as college seniors ready to take on the world, and completely unprepared to fall head over heels in love. Four years later, we’re still trying to take on the world, but we’re a little more in-touch with the whole being in love thing. And you know what? It feels really good.