LONG TERM RELATIONSHIPS: My Experiences & The Lessons I’ve Learnt

Alright guys, let’s talk about love.

Now, I am not trying to suggest that I am some sort of guru. Nobody’s relationship is perfect, mine included. However, I like to think that I am in a happy, fulfilling, satisfying and fun relationship which brings me heaps of joy. We have been together for over four years now and our bond is only getting stronger. 

I met Ant (my boyfriend) when I was 23, and prior to us getting together I only had one long term relationship in my teens – which barely lasted a year. So it is safe to say I was inexperienced when it came to love. I was riding solo for over three years before Ant came into my life and I was a serial dater. My friends joked that I would be a perpetual singleton playing the game for the rest of my life – and I believed them. Yet here I am, seriously loved up and well over four years deep into a relationship – how times change!

I’m not going to pretend that our relationship has been all sunshine and rainbows. Certainly not. There have been a couple of seriously rough patches and a near break-up. But we have weathered the storm and come out the other side closer than ever, with an even better understanding of what makes us tick. So, I thought I would share the lessons I have learnt so far from my four year relationship in hopes that they might help you too. Here goes…

Love languages are a real thing. 

There’s five: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time and gifts. It is essential that you learn about your own and your partners love languages and try to cater to each others. Ant and I have completely different love languages (I need words of affirmation and Ant needs acts of service) and since we started catering to each others it has made our relationship so much more satisfying. 

Remove comparison. 

It is so easy to compare your relationship to others – especially when it comes to things like your sex lives or how quickly things progress (i.e. moving in, marriage and babies). However, every relationship is SO different and who even knows if what you’re seeing online or what your friend is telling you is the whole truth? Stop wasting energy on analysing other people’s relationships and instead direct this energy into thriving in your own. A prime example of this in my own relationship is the fact that Ant and I don’t really text or speak throughout the day, we might touch base once or twice but we definitely don’t constantly message. However, I have friends who WhatsApp their partners all day everyday. I worried that perhaps Ant and I weren’t talking enough, but when we discussed it we realised that neither of us have the time for this constant communication nor do we need it.

Share new experiences. 

It can be so tempting to fall into a lazy routine with your partner, especially when you live together. You take for granted the fact that you will see each other at the end of every day, but is this really quality time? Ant and I try and plan in activities when we get time together such as visiting a park, going to a market or trying a new fitness class. If we have been apart for a while due to travel we always book in an evening to either go out for dinner or spend time at home making a new recipe. We also always have a trip booked in the diary to look forward to, even if its just a day trip in the UK. Scheduling in these shared experiences allows you to make new memories together which is so essential for keeping it fresh. 

Communication. 

You knew this was going to be in here didn’t you? It is said a lot, but that’s because it is so. fricking. important. There are a million and one things to say about communication but theres some key bullet points I’ve learnt over the past four years:

  • Handle issues when they arise and be open from the get-go. If something is winding you up just say it, don’t sit on it and simmer away until you explode. That isn’t fun for anyone.
  • Don’t go to sleep angry, always at least attempt to settle an argument before bed.
  • The silent treatment is unproductive as hell, don’t do it. Just take space from each other if you need it. 
  • Avoid shouting if you can. Ant and I have never had a shouting match, instead we just have stern and snappy discussions – and we never speak over each other to ensure we’re both heard. These still aren’t much fun but they get the job done and allow us to both get our points across.
  • Understand how the other person works. This takes time, experience and trial and error. For example Ant sometimes goes into a mood, I used to pester him until he told me what was wrong and it never ended well. Now, I leave him alone and he comes to me when he is ready to discuss it and it usually goes much more smoothly. 
  • Admit you’re wrong if you are. Say you’re sorry. Let your pride go and just say it.

Compromise is key. 

No two people fit perfectly together like a jigsaw. You are two completely different humans who are now co-existing. There will be areas where you disagree, clash and ultimately have to compromise. For example, in our relationship the main area Ant and I had to compromise on is cleaning. I like to think I am a tidy human, but I am nowhere near Ants level! When I first moved in this was a huge issue and I am not ashamed to admit it took us over 18 months of living together to come to a point where we co-exist with hardly any cleaning clashes. Ant had to lower his expectations and I had to raise my game to reach these. It took compromise from both of us but we are finally at a point where we are both happy when it comes to housework. Phew!

A daily gratitude practice. 

My favourite moment of my day, every day, is our daily gratitude practice we do in bed. We cuddle, discuss our days and share our reflections:

  • Three highlights of our day/things we are grateful for from that day.
  • One way we could have improved.
  • One intention for the next day.

This daily practice means that even if we have had a super busy day and hardly had chance to chat, we always get an opportunity to connect before we fall asleep.

I am only four years into this relationship, so I am certain I will learn countless more lessons over the course of my lifetime. I would love to hear about your long term relationship experiences and the lessons you have learnt as a result of them, feel free to slide into my DMs on instagram and share them with me!

Zanna xx

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