How to Make a Relationship Work

Hey Wanderers, this is a little different than my usual posts, but I get asked this question often so I thought, why not write about it. Since I haven’t been able to travel much, I might do a whole series on relationships. Stay tuned.

Quick little history: I’ve been with my husband for 15 years, married for 11 of them. We got together young, and the truth is, I’m surprised we’re still together and still in love. At such a young age, we didn’t know who we were as individuals, so two people trying to figure that out together? That is asking for a lot. The growing pains through a person’s twenties is nothing to sneeze at. That whole decade is just a bunch of ‘what the f*ck am I doing?’ moments mixed into those ‘what do you mean I’m an adult now?’ and ‘who am I?’ times. Somehow, we made it through. I had to look back to answer this question of how to make it work. I loved him the moment I met him–even though I pretended otherwise for a while. As I looked back, I noticed key factors that work for us as a couple.

Small disclaimer: Relationships are obviously different for each couple, some things work for one while that same thing won’t work for another. I’ll tell you what’s been working for us and you can choose to do what you like with that information.

What are the key factors to a good relationship?

Communication: I bet you’re rolling your eyes right now, I know I just did. But, I said it and it’s true. It didn’t happen right away, it took years to get to the point where we’re able to effectively communicate how we feel or what we’re thinking. Initially, we argued like crazy over the dumbest shit that made no sense. Like; ‘why didn’t he call to tell me he stopped by the store on his way home?’ or ‘why didn’t I tell him I would be out with friends later?’ See what happened there? We didn’t talk to each other. Mostly, what I wanted was for him to check in with me in case of emergency. I would know his last location if something happened and I couldn’t reach him. I found out he was thinking the same thing! No we are not trying to control the other person’s individual life, but at least we don’t have to worry about the other vanishing without a trace. Which leads me to the next point.

Trust: Yep, that one is a big one and it is so easy to say it versus having it. Trust is earned. We’ve all been there in those relationships where someone lies. Someone cheated. Someone broke the trust and our hearts. Just because I was young when I started dating my husband doesn’t mean I didn’t get to have these experiences and yes, you never forget them. If we’re being totally honest, we’re all a bit guilty of assuming the new person we’re dating is going to do the same thing as the last. Trust with someone takes time and lot’s of… yep, you guessed it, communication. Best way to get there? Make a deal. Right when we decided to get serious–which we talked about first–we decided there would be one major rule we could not break; if either one of us decided the relationship was no longer what we wanted–or we met someone else–we had to say something to the other person and end it. That deal still stands to this day. We both had to trust that the other would honor the agreement and the trust grew higher and higher as time went on. This leads me to the next piece of advice.

Honesty: Not the same as trust, because this one is on you and you alone my friend. You aren’t innocent in your actions during relationships, you have to be accountable for what you do and what you say. We all have a responsibility to be honest if we’re starting to get serious with someone. I am not a very open person, I tend to lock up all the things I’ve gone through and hide them away. Sure, it’s fine when you barely know someone, but soon they’re going to realize you’re hiding something and it will make you two fight, but neither of you will probably understand why. If you aren’t honest with the other person in the relationship about what you want from it or how you feel, they won’t know. Simple as that. Nobody can know what you’re feeling or hiding away unless you tell them. This is all part of how they get to know you. You’re building a friendship with this other person and friendships require honesty, trust, communication and the next bit of advice.

Intimacy; Ooo the fun one right? WRONG. I am not talking about sex. I am talking about the little things that only you two share with each other. This is the deepest part of a relationship. You cannot and will not truly reach this point without the last few pieces of the puzzle I’ve listed above. This is where the person you’re with understands you on a level that nobody else does. They have gotten to know your fears, past, traumas, accomplishments, failures, plans for the future and heard you fart. OH YES, I said fart. You two have inside jokes and have seen each other without makeup, sick and utterly human. This is where the choice to stay or go lies. This is where the love lives. But, both parties must feel it, express it and talk about it or there’s a chance it could be one sided. Talk about it if there is a doubt. If there isn’t, you are making it work just fine.

Sure, we all fight, we all have bad days and even days where we want to throw in the towel, because life isn’t prefect and it kicks like a mule. There are highs and lows and sometimes they can last a while, or sometimes they require help from a counselor and that is alright. Every day is work, but not the kind that should leave you feeling drained, instead it should leave you feeling accomplished. At the end of the day if you both are willing to put in the work, then the love will grow into something fantastic.

Keep those boots wandering and those hearts filled with the possibility of love. There will be more on relationships soon! We can dive in deeper and see what we find.

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