10 Things I Learned From a Serious 3-Year Relationship

10 Things I Learned From a Serious 3-Year Relationship

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

  1. Love languages
  2. Like them barely, love them always
  3. 80/20 rule
  4. Enhance each other
  5. Struggle together
  6. Your friends, their friends. Your family, their family.
  7. Nuances and more nuances
  8. Dream, and keep dreaming
  9. Think, and keep thinking
  10. Love, and keep loving

August 23rd, 2017 made my three-year anniversary with my college sweetheart. And despite how we’ve grown, mentally and physically, it never ceases to amaze me about how much I learn about him on a daily basis.

We moved in together this past June. Commonly, people say that moving into together is a necessity, as it can be a make or break situation once you experienced their living habits. I figured since I slept over at my boyfriend’s college “frat” house almost every night and that we lived together for a month and a half before we signed the lease to the condo we now call home, that there really couldn’t be surprises. Obviously, I was wrong.

He leaves the cabinets open after he’s done grabbing whatever he needs out of them. He leaves shoes and other accessories in misplaced areas of our place. He leaves the toilet seat up, sometimes. And it drives me nuts. But looking on the bright side, I think he’s unknowingly helping me prepare to be a future mom. Because I’m sure children have similar habits…

More importantly, these three years have taught me many things about being in a serious relationship with someone. Things that have grown, healed and salvaged my relationship in the best and worst of times.

1. Love Languages

Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages,” describes five mental, physical, and sensory ways in which people prefer to be loved. These include:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

I believe it’s common for people to assume that love languages are determined by one of two things: gender or by their own personal preferences.

Gender: People may assume that woman like words of affirmation because they may tend to express their feelings, or may assume that men like physical touch because they may tend to initiate sex. But what people do to communicate or feel is not the same as how they prefer to be loved.

Their Personal Preferences: Subconsciously, but more commonly, I believe people assume that people want to be loved in the way that they personally want to be loved. Often, because of the common phrase, “opposites attract,” that’s likely untrue.

For example, I am a person that best receives love through quality time, receiving gifts, or physical touch. My personality speaks to these: I prefer quality time because I often felt like a loner or an outlier within my family and people at school. Receiving gifts is one of my preferences because I tend to have expensive taste. Physical touch was a preference I oddly enough developed as I worked in the food industry throughout college -- my co-workers often had very aggressive and straightforward personalities due to the climate of our work environment, yet they often showed affirmation through touch, like hugging when greeting each other (before a stressful shift, of course) or grabbing your attention by tapping your shoulder or arm, rather than just calling your attention. (Short story, you’d have to be a part of the server culture to understand).

My boyfriend, on the other hand, prefers words of affirmation and acts of service. His personality speaks to these as well, as he is very much motivated by vocalized support from others, and feels honored and appreciative when others do things for him.

What’s interesting about the examples above is that they’re not directly related to love. Due to that, love languages can not only be beneficial to you and your significant other but can also benefit the relationships with your friends and family as well.

As for relationships, I recommend you try this right off the bat. Because, in my opinion, nothing is worse than loving your partner the wrong way.

Discover you and your partner’s love languages here.

2. Like Them Barely, Love Them Always

As I said, I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years. I went from seeing him once a week to go on dates to waking him up in the middle of the night to tell him to stop snoring.

The longer and closer in proximity you are to your partner, the more you’re going to recognize irritating little things about them. Literally to the point where you don’t even like them some days. And once you’re in your right mind after practically hating them, you’re going to feel guilty about it. But I’m telling you not to.

Because the truth of the matter is, most of the time you’re probably not going to like your partner.

This is because that mystery and distance that there once was when you were in the beginning stages of your relationship no longer exists. Your relationship matures. When they get sick, you get sick. When they have problems, you inherit those problems too. That’s just the cycle of a relationship.

But it’s important to never, ever forget the reasons why you fell in love with them. So, that means you must have already established beforehand the qualities, specifically morally and spiritually, that that person must have. And you don’t get into a relationship with someone that doesn’t have those things. Because those are the things that should never change about them and will ground your relationship when things get rocky.

So, #1: Love your partner 100%

That means, no matter how bad they piss you off, you’ll always love them. Even if you’re not emotionally or verbally ready to express it while you’re angry at them.

#2: Like them however less you need to

That meaning, you don’t have to like your partner as much as you love them. I believe liking your partner is the one variable you can have in your relationship. That percentage is probably going to change from day-to-day and even hour-by-hour due to how your partner acts and what type of mood you’re in, but the love you have for them should never change.

3. The 80/20 Rule

This dating theory states that you only get about 80% of what you want in a partner. (However, as I explained prior, NEVER compromise on morals and values.)

Unfortunately, in relationships, sometimes people get fixated on that 20% that their partner is not. And that missing 20% is especially easy to pay attention to during the moments you don’t like them. That’s why remembering and truly committing to always loving your partner is absolutely essential because forgetting to love them and focusing on that 20% is what leads people to cheat on their partner.

We see this over and over again when people leave their significant others for less attractive or less smart people -- those are those 20% people.

People tend to seek out that outstanding 20% their partner doesn’t have when they step out on them. And of course, if that person gets caught, most likely their 80% relationship ends and they’re stuck with that 20%, or worse, left with nothing.

That’s where the “like them barely, love them always” come in. No one’s perfect. And it’s a blessing to find someone that meets 80% of your requirements. You’re not going to like them, often. But that doesn’t mean that you should seek someone else because of that, especially with no intentions to break off your current relationship, because that 20% will most likely never be that 80%. Always remember that.

4. Enhance Each Other

Considering that “opposites attract,” your significant other should have some strengths that you don’t have, just as they’ll have some weaknesses you don’t have.

For example, my bf studied math in college. Though I studied marketing, and marketing has a lot to do with analytics and metrics, math is my worst subject. Personality-wise, my bf is pretty introverted and laidback, whereas I have a tendency to be extroverted and high strung. I’m also pretty proactive, whereas my bf as a procrastinator.

We’ve got plenty of opposite personality traits, but they work because those traits present the opportunity for us to push each other to be better. And I think those opportunities are important to have, especially when you’re young and exploring adulthood together. The more you can learn and grow together, the better.

5. Struggle Together

What comes with learning and growing together? Struggling together. As I mentioned prior, I’m dating my college sweetheart. We know what it’s like to be broke college students, and now we’re getting acclimated to being broke entry-level professionals. I believe being broke is inevitable in certain stages of life, and having a significant other by your side during those times who can understand and live through that the struggle makes for a strong relationship. Because in the end, you all can appreciate looking back at all the obstacles you’ve conquered together.

6. Your Friends, Their Friends. Your Family, Their Family.

I can’t even begin to express how important this is. The coming together of two people does not just end at those two people. You adopt various things from that person’s lifestyle, from their personality quirks to their favorite shows and restaurants. But more importantly, you adopt the people that are in their lives too.

Ideally, in my opinion, you should have your friend group befriend their friend group. And of course, you’d want you and your family to get along with them and their family.

I’ve lived firsthand with a parent that despised their in-laws and it made nothing short of a stressful climate during every holiday, graduation, etc. You don’t want that for your relationship, trust me.

Know that having an attitude of “it’s you two against the world” is a recipe for disaster. Whether we like it or not, our lives revolve around the relationships we have with others, from family, to friends, to coworkers and bosses, and we have to be mindful of the people we allow into our lives and how we treat them.

So when it comes down to you and your significant other getting together with friends, be cognizant of the way your partner acts around them, and vice versa. Be kind, be open-minded. Be aware of how your actions, whether you two are in the same room together or separate, as you or your partner are always a representation of your relationship as a unit, so act accordingly.

I also recommend, as a side note, that when you're upset with your partner, that you don’t go around bad-mouthing your partner to your friends, because when you two make up, your friends will most likely not be willing to forgive them like you did because they’re not living in your relationship.

7. Nuances and More Nuances

As I mentioned earlier, there are little things that my bf does around the house that drives me nuts, like leaving cabinet situation that I mentioned earlier. It makes zero sense, and because it makes zero sense to me, I usually call him on it.

But as you’ve heard before, it’s important to choose your battles. Because, first of all, everything doesn’t have to be a “battle,” because you’ll need to determine whether the things that you’ve requested or things that bother you are because they’re detrimental to your beliefs, safety, or overall relationship or because they’re just your personal preference. And for the record, there’s nothing wrong with having your personal preferences, just as long as you know that they may not all be a priority to your partner and that you may have to make those things happen with your own efforts rather than relying on your partner to do them.

Nuances are nuances, and they suck, but they shouldn’t suck the life out of your relationship.

8. Dream and Keep Dreaming

What’s so great about having a relationship, especially at a young age, is that your relationship should ideally feel limitless. Even if there are constraints or setbacks at this current stage of it, down the line, when looking at a serious relationship, you should be able to see much bigger and better things down the line.

My bf and I dream all the time about our future lives -- our home, marriage, kids, retirement. Of course, we can’t ensure how those things will happen or if all those things will happen at all. But we have a plan, and we can dream, and that’s all that matters. It keeps our relationship alive while we’re struggling right now.

9. Think and Keep Thinking

Just like your job, your relationship is work. If you’re young, in your 20s like us, you’re going to go through growing pains both on your own and in your relationship. And therefore, to not want to up and quit during those growing pains, you’re going to need to think and keep thinking. Keep thinking of ways to love your partner, (of course with the help of understanding their love languages), keep thinking of ways to have fun with your partner, and keep thinking of ways to become a better person for your both yourself and your relationship.

As easy and tempting as it is to go on autopilot in life, your relationship is something that you have to constantly be proactive with. Like a plant or a flower, your partner and relationship is living, and the only way to keep it alive and help it bloom to its fullest extent is to maintain and nourish it with water. And in your relationship, thinking and effort will serve as that nourishing water.

10. Love and Keep Loving

Finally, if nothing else makes sense, implementing love as much as possible in a serious relationship is the most important thing. I truly believe, whether we’re talking relationships or just people, that everyone needs love. A love-centered response or effort can make all the difference in people’s response or view toward you. People are going to be difficult, especially your partner, and that’s often because growing up sucks and life is hard. But choosing to be loving toward them, whether they deserve it or not, will make for a more positive relationship and a stronger love among one another.

A relationship is tough, because people are tough. However, I believe that a relationship that’s committed to love, healing, and growth will prevail. So keep loving people and don’t settle for anyone that won’t commit to love or understand these important lessons.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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