This isn't a brag by any means, okay just kidding it totally is, but far too often I have heard from numerous gal pals that I should write a book on how men should be treating women. Too often that it no longer sits well with me. Men, it's time to do better. I know this will be a tough pill to swallow, learning how a man should treat his significant other coming from a transman, but buckle up and enjoy the ride. You and your partner will both be glad you did.
Class is in session and today we will begin a topic that should not even need to be taught; effort. Effort should be put forth from both sides of the relationship, it cannot be just one person filling the cup. How fair is that? One person cannot carry the entire weight of the relationship. It won't always be 50/50 either. Some days your partner will be feeling off and you'll have to pick up the slack and carry more weight, which is fine because they'll be doing the same for you when its your turn to have an off day. A relationship is a partnership for a reason.
Actively putting forth effort into your relationship does not and will not ever have an expiration date, this is something that needs to be ongoing for the duration of the relationship. Everyday we are pushing ourselves through something rigorous with an end goal in mind; cramming all night for an exam, pushing ourselves through that last set at the gym, your relationship should be no different. Take a step back and look at your relationship, what is your end goal? Happiness? Friendship? Lifelong partnership? Your answer should be all of the above, and that cannot happen if effort isn't being made day in and day out. Falling into a 'comfortable' routine of waking up and falling asleep in the same bed with a few 'i love you's here and there is hardly putting forth any effort. If you want your grass to be green, you have to water it.
The biggest thing when it comes to effort, never stop trying. It doesn't matter if you've been together for a week or 10 years, view every day as a new opportunity to convice your partner to fall in love with you all over again. It doesn't always have to be big, expensive, grand gestures either. Just pick up their favorite flowers or snack if you see it in the store, cook their favorite dinner for them without having to be asked, plan a date night, ANYTHING. It is extremely important for your partner to feel like they still matter to you and you actually give a damn. Any 'little' thing to put a smile on your partners face will be remembered for far longer than you'd expect. It's nice to know someone was thinking of you or wanted to make your day a little easier. Think about how you would want to be treated in a relationship, or the small gestures you would like yourself, if you put that into your relationship, it will come back around to you. You get back what you put forth. You cannot expect to be showered with affection if you yourself are not doing the same. Fill each other's cup. The honey moon phase only dies if you let it!
Another, yet again simple, way of making an effort in your relationship is just simply being friends with your significant other. I believe you shouldn't be dating or married to someone who is not your bestfriend. The two should be one and the same. It's so important to be able to laugh and be silly together. Doing things together is a great way to form a stronger friendship bond. These can be activities or hobbies you both enjoy, or introduce one another to something new, keep it alive! It's also important to encourage each other, regardless if it is a fun new hobby or an important independent goal you are trying to reach. The more confidence you have in your partner, the more confidence they will have in both you and themselves. Always remember, you are a team. Speak highly of each other, even when your parner is not around. You want them to feel as if they can conquer the world so that together, you will do so.
For this one, men especially, I am looking at you. I struggle with this myself, but if you want a successful relationship, you need to communicate! Men, I've learned that there is absolutely nothing wrong, feminine, "gay", or soft about expressing your feelings and emotions. No one thinks you're and extra tough guy for bottling everything inside. It's okay to ask for help or admit when you're feeling a little lost, that is why you have your partner! However, they won't know how to help you unless you communicate what it is you need. The first and most important step to overcoming the battles inside your head is simply getting them out in the open. It can be so refreshing to get anothers perspective on whatever it is that you're going through. Often times, they may have a resolution you would not have even thought about. Even if your partner doesn't have the perfect answer for the struggles you're facing, being open with them about it will allow them to help to the best of their ability. You should never feel like you're alone in your relationship. With the right partner, there is nothing you could say or be feeling that would make them want to run and hide and leave you lonely. The right partner will step up and fight your battles with you. It doesn't make you "weak" asking for help, if anything, the strongest thing someone can do for themselves is reach out and admit they need it.
Communication isn't just talking about the feelings and emotions you're having, communication is the raw and real talks we try so hard to avoid. If your partner is doing something you don't like, call them out on it! If you don't, that behavior will just continue. Not correcting what bothers you tells your partner you're okay with it. Be very careful with what you tolerate; you are unconciously teaching people how to treat you. Communication is not easy for a reason. You should feel safe speaking to your partner no matter the issue or topic at hand. The more clear and open your communication is with each other, the easier tackling problems together will be. When you fight, don't just 'brush it under the rug'. No matter the issue or argument, you need to speak about it so that it is not repeated. It is important to speak and feel heard, both of you. Admit when you're wrong and apologize when it is necesarry. You do not get a say in how what you've done affects your partner. If you've done something to upset them or hurt their feelings, you do not get to say that it shouldn't, nor do you get to put a time stamp on how long they're allowed to hurt for. Own up to your wrongs, correct them, and avoid making the same mistakes moving forward together.
When you do fight, which you will because every healthy relationship does, don't shut down or look to outside sources to cure your pain. I think a huge problem with our generation today is the need for instant gratification or validation. When we fight with our partner, we go seek attention and validation from others that are in no way involved in our relationship. The answers to your problems with your partner are not going to come from Instagram comments or a couple likes on a photo, the answers you need are in one another. Don't let an argument come between and destroy something with the potential to be so beautiful. When your headlight on your car goes out, you don't buy a new car (unless you've got money, honey) you fix the headlight. When you fight, you fix the problem, you don't seek affection or attention from another, and you certainly shouldn't be bringing someone else into your relationship.
The only thing that is fair in life is that it is unfair to everyone. Tomorrow is not promised and life is too damn short. Never pass up the opportunity to tell or make your partner feel loved. Men, I'm looking at you directly again for this; show your emotions! Get a little mushy, be romantic! I promise your girlfriend will eat that up so much more than they will your tough guy act. I promise the more your significant other feels loved, the more they will pour themselves back to you. You build each other up. I've found in my relationship that the happier I am, the happier my girlfriend is, and the happier we are together as one. I think of a relationship as two glasses, an empty one cannot fill the other, make sure you're filling each other's glass with love and affection every day. I tell my girlfriend I love her about a million times a day, and I don't say it just to say it. I say it because in that day there were a million different instances that made me feel love for her. Whenever it pops into your head, say it, no matter where or when. There is no worse feeling than thinking the one you love doesn't feel the exact same in return. No one will ever grow tired of hearing "I love you" when it's genuine.
There are days where everything does seem "too hard" or you're "too tired" to make the efforts you feel you should be making, but if a truly happy and successful relationship is what you're after, those efforts cannot be stopped or be lack luster. The second those efforts stop, you'll drift farther and farther from the ideal relationship you're after. Like anything worth having in life, a relationship needs work every single day, not just when you feel like it. It's going to take an incredible amount of time, effort, and patience, but it will all be extremely worth it in the end. Some days will be much harder than the others and when those days happen, that is when you need those efforts more than ever. Remember, your relationship is a partnership, be there for one another. Be vulnerable and open up to one another. Whatever you're facing, face it together. Continuing to do these simple things each day will only make it easier to integrate into your daily routine. As the days go on and the efforts are continuing to be made, I can promise you that over time you will start to notice your days becoming brighter and your relationship blooming into the one you always dream about having from those cheesy rom-com movies. The more work and effort you put into your relationship, the more it will benefit you both individually and together as one.
In two short days on July 25th, I will have had the honor and privilege of being with the love of my life for two whole years. It's been anything but easy, but I still look at her and get the same butterflies I had the first time I saw her. She has taught me so much about myself, emotions and how to deal with them, and she makes me want to be the best possible version of myself every single day. I pray you all find that person who sets your soul on fire like I have, and when you do, never let it go. Work everyday to keep it yours. As long as you're both putting in the efforts necessary, that flame will never die out. We all deserve to be with someone who wants to be with us.