You know, I often think about the idea we all have of that one couple that have been together all their life and manage to still be in love.
You know the couple I’m talking about – the old couple cuddling on a park bench that you may have seen one time.
Or maybe your grandparents quietly eating breakfast together in so much comfort that no words need to be said.
Whatever the idea we all have about relationships – we have this goal.
- To grow old together.
- To have someone on your death bed.
- To be a team with someone till the end.
- To still be in love in 50 years.
I mean, how many couples do we really see love each other in everyday life?
For me, not so many.
But it exists. And knowing it exists gives us everything we need to keep hope alive.
These thought often bring me to thinking about Damien and myself.
We’ve been together for 9 years.
I remember when we first started dating, I was blown away that his longest relationship went for 4 years.
I couldn’t imagine being with someone for 4 whole years.
I was 20 when we met, he was 26.
To think I’ve been with Damien most of my adult life is mind-blowing.
More than double the 4 years together that I thought was a huge accomplishment.
And consequently, the cause of so much of my troubles.
But on that a little later…
If you had a camera on our day-to-day lives nowadays, you would see that we are happy.
- We laugh with each other.
- We share.
- We generally like each other.
Had I not been here, I would never have believed that relationships can be easy.
To me, it was always exhausting.
And if you saw us now, you may look at us and think, “Wow, they can still be happy after 9 years, I want that”.
What you would be doing is selling my relationship short.
Let me tell you some of the issues we have had:
- We started a business together and all romance *whoosh* went out the window because we saw each other literally 24 hours a day.
- There’s been 3 times in my relationship where I literally felt like I hated him. I just couldn’t stand anything about him.
- We had a habit of forcing each other to do things, to become who we wanted our partners to be. You HAVE to do this & that – It created a lot of resentment.
- We tried open relationships that didn’t work – I emotionally cheated and it nearly broke us.
- I actually cheated and had a affair after I decided I needed to rebel but selfishly still wanted to keep the relationship.
- We lived in a household with constant stress – any small comment could bubble over into a fight. Neither of us wanted to back down.
- We had a break for 6 months where I went to Bali to figure out what I wanted from life.
I’m sure there are other examples I’ve missed.
When I think about all this, I often think it’s a miracle we made it as long as we have without breaking up for good.
It was a curse and a blessing to stick it out through all this.
The curse being that I needed the space to grow, learn and decide who I wanted to be as a adult.
The blessing being that we were able to create space for growth so we didn’t have to lose one another.
After our 6 month break from the relationship, I wanted to try making it work one more time.
I had learnt who I was and who I wanted to be.
And boy am I grateful I had the opportunity.
Damien had decided for himself that he would give me the 6 months to find myself.
And after some initial teething issues, we could see all the ways we hurt one another.
All the ways we played games that was unnecessary.
And with both of us eager to make it work, we just stopped.
Not straight away. But we started pointing out things we were doing.
We allowed each other to follow our own dreams.
We stopped reacting and being defensive.
We started talking about feelings and listening to our own.
We became friends again.
And suddenly it was easy.
Suddenly we could be our own people in the relationship.
Honestly, it’s been hard to trust it.
Hard to understand how to feel loved if someone isn’t chasing you, or arguing with you, or feeling jealous.
It’s been surprisingly hard to just BE.
And it’s been enough time, around 1.5 years – that we can now trust it a little.
But insecurities still creep in sometimes.
And we understand that our reactions are mostly from the past and will fade over time, as this new relationship becomes the norm.
Don’t get me wrong, it still gets hard a handful of times.
We still fight.
But it’s rare.
And never a fight that lasts for hours and creates trauma that I need to recover from.
If this is all I can expect from any relationship, I’m really fine with it.
In fact, it’s the best I could ever have hoped for.
To be able to be myself, and allow him to be himself.
I imagine us sitting on a bench in a park when we’re old.
Him making fun of me and kissing my nose.
Me hitting him lightly, then hugging.
Mmm, I’m really happy with that imagery.
Next time I see a beautiful old couple in the park, I’ll wonder how their relationship has fared over the years.
I’ll wonder who had an affair, who broke trust, who was selfish and terrible.
What their life truly was about.
Only then can I appreciate their relationship in it’s entirety.