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March 23, 2016

five years

How to survive & thrive in a long-term relationship
Five years ago I was standing in Heather's kitchen, making a life-changing decision. It didn't feel like it at the time. The heavens didn't part. There were no trumpets. There wasn't even a soaring flock of doves (there were a lot of squirrels living in her yard, if that counts for anything). Heather was asking me, in short, to "go steady." I said yes. I'm so happy I said yes.

For the past five years I have been growing, changing, & “adult-ing” in ways I never thought I'd be capable of. Heather & I officially crossed the big five-year mark this past week. I’m still feeling the reverberations from reaching that milestone. Because the past half-decade has been all about communication & honesty, I'm going to be honest here with you, my favorite readers. 

These five years have taught me invaluable things about myself & what it actually takes to maintain a  long-term relationship. Newsflash: it’s not a walk in the park. It’s a lot of work to make it work. All of that effort makes it feel worth it, & that work that I've accomplished allows me a sense of strength in myself. I feel like I’m a more complete person after learning to communicate, be open, & adapt to change. I was so awful at doing any of those things before, & now with those skills at hand, I feel like I can do just about anything. 

Communication is the big one. I know I’m not alone in this (#introvertproblems). Frankly I never thought I’d ever be decent at communication. I’m not a boat-rocker, I don’t like to inconvenience others, & I really hate talking about my “fee-fees.” I had to throw all that aside when I started dating Heather. If I got upset, she wanted answers. If there was a decision to be made, she needed my vote. Communicating openly does not come naturally to me, but the more I shared, the more I felt things were working. Relationship-gurus say it all the time: “Communication is key,” & I’m going to have to agree with them.

Along with learning to communicate came learning to be open. Again, I’m not one to show my soft side. I am a master at shutting those pesky emotions down. Which, as I figured out, is impossible to do without shutting others out as well. It feels incredible to be in a place where I can be open about how I feel with someone else, even if those feelings seem small & silly to me. I hadn’t let my guard down enough to trust someone with the parts of me that are most vulnerable until now (or the goofy side of me if I’m being totally honest). Not being open to the world meant I wasn’t being honest with myself. I didn’t have a good sense of who I was before I entered this relationship, but after having to come to terms with myself I feel totally different. I feel great. It’s been weird getting to know myself. I’m not a pretty person through & through, but I’m definitely not as ugly as I had built myself up to be.

Communicating lead me to being more open about who I am. That trust with Heather meant trusting her on a lot of different fronts. There is always some compromising to do in a relationship, & the longer I’ve been in this relationship the more I know I want to be open to change. Change is great. Change is what got us here to a new city. Change is what put me in this relationship to begin with. As paradoxical as it seems, being open to change in a relationship allows me to feel more independent on my own. I feel more like myself because I've learned to adapt. Who knew?

I never thought I'd end up here, both happy with someone else & happy with being myself. While I don't believe in love at first sight, I do believe in a love that grows sight after sight. I believe in a love that builds up over time, that grows strong & intertwined, that bends in the breeze but doesn't break. I know I have that. I'm so happy I have that. Gah. 
Happy Five Year Anniversary

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