Hard Truths About Love
What I’ve learned from the first year of my relationship.
I got into my first serious relationship last year.
Now that I’m going on year two with my boyfriend, I’ve started asking myself questions beyond the surface-level “do I like him?” and “how does he make me feel?” evaluations that really mattered at the beginning of our relationship.
For anyone who’s in a similar spot, past the initial butterflies and giddiness of new love, here are a few hard truths that I’ve learned during the first year of my relationship.
Don’t be afraid of disagreements.
I used to think that happy couples didn’t fight.
Any healthy relationship is going to involve some disagreements. What really counts is how you and your partner choose to approach them.
Do they bulldoze their way through a conversation rather than listening to your perspective?
Do they pressure or manipulate you into changing your mind?
How they behave once a disagreement is resolved? Do they hold a grudge? Do they bring it up over and over again?
Does the same issue rear its ugly head every time a new disagreement pops up?
If your (or their) answers to any of these questions is yes, you guys have your work cut out for you.
It doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed to fail. Learning how to argue and disagree well is a life skill. And like any other skill, enough practice will make you much better at it.
Some tips for having healthy disagreements:
Avoid using the word ‘but’ whenever you can. Just do right into your next thought, or use an alternative phrase like:
- I would appreciate it if…
- Next time…
Use “we” and “us” whenever you can. It emphasizes the fact that you are on the same team.
- What changes are we going to make?
- Can we work on this together?
- Let’s do this for us…
Repeat back to your partner what you believe they said. Either they will agree, and know that you comprehend their perspective, or they will phrase it in a different way. Either way, it’s a great exercise for learning to understand each other better.
There is such a thing as good criticism.
Nobody likes to be criticized by their partner. But sometimes a little criticism can be good. We don’t always realize our toxic habits until someone else points it out to us.
(And let’s be real here, we’re all a little toxic.)
At the beginning of my relationship, I had a my-way-or-the-highway attitude when it came to certain things. This wasn’t the best, but it came from a place of not wanting to make any rookie first-time-girlfriend mistakes.
My boyfriend lovingly pointed out that in a relationship, two people are a team and should both have a say in matters that affect their relationship. It shouldn’t be one person making the decisions, and the other being forced to comply.
It was hard to hear, but I needed to hear it.
I can still be a bit of a bulldozer when I feel strongly about something (he jokingly calls it my “fire breathing dragon” side), but I am more conscious of how I speak about things that affect our relationship.
Criticisms like these can make you self-aware of how you might be emotionally impacting your partner and what adjustments you should make so that they feel loved and understood.
As long as your partner calls you out from a place of love (they aren’t rude or verbally abusive) it is really important for them to communicate ways that you can improve. And vice versa.
This isn’t fun. It’s going to sting at first, but it’s better to be constantly growing in your relationship than to stay stagnant, repeating the same toxic habits over and over.
You don’t need to have it all figured out.
This is a big one. I used to think that in order to have a successful relationship, I had to have a timeline, a checklist, a map drawn up and a wedding dress picked out. (Haha, kidding about the last one.)
I used to think I needed to have all the answers, or the relationship would fall apart.
But recently, I’ve realized that there’s a difference between having a step-by-step agenda for everything, and steady growth towards a shared goal.
When you’re only a year or two in, like I am, you don’t need to know if and when you want to get married. You don’t need to decide where you’ll live, or what your jobs will be, or how many kids you’re going to have.
You might want to have a rough idea, sure, but planning everything to a T will emotionally and intellectually exhaust you.
So set the timelines, maps, and checklists aside and enjoy learning and growing in your relationship at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
My boyfriend and I are both in our early 20s, recent college grads, and just getting started on our adult careers.
If you’re in a similar spot, it’s okay to hold the marriage-and-kids conversation until you’re a bit further along.
It’s okay to not have it all planned. Part of life is rolling with the punches.
The ride is much more exciting that way.
But that’s just my two-cents.
I’m still learning every day about love and life, and the challenges that are bound to come up as I navigate through my 20s, my first job, and first real relationship.
My goal isn’t to be perfect and make no mistakes. After all, I’m just learning how to love.