I think it’s fair to say that the majority of us have had the experience of being in a bad relationship or being the one who “cares too much”, whether while dating a person or simply just being in a position where you like someone and they don’t like you back, especially in the casual dating scene. It’s easy to get caught up in an unhealthy relationship when you’re the person who cares too much, because often you have to compensate for the other person’s lack of caring by putting in effort on both sides of the relationship. Ever have to apologize for the other person’s wrongdoing, simply because you know that if you don’t, the problem won’t get solved? That’s over compensating. It seems to be human nature to want what we can’t have, so when someone is giving us less than what we ourselves give, we want to get more from them. This past year Babe and I have grown so much as a couple, and I’ve learned a lot of things about what qualities build a healthy relationship. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Trust is the rock upon where you build your home. When I let my guard down and trusted Babe blindly, I learned what being in true love is really like. If you’re able to fully trust, you feel emotions and appreciate the little things more than you’d ever imagine. Plus, you fight a whole lot less, meaning more time for fun. The bottom line is, if your gut is right more times than not, you should trust it. And if your gut is more trustworthy than your partner, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship. My gut no longer speaks to me the way it did when I was single, and I know that’s because I’m with a trustworthy partner.
2. Flaws and quirks are meant to be embraced, not hidden or put down. I have a bad habit of binge eating on junk food. I also apologize for things I don’t need to apologize for, and I often sweat the small stuff. At some point in our relationship I stopped trying to hide these things and other flaws of mine and I realized Babe loved me more for it. Together we’ll have a binge night and he picks me up when I get worked up over irrelevant things. On the flip side, I love my Babe’s need for constant cleanliness, and think it’s adorable when he uses words out of context. Every quirk makes him more unique, which reminds me that there’s no other love like ours. If flaws and quirks are more irritating than endearing, it will only get worse with time. Everyone has flaws, it’s just a matter of finding someone whose flaws you can embrace for the rest of your life.
3. Sacrifice is a must. I fall asleep through half the movies we watch (his pick). He drives so I can finish getting ready in the car. No one should feel guilty for doing things in life that make them happy, when they’re doing it beside their life partner. If you feel like you can’t or don’t want to ask your partner to take one for the team, what you really should be asking is, why not?
4. You don’t have to be “on” all the time. I always thought I had to be happy, funny, sexy, etc., even when I wasn’t feeling it or otherwise my partner would become turned off. When my grandpa passed away earlier this month, the switch I normally flipped to feel “on” was heavier than a slab of concrete, and I couldn’t hide the depression I fell into. It felt like a miracle when the more selfish I was, the more selfless Babe became in order to help me function. I realized then what ‘for better or for worse’ meant, because I felt I was at my worst and despite that, Babe stuck by my side. It’s important in a relationship to be able to be yourself, because somewhere along the line when you or your partner can’t fake it any longer, it could show you that you don’t really know the person you fell in love with.
5. Communication is key. Maybe you’re like me, and you bite your tongue when you’re scared someone will leave if you speak your mind. For most of my life I’ve avoided stating my opinion in fear of rejection, but if you’re considering the rest of your life, suppressing your feelings is like a ticking time bomb that will eventually explode in the form of word vomit or some sort of breakdown. If you find yourself someone that you’re attracted to, but can also share your fears and annoyances and thoughts and opinions, you’ve hit the jackpot.
6. Be in love with your life outside of your love life. In unhealthy relationships it can be hard to be excited for your partner when they go out with their friends, or it might sound familiar that you can’t get a night off without being glued to your phone all night answering your babe’s questions. This summer Babe went to Vegas with the boys and on a two week Australian hockey tour for concussion awareness, and it felt amazing to not feel stressed about what he was doing and when, especially if he wasn’t in service. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard to watch Babe party if I’m stuck at work, but being able to be genuinely happy to see Babe have fun with his friends helps us be independent in a codependent relationship. At the same time, being unapologetic when it comes to spending the night with my girls has also become something I think Babe admires about me now that I’m comfortable doing that, and it’s something that’s solidified my support system.
7. Recognizing faults vs. flaws. Picture a time when your parent or grandparent has embarrassed you with something they’ve said in public. With my grandparents being immigrants from Poland, I often blamed the language barrier for things they said, even though I knew they meant every word. Now apply that to your partner. Do you blame flirtatious behavior on being ‘friendly’? Or justify them forgetting something important like your birthday due to ‘work stress’ or other excuses, in order to hide your disappointment? There’s a time to recognize what is harmless fun, and what is a compromise of your morals to stick with someone.
8. Be grateful more for the emotional gifts, than monetary gifts. Thanking your partner for the compliments and kind gestures will continue that behavior. Babe is great at the simple things that matter, like giving me pep talks when I’ve had a rough day at work, or telling me I deserve a day off when I feel guilty for being lazy, and I never fail to thank him for it. At the end of the day, the emotional support lasts a lot longer than a dozen roses do, and takes a lot more authenticity than a purchase does (I still love both, just saying). It’s important to emotionally invest in each other, and to take note on whether the physical gifts come after your partner messes up or ‘just because’, and how vulnerable they make themselves emotionally.
9. If your partner is close with their family, you should be too. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, but many, many times when a person doesn’t introduce you to their family when they are tight knit, it’s a red flag. I’m very lucky that Babe and I are both close with our families, and even more lucky that they get along, but allowing each other to tag along at family events and to grow close to family members creates meaningful bonds that establish roots in the relationship. I have so many happy thoughts about Babe’s mom or mine babysitting our future kids. If your partner is constantly with his family but doesn’t invite you around, and you’ve been together long enough that you’re official and talking about the future, it might be time to question it.
10. Understanding that you will very rarely find someone on the exact same path in life as you, and appreciating that. It’s not often you’ll meet a partner that has a similar bank account balance, similar salary, or similar history of saving as you, and that can cause strain on your relationship. I graduated university in May of this year, while Babe has been playing hockey professionally for several years already. While I used to be slightly ashamed that I haven’t saved much while being in university full time for the past 6 years, it is now invigorating that I am making nursing wages and am able to fully support myself. While I could understand why I would be jealous of Babe for having a lot of money, and could understand if Babe had boundaries for spending money on me to make it equal, we found a balance where I spend what I can afford and so does Babe, and he motivates me to get to work and be responsible with money, instead of putting me down for starting so far behind him. Money, in my opinion, is one of the top reasons for tension in the relationship, and is something that should be discussed openly and honestly.
There’s an underlying message in each of these lessons, and it all comes back to trust. Without trust, it is hard to build emotional stability, independence, individuality, and honesty. Trust may not come immediately, but if it is not something that is constantly improving, it is something to consider a serious warning flag. I feel lucky to be in such a safe, loving relationship with Babe, but it didn’t come without some work, some arguments, some laughter, and some misunderstandings. If there is mutual love, respect and trust, I believe anything can be conquered.
I want to know what lessons you’ve learned from healthy relationships, or the things you’ve learned when it hasn’t been so great. Comment below!