Growing up, I didn’t know much about romantic relationships — besides the fact that I wanted a totally different one than my parents had.
I had my first serious boyfriend in college. He was the super cool guy. Tall, dark, handsome, smart. I lost myself in him. If I had to pick one word to describe this relationship, I’d choose “young.”
My second serious relationship was with a man polar opposite to the first. I stayed out of comfort. My first relationship ended so badly; this relationship was a safe zone. It was like riding a bike with training wheels. I wouldn’t get hurt. Eventually, this relationship ended too.
Then, I met the man I’m with now.
Our togetherness has taught me about a real relationship. Not the romantic movie kind of relationship; not the playing games kind of relationship; and certainly not the purely lustful kind of relationship — but a real relationship.
It’s been scary.
It’s been awesome.
It’s been growth.
Here’s what I’ve learned (so far). And what I now tell every woman who wants a real relationship too.
1. Grow during dark times.
You’re not the same person you were yesterday, let alone six months ago. You know you’ll change (and that’s all groovy), but you also know that you’ll grow together. Yet, the real test of a relationship is how you grow in dark times. Times that have you thinking it’s definitely over. Do you grow together, or do you grow apart?
2. Figure out how you fight.
Do you stonewall, get defensive, and throw personal jabs to cause pain? Or, do you say how you feel, listen to your partner’s feelings, and communicate what it is you really need? In other words, do you fight to hurt, or do you fight to grow?
3. Talk about money.
As uncomfortable as talking about money can be, discussing finances and learning how each of you views money is super important. Discuss your goals, dreams, and priorities and be open to having weekly or monthly meetings to see how things are lining up.
4. Communicate from your soul.
As a relationship continues, and you get more into the everyday type of stuff, you lose that soul-digging momentum you once had in the beginning where you want to pick each other’s brains and hearts. Bring some of that soul communication back on a daily basis, you’ll be amazed at what transforms. Try it!
5. Be vulnerable.
Baring your soul and voicing how you really feel is a relationship necessity. It used to take me hours (OK … minutes! But it felt like hours!) before successfully getting out something I was nervous to say to my partner. But the more I voiced my truths, the more strength I (and we) gained. In a relationship built on love, compassion, and kindness, expressing your vulnerabilities will only make you stronger.
6. Continue with your own growth.
Your partner is not going to complete you, fill all your emotional needs, and be responsible for your every moment’s happiness. You’ve still got to show up for yourself and do your own work, whether through journaling, meditation, or yoga. Friends, mentors, and teachers will still play a large role in lighting your soul up. You’ll grow on your own, but you’ll use the positive energy it provides to grow together.
7. Give in order to receive.
Want to feel appreciated more? Loved more? Or, special more? Let your partner know, but remember what we send out into the universe we get back. Show your main squeeze as much appreciation, love, and affection as you want. One person can set the (loving) tone, spiraling your relationship to new heights. Don’t be afraid to let that person be you.
8. Be OK with boredom.
We’ve been brainwashed from movies, media, and social channels to think that every moment of every relationship should be electric, happy, and amazing. In reality, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning the bathroom aren’t so hot. And that’s OK. Being able to be happy and work together “in the boring” is a sign of a real relationship.
9. Talk about sex.
Intimacy is an important part of a relationship. Let you partner know what you like, don’t like, if things have become boring — anything that’s on your mind. If you’re able to talk with your friends about it, you should be able to talk with your partner about it.
10. Align your core values.
Being different is totally cool, BUT do your core values align? For example, is family important for each of you? Do you both have a strong sense of ethics and fairness? Are you each compassionate people? The “surface stuff” makes each of you you, but the deep-down stuff makes your relationship easy or difficult.
11. Make room for fun time together.
Fun adds lightness, energy, and a dollop of happiness to even the best of relationships. Power down, put the phone away, tuck your to-do list in the drawer, and have same fun. You won’t regret it.