This October, myself and my boyfriend will be celebrating our one-year anniversary. Although to the majority of you, 12 months probably wont seem like a particularly long time, for me, this celebration will mark much more than just a coupling.
For me, this anniversary will be a celebration of everything I have learnt in the last 12 months and the huge amount in which I have grown, both physically and mentally. And, this in retrospect, is heavily owed to my boyfriend.
Let me start by saying that I am by no means a relationship guru, in fact if you’d met me a year ago, I was more of a relationship-hating train wreck who spent most of her time reading man-shaming memes and pretending to throw up a little bit when I saw loved-up couples PDAing in the street.
Fast forward one year and I now make up one half of those annoying, gag-inducing couples. Stranger still, I kinda like it, its grown on me.
Before I met my boyfriend, I had only 2 `serious` relationships. The first, which at one point I generally thought would be my last, resulted in a very public failed engagement. The second, a much more private matter, was in fact kept such a secret that it didn’t really feel like a relationship at all. And, although we didn’t really want to end it, due to our completely different backgrounds, we just knew that there was no going forward. As heart wrenching as it was, we have miraculously managed to remain very good friends.
It was whilst I was living a care-free life, sunning it up and working as a radio presenter in Barcelona that I first `met` my boyfriend. I say `met` in adverted commas as we didn’t really `meet` but rather we `cyber met` via Instagram. My boyfriend was and still is, a very talented artist and it was whilst I was trawling through account after account on Instagram, trying to find a piece of art that I actually liked, that I stumbled across his page. A few days later and we got talking, a few weeks later and we were still talking and a month later we were talking face to face (although, it was less talking and more nervously laughing on our first date).
The first thing I remember thinking after meeting him was that I had not felt that `spark` or `connection` or whatever you may call it, in an extremely long time. Generally, I`m not really a people person. I can be incredibly shy and at the same time I hate meaningless small talk. It is probably because of this that I choose only to have a small selection of friends. Yet, I could literally sit and talk the day away with my boyfriend, something I didn’t really understand the importance of until much later on in our relationship.
Of course, things change as time goes on and you learn more and more about one another. Most of the things you learn you like, some of them you hate, some of them will occasionally leave you wondering why on earth you decided to date this person in the first place. Its not easy, relationships take a lot of compromise, communication and cursing under your breath. The 3 C`s if you will. There will be ups and downs, highs and lows, times when you just want to give up and walk away and times when you literally can’t imagine life without them. But I just want to tell you that all of this is normal.
I think a lot of us have subconsciously bought into this fairytale ideology that we will one day be swept off our feet by prince/princess charming and live happily ever after in a rose-filled world with no tinder or trust issues and pancakes will miraculously arrive on our pillow every morning and even better they’ll be carb and fat free.
Okay, maybe not to that extreme but still. Some of us aren’t always realistic in our expectations of our partners and our relationships.
Like all things, relationships take hard work and patience. More importantly still, you’ve got to be willing and open to learning.
You see, despite only being 26 and having 2 long-term relationships, I had mistakenly believed that when it came down to partnerships, I had it all figured out. I believed that I knew what was best for both myself and thus my relationship. I believed that I knew exactly what I wanted in a partner and I believed that I did not need to compromise in order to get it. More than that, I believed that if I wasn’t happy with something I had the right to just up and leave, after all why shouldn’t I? its my life.
It wasn’t until one horrendously rainy day a few months ago when I was stuck at home and feeling extremely agitated that I learnt this was not the case. After my agitation had turned to boredom, it quickly turned to anger at the only person who was stuck in the house with me: my boyfriend. After a particularly heated exchange of words and a lot of self-pitying and moaning and ranting at my end, my boyfriend turned around to me and said something so profound that I could almost hear a giant `PING` echoing in my head.
His words were: `when are you going to start realizing that I love you and we are a team working together? We are not two individuals fighting against each other, we are a team fighting the world`.
It was then that I realized just how selfish I had been.
In believing that I knew everything, all I had really done was thought about how I fitted into the equation of a relationship. How it benefited me. How I wasn’t happy with certain things and wanted more. How id sacrificed so much. How I wanted to up and leave.
How selfish, that in all my thoughts, I hadn’t even considered my boyfriend. What he wanted and needed, how he felt, the things he did for me and the things he`d sacrificed for me.
I’m not a big fan of grand gestures, it’s the little things that matter to me. Like how my boyfriend buys me iced coffee whenever he’s out because he knows that I have a full-blown addiction to coffee and the thought of going a day without it is enough to make me spontaneously combust with anxiety. Sometimes, when I’m having a particularly bad day, he will surprise me with a gift, clothes or jewelry that I pointed out to him without any expectation of him buying it for me. He consistently praises me with confidence-boosting comments about everything from my physical appearance to my written work because he knows how much I doubt myself.
That’s not to say I don’t do my bit in return. I offer him the security and love that he never truly received. Not because I feel like I have to, but because I love him more than anything else in the world and it flows effortlessly for me to do so. I mercilessly clean and fold his clothes only to find he has thrown them on the bedroom floor, and so I do it all over again. I pick up the trail of empty crisp packets he leaves around the house because, similarly to my coffee addiction, he’s absolutely hooked on walker’s crisps. I remind him of important things a million times over because I know he has the memory of a 90- year-old. I support him in all his ventures, praise him to my friends and family (and even the odd random strangers I meet in coffee shops) and I try as hard as I can to show him all the things the world has to offer. This year he took quite a big step and flew out to stay with me in Bali, a journey he probably wouldn’t have even contemplated a year ago.
It is these little gestures, these small every day things that make up a greater part of all relationships and it is these very things that will ultimately make or break it. Intertwined with that are those 3 C`s I mentioned before. Communication should be the foundation of every relationship, without it you’re just two people single handedly taking on the world. We`re not mind-readers so why would you expect your partner to be? If something makes you unhappy, uncomfortable or or just damn right angry then you need to express it to your partner, don’t bottle it up and let it eat away at you. On that same note, the way in which you choose to express that feeling is of the upmost importance too. If you feel like you’re about to blow your lid, curse under your breath, not straight in your partners face, sometimes we can’t take back the hateful things we say, no matter how much we would like to.
That’s not to say it will all be plain sailing, you will still argue, you will still face challenges and you will still have your doubts, just as me and my boyfriend still do now. But ultimately, when two people love each other, none of that really matters.
For me, although our relationship is still a work in progress and we still have a long time to go before we`re celebrating those `golden years`, I still appreciate how far I and WE have come.
And so, this year I will be celebrating much more than just a timeline of 0 to 12. I will be celebrating how I have changed for the better, every little thing I have learnt and most importantly, how to work not just for myself but as the other half of a team.