How to Last - There once was a girl named...
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Wed, Jan. 3rd, 2007 10:58 pm
How to Last

You probably wouldn't know it from looking at me, but I've been in a relationship with the same man for the last five and a half years. We're not married, have never lived together, and currently I live about 1,000 miles away from him.

This is surprising to me for several reasons. I didn't grow up dreaming of weddings, I've got a long line of broken marriages above me, I'm scared of any type of long term committment, and believe it or not I'm not the easiest person to date. I don't self-identify as a girlfriend or part of a couple, it doesn't bring me comfort to know that I'm completed by someone else, and I get itchy at the thought of settling. But, I'm happy with him, he's happy with me, and somehow it works... it helps that he also seems to have the tolerance of some kind of masochist.

To be honest, the years haven't been without a few breaks. We've tried quitting, we've taken breaks, we've discussed futures without each other, and every time we've come back stronger than the time before.

Somehow, we've ended up here. We're long distance, but we talk every day. We miss everyday physical companionship, but we make all attempts to see each other at least once a month. Things aren't always spectacular, but they are often enough to make them seem that much more. I've been told more times than I can count that we should break up. I've moved from talking to people who understand to running out of examples to compare us to. We've gone from rocky to smooth and rocky again, but we've also got ourselves in a nice position where we each live our own individual lives and still want to make the time to share with each other.


Five and a half years isn't really anything, really, but it is enough to have learned a few things. I don't want to make it sound easy. Or perfect. Or even better than any other relationship. But, what's the point of growing if you can't share with others?

And so, you didn't ask for it, but I'm presenting my readers with my 2007 list of How to Make it Last According to Lisa, Or At Least What Worked For Me (including a few pointers from Henry) In No Particular Order



* First of all, read this book!

(Henry and I both read this at a pivotal point in our relationship. At best, it will make you rethink your approach to your relationship, at worst, it gives you a vocabulary that can come in handy during future discussions)


* Slow dow, you'll be glad you waited

(There have been moments where it has seemed like we weren't going anywhere, that we weren't *something* if we weren't married, or living together, spending every night together, or wearing matching sweaters. But we never put those needs in front of the rest of our lives, and I'm glad. What we have now is a base on which to grow all those things, without the sense of regret that we are in a situation difficult to get out of)

* Take care of yourself first

* If you find yourself obsessing, get some exercize

(The best thing you can do when you know you're stuck is get your blood going, plus it is a bonus of helping your self esteem)

* Develop methods of relaxation that don't involve each other

* Make a healthy sex life a priority

* Choose your battles

* Continue to grow in your individual lives

* Accept and encourage growth in your partner

* Talk to each other every day

(Even if it sucks, even if it is only an email or an sms, even if it feels ridiculous, this is one that I'm always glad he makes me stick to)

* Be clear to yourself and to your partner about your expectations

* You can never give each other enough compliments.

(I don't mean the fakey stuff you say because you think you're supposed to. If you think his ass looks awesome in those pants or her breasts are amazing in that sweater - tell them!)

* Don't be afraid to talk about breaking up

(But don't obsess, either. Nobody wants to feel trapped, nor do they want to feel a lack of security. Be realistic about your future, whether or not you think it includes your partner)

* Don't go to bed mad

(Ok this one sounds ridiculous right? We read it on some list about how to have a marriage for 50 years or whatever and most of them were shit but this one stuck. It takes a lot, but ultimately it means for every fight somebody has to have the strength to step up and make things right...which leads me to...)

* Sometimes, be the first one to apologize

* But, Don't apologize unless you mean it

* Take responsibility for your part in the relationship

* Respect your right to privacy, and his too

* Take space when you need it, comunicate somehow that you're doing it, and come back when you're done.



At least, that's what I think we do. What works for you?


44CommentReplyShare

wingedcorset
wingedcorset
Molly Mayhem
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:20 am (UTC)

I don't have anything to add as I haven't had a functional relationship in perhaps ever.

But thank you. #s 2 and 4 are especially pertinent right now, but the whole list is being saved for future reference.


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:26 am (UTC)

What is "functional"??? Thanks I'm glad you found some use in it! #2 is maybe the hardest one of all, after the bits about apologizing.


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p0stmdrnpr1mt1v
p0stmdrnpr1mt1v
p0stm0dern pr1m1t1ve
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:21 am (UTC)

thanks for posting this.
I've been seeing someone for a month, and our 40 mile separation seems hellish. these do sound like some great tips.


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:29 am (UTC)

Considering who you're seeing, I can understand why you might be hating the distance! Sometimes I can't believe I've been out here for a year, but sometimes the distance feels like the easiest thing we've had to deal with. It just happens to be the easiest thing to blame ;)


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fisticuffs
fisticuffs
ms.ticuffs
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:30 am (UTC)
i love this post!

and not just because it's a reminder that great relationships come in all flavors.

it's not always easy, but after taking the time to recognize that the effort is well worth it, even the "work" takes on a different meaning.

I could probably just copy and paste most of what you wrote above, because that's what has worked for us.

bros before hos: i know. cliche, but really. you friends know you better than this new dude. trust their opinions. they're thinking with their brains and not their bodies or emotions. And also, you need your friends.

have your own friends: i know, you really want your lives to be so completely intertwined, but sometimes you just need to get away. that doesn't mean to isolate the two or to lead different lives. but don't forget about your friends and make time for them without your man/woman.

Learn how to fight. We put down a few rules with regard to fights. They mostly revolve around focusing on the problem and avoiding hurt feelings. Mostly we fight clean. So no name calling. No low blows. no bringing up old fights (which is easier when you're not hurting each other in the fights with personal attacks. it's much easier to get over the fight over the forgotten trash if I don't call him a lazy asshole.)

sometimes a fight is really stupid. recognize it. and be able to laugh at yourself. to apologize. or to give each other space to calm down and laugh together.

Remember that you're two different people. Sure we're a couple, but we are still different people. We don't always want the same thing, which leads me to...

do what you want to do. Obviously, we're still respectful of each other, but if I want to go to a party and he doesn't I'll still go if I really want to. He just isn't as social as I am, so I go out and he stays in. We're still doing what we each like to do. and the bonus is that we miss each other and appreciate each other more when we're together.

Make a healthy sex life a priority. that one's worth repeating. it becomes an ugly cycle. no sex = unhappiness in the relationship = lack of desire to have sex = no sex..... just do it. sex is great. you know you love it.

respect each other and who you are. don't expect to change your partner.

be realistic. love isn't about fireworks and puppy dogs. neither of you is perfect. your life together won't be without bumps. don't be afraid to evaluate your relationship and even be negative about it. chances are, something will break over time. ignoring it won't fix it.

okay, i'll second the compliment thing, too. it's easier to feel sexy when you're constantly reminded of what a nice rack you have.


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:34 am (UTC)
Re: i love this post!

ooh I love these. I wanted to put something about fighting (not just apologizing) but I didn't know how to say, Fighting is Good! without condoning some sort of horrible domestic violence situation. You said it well. Better to fight and get it out than be passive aggressive or just plain steeping in your unhappyness.


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 08:04 am (UTC)

I guess, but if you've got your part down you won't waste too much time worrying about their shit.


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scosol
scosol
Colonel Angus
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:33 am (UTC)

you guys should break up-

no hahah- sounds good to me :)


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 08:03 am (UTC)

...thanks!


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henrylyne
henrylyne
Henry Lyne
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:42 am (UTC)

I've only ever made it to one year in any relationship, but I see a lot of sense in what you've listed. The biggest reason for break-ups in my recent past has definitely been a lack of communication/honesty.

These days I don't have any relationship problems. I don't any relationships. For some reason I think that staying single for as long as possible will give the next relationship I have a better chance. Hopefully that will come around before I start wearing Depends.


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:46 am (UTC)

There has to be love after depends. And chances are by that time there will be a book about it.


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erinearl
Erin Earl
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 07:43 am (UTC)

Awesome, worth the wait. :)


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 08:02 am (UTC)

I actually wasn't able to remember it over frjtz - the sauce was too distracting.


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robbat2
robbat2
Robbat2
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 09:40 am (UTC)

Ah, so I was right when henry used to post publically, and I sensed a connection between you two that wasn't hinted at anywhere else (and I remember donating to a fund-raiser or Sophia's back in 2001).

A lot of folks are surprised at how well my relationship with amethest goes, considering everything.

A few other items to add:
- word-play 'fights' are positive. Constructively zing the other person, and carry on the chain when they get you back.
- Accept responsibility when you caused something to go wrong. "My Bad, I'm sorry" goes a very long way (it's also a very good tactic at work, and extremely disarming of irate customers on a support phoneline).

We are married to block some of the family attacks against us otherwise, but we acted practically married (eg a effective and functional couple) for a long time before even moving in together.


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 09:58 am (UTC)

Yep, he hasn't been able to get rid of me yet. Thank you for your help and your additional comments!


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salsuginous
salsuginous
Sunshine Unit
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 10:00 am (UTC)

I second everything you are saying.

I'd also like to add that what worked for us when we were in a period of real rockiness was to finally understand that we were always on the same side. Even if it didn't look like it at the moment because of whatever our internal stuff was or during bad communication breakdown. Neither of us were ever intentionally or maliciously trying to hurt/upset/disappoint one another. When we finally really understood that, it lowered both of our defense mechanisms when we argue or run into yichiness.

Not only do I complement Nathan often, I think good thoughts about him every day. It keeps me from seeing him as "that guy who is around and we do things together and I like" and instead I think, "hellooooooo sailor!"

On the back of that, continuing to woo and flirt with each other is important.


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lisa
lisa
Lisa Phillips
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 10:03 am (UTC)

You're so right - when you're the type of people like us, you're used to fighting against everyone, and you forget you have people on your side. I'm not sure I ever really had a true AHA moment on that, I think I finally just gave up ;)

The wooing is SO important. I should have added something about dates - because we still have them and they're so important. The last night I had in Seattle we dressed up and went out to Kingfish where we shared wonderful food, drank champagne, and talked about our favorite sexual positions. A truly happy moment!


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uncle_stan
uncle_stan
uncle_stan
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 11:15 am (UTC)

Got married last September after a year of dating.
It's been a lot different since then than I had expected. I mean, it's like building a house (or a software) together - not as simple as it seems.
I find most of your post exteremly insightful and useful. Thanks!

What works for me...that may sound trite, but... love. I just ask myself what love for my wife means for me.

Also, KISS principle works great ("keep-it-simple-stupid"), the one I know from my IT background.


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timmah
timmah
hfomit
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 01:03 pm (UTC)

slow dow


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degram
degram
Marged
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)

as one in an LDR, I gotta say that this was awesome to see. thank you. I IMed the list to him, too.

heart. it's hard, but yeah-- SO worth it.


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exshakespeare
exshakespeare
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)

i totally agree with everything that you wrote. I will buy the book that you mentioned. have a great 2007.


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evan
Evan Martin
Thu, Jan. 4th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)

Meena and I are nearing six, but I recently observed it's more like three in terms of time we've spent "together". But that's sorta unfair, because even when you're (were) living in the same town you (or at least we) don't (didn't) spend all your (our) time together.

That's a good list.


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