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?