Chapter IV

About a week ago marked four years that my boyfriend officially asked me to be his girlfriend… for a second time. No we didn’t break up over the years, but I did turn him down the first time he asked. I know, b*tch right? I had my reasons and I stick by them, but that’s a whole other story for another day!

Before we got together, I used to roll my eyes and secretly make fun of couples who celebrated their anniversaries. Maybe because I was single and petty. Maybe because I was hiding my jealousy. Maybe I thought it was dumb and just didn’t understand the idea of celebrating dating anniversaries. I mean, you’re not married. So whoop dee doo, you’re still together.

But that’s just it. You’re still together.

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A lot can happen in a day, in a week or month. So most definitely within a year there must have been some significant things to have happened within the relationship. Both positive and negative. And the fact that you’ve faced them together should be acknowledged.
So why not celebrate? It’s a milestone.

Every year is different. Every year you are faced with life’s challenges, both as individual people and as a couple. Some years will be better than others. And sometimes it may be a good or bad year for only one of you, but it’s about support and compromise.

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There is no set formula to what makes a relationship strong. We’re all different as individuals. That’s why you have to figure out what works for you.

Here are four things I’ve learned during our four years together.

I. Communicate
Dialogue is important. When you’re happy, express your happiness. And when you’re upset, express you’re upset.
When bae is frustrated with me, he lets me know. When I’m upset with bae, I don’t tell him because I don’t like conflict. I keep it to myself and hope he’ll figure it out. Especially if he doesn’t notice what he’s done. What ends up happening though, is I take out my frustration on him in other ways. I end up giving him the silent treatment, or I become very sarcastic and insulting. Which then makes him upset. Then I get more upset because he shouldn’t be upset. Then he eventually aplogizes, but he still doesn’t really know what he did. So when he thinks he’s reconciling, I’m just bottling up my feelings for another day. All this can be avoided if I just speak up. It’s something I’m still working on, but I know for us, open communication is important.

II. Trust
Before I was in a committed relationship it was all about me, myself and I. Whatever choices I made only affected me, but I learned I had to change my selfish way of thinking.
Yes, I still make decisions for myself, but now my decisions affect another person. In the early stages of being together, past relationships and experiences come in to play. There is a lot of subconscious comparing and unintended jealousy, but it is expected.
For the two of us, the little things I didn’t think were a big deal, became a big deal and I felt like bae didn’t trust me. At one point, it seemed like every answer I gave wasn’t good enough and I realized that his trust in me wasn’t something I could reassure. I couldn’t earn his trust. It was something he needed to overcome for himself.
Being completely open and honest with each other helped our communication, building our foundation of trust. And now, we move forward each day with nothing to hide.

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III. Active Listening
I’ve learned that I have to be an active listener, especially when it comes to important issues.
So that doesn’t mean pretending to listen while bae is talking, but I’m actually daydreaming about the time Colin Farrell and I locked eyes. It means listening and paying attention to how he’s feeling and reading his body language.
I like to have important conversations in private. Because if it gets heated or calls for waterworks, I don’t want people seeing me. So I save my talks for the bedroom. That’s my safe zone. Bae likes to do his talking in the car. Now, I usually daydream in car rides, but I’ve learned to be more attentive because that’s his safe zone. When he’s opening up on the drive home, I know I need to pay more attention because later he won’t want to continue the conversation when I’m ready to talk. He just wants to relax in his room. So whenever bae is talking serious matters, I don’t cut him off because I know now is the time he needs me to listen.

IV. Me Time
When in a relationship, you can become so invested in each other, that when you finally have time for you, you don’t know what to do with yourself. You’ve lost interest in being alone.
No matter how much time I want to spend with bae, I try to make sure I still make time for myself. Bae and I don’t live together and because of our work schedules, the most we go is one day without seeing each other. So when I have a day to myself I have to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. I try to get in touch with me again. And my interests and goals.
Building this blog has helped a lot. I have a project that I’m excited to work on and bae supports that. So it’s easier to schedule time for myself without feeling guilty or like I’m neglecting him.

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I’m sure you’ve read multiple articles and advice on what makes a lasting relationship, so some of these points may be redundant. Again, I’m not saying these four points are what everyone must do, but it’s a reflection of what I’ve learned works for me and my relationship.

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As for anniversaries, you don’t have to go all out spending lots of money on gifts and fine dining. If that’s how you choose to celebrate, then great! If you choose to spend the night in bumming around and binge watching shows, then that’s great too! Just make sure you take the time to reflect on your relationship. Know what worked and what didn’t work.
Perhaps with some aspects, you’ll realize it’s time for a change.

And don’t be afraid of that.
There’s always room to grow.

Here’s looking forward to Chapter V.

xo
Stephanie

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