To say it’s been a learning experience would probably be an understatement. Relationships have a way of challenging us in ways we never would have expected. Suddenly all the insecurities we have, hurts we’ve held on to, perspectives that have gone unchallenged…they all rise to the surface in a somewhat unpleasant and overwhelming manner.
That is why relationships are so important. They help us to grow and teach us to love. While uncomfortable and even painful at times, relationships are where rubber meets the road in terms of our formation. Being nice to friends and even strangers is easy, having a strong disagreement with someone you’re really close to is not. Putting yourself first is easy, letting someone else take priority is not. Relationships are challenging; and because of that they have a lot to teach us.
Here are some of the things we’ve learned from our relationship thus far (Nicholas tried to make it a list of things he’s taught me but I thought I’d spare you the various hipster bands he’s introduced me to):
- Ohio isn’t so bad
Ohio gets a lot of bad rap here in South Carolina, especially in Charleston. I jumped on the bandwagon blindly a few years after I moved here feeling confident that people knew what they were talking about. Turns out the mob mentality isn’t always the wisest; both in Sandusky and Cleveland Nicholas showed me some truly beautiful spots that were a lot of fun to explore.
- Assuming the worst isn’t helpful
This is especially true for texting. Being long distance, texting was huge for us. However sometimes it’s easy to read something and assume the most negative interpretation. While tempting, this is really unhelpful. I don’t think the worst case scenario has ever been the case, and assuming it was just led to unnecessary stress and discontent. More generally, giving people the benefit of the doubt is so important. Yes, they could let you down, but thinking that way won’t protect you and often your loved ones really do have your best interest at heart.
- It’s important to celebrate
We celebrate the day we started dating, the day we went on our first date and the date of our Ask Him Interview Maybe not always with a fancy dinner, but little things like listing ways we appreciate each other, writing in our lark journal and maybe going to a cool spot to spend time together. Really big moments happen rarely, that is why it’s important to make a big deal out of small things.
- We can kind of salsa dance
Learning to dance was something we both have wanted to do. It’s been fun to work on it together. We’re both awkward and I’m especially bad but overcoming the discomfort together has been humbling and brought us closer together. And now we can kind of salsa dance!
- It’s not just about us
A huge lesson for us has been the importance of having a relationship that is open to others (which is different from an open relationship, just fyi). We want it to be a positive thing for our friends, family and the community; not just something we enjoy personally. When we strive to think of others and how we can help them, we feel more at peace with ourselves and the relationship.
- Long distance forces you to work on your communication
Are we glad long distance is over? Um, yeah…yeah you could say that. Are we glad we did it? Yes, yes we are (in Phineas’ voice). What was really helpful about long distance was that we couldn’t do fun things like go out for drinks or swim at the beach; we had to talk. And that’s it. We had to get to know each other strictly through talking and couldn’t break the tension with a game or fun outing. Communicating wasn’t always easy (especially when someone was upset/hurt/tired/frustrated) but we learned that things like honesty, listening and just putting the time in can be really helpful.
- Teamwork brings you closer together
Some of our favorite moments have been taking care of the girls I nanny or babysitting our friend’s kids. When we work together for a larger cause we stop thinking about what we want as individuals and instead about what we can do for the sake of our goal (mainly surviving and keeping the kids alive).
- Friendships really do make the best relationships
For several months we stayed in touch as friends. This made the transition into dating so much smoother and those low-key times helped us to get to know each other in a more relaxed way.
- Love is a choice
When in the face of hardship, love doesn’t feel good. It’s not warm and fuzzy. Day in and day out we choose each other, regardless of how we feel that particular day. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not…but it’s a lot more beautiful because of it. We’re not here because we always felt like it, we’re here because we chose to be…and that is so much more meaningful.
- All relationships require a significant level of risk
In a world where all the information is at our fingertips, uncertainty is not something we’re comfortable with. But in relationships there is none of that. We started dating not knowing where Nicholas would be for the next three years, this could have turned out very differently; and we knew it. But we thought that the risk was worth it and even though we know we have a lot to lose, we still do. No relationship is a sure thing, but if you don’t take a risk you will surely gain nothing.Here’s to learning a lot more in the days to come!