It Has Been Five Years & This is What a Happy Relationship Has Taught Me About Love
Five years ago, I was a single girl living in Vancouver, British Columbia. I worked as a freelance writer, lived with an unsavoury roommate near Granville & was the mom to two wonderful kitties, Addison & All Ways.
It was the heart of another beautiful Vancouver summer &, aside from my roommate situation, I was happy. I had a great group of friends, I was playing beach volleyball 3 or 4 nights each week & I had a great deal of free time to explore the beauty of Vancouver & the surrounding wilderness.
At the time, the world was my oyster & I was super excited to explore it. The one caveat? I wanted to explore alone. I was 27-years-old at the time &, after a series of failed relationships, the idea of entering into another one seemed daunting. Given my experience with love, I felt that relationships were a responsibility & something repressive that held me back in life, so I decided that I would never, EVER enter into another one.
Instead, I decided I would go on dates, meet new people, have a good time, & then come home to Addison & All Ways. I had recently singed a lease for my very own apartment, which I would be moving into shortly & everything felt complete.
Or, at least, it felt complete until I met Sean...
5 Truths I've Learned About Love
I met Sean on a Friday afternoon at a Starbucks on Davie Street. I ordered a coffee & Sean ordered some sort or fruity beverage because he didn't drink coffee (don't worry, I've since remedied this oddity).
We decided that we would go for a quick walk around the sea wall. I had another date scheduled for that evening, so I was thinking my quick walk around the sea wall with Sean would be an hour, tops.
...Suddenly, it was five hours later. We'd walked & talk for five hours! My feet were sore (I was wearing flip flops with a hole in them, because I am super classy), & I realised I wasn't going to make it to my evening date. I also didn't WANT to make to it my evening date, so I quickly ducked into a public washroom & cancelled the date by text & I never went on another date with anyone else again.
That was five years ago now. Since then, there has been many firsts, many milestones & a lot of love. What has been noticeably absent, however, is the tumult that I had come to believe was an intrinsic part of any relationship.
Relationships Aren't Supposed to be Hard
Very early in my relationship with Sean, I had a profound realisation. I was at home alone reading & he suddenly crossed my mind. In sitting there thinking about him, a feeling washed over me & it was a feeling of happiness & contentment.
Noticeably absent in that moment, was feelings of hurt & frustration, which had been a part of all of the relationships I'd had up until that point. I had come to believe that the constant exertion of one-way compromise & the stamping down of disappointment to put on a smiling face, was just part of a relationship. I'd come to believe that relationships were little more than a connection with someone who consistently hurt & disappointed you & that this hurt & disappointment, marked by unhappiness & negativity, was occasionally offset with huge gestures of love to keep the relationship together.
With Sean, however, there wasn't any facet of the relationship that left me feeling anything resembling unhappy or disappointed. There were no profound moments of tumult or struggle. I didn't feel caught in a web where I felt pressured to change & contort myself to accomodate someone else. With Sean, everything felt easy. Everything felt right.
I put him first, he put me first & the relationship was all calm waters & smooth sailing. There were no harrowing low points, so there was never a need for surges of huge gestures. It was just...easy, & I've come to realise that this is how relationships should be, they're not supposed to be trying & difficult.
There is Something Even More Important Than Communication
We hear it time & time again - communication is the key to a healthy relationship. I doubt that anyone has every received relationship advice that didn't, in some way, harken back to some version of "communication is key".
Of course, communication is important, but there is something even more important than communication, trust.
When I talk about trust, I'm not limiting it to trusting your partner to be faithful. While that is important, what is more important is being able to trust your partner with ALL of you.
Being able to trust them with your deepest secrets & inner truth. Being able to trust them with your oddities & idiosyncrasies. I'm talking about being able to belt out your favourite song, off key & at the top of your voice. I'm talking about telling them the same lame joke all the time while laughing hysterically at yourself, even though it wasn't even funny the first time. I'm talking about snoring so loudly you wake yourself up in the middle of the night, dancing like an idiot, coming home really drunk, pretending to be a velociraptor & making them take you to McDonald's at 1AM...I'm talking about doing all of these things & never even once questioning their love & loyalty to you.
Love Doesn't Quit
There is nothing bigger than love. I know that sounds cheesy, & there is a large & cynical part of my that is rolling my eyes at myself right now, but it's true.
All of the cliches about love being able to conquer all things, & any equally sappy sentiment, persevered through time because there is a whole lot of truth to them. When weighed against the power & importance of love, all other things are found wanting.
Sean & I are different in a number of ways. I am obsessively organised. I love cleanliness. I work damn hard, even if there isn't work to be done, & devote roughly 99.9% of my life to responsibilities. I'm also tightly wound, have a nervous disposition &, if left to my own devices, I would go months without eating anything resembling a green vegetable.
Sean, on the other hand, is messy. He loads the dishwasher wrong & will sometimes go an entire day without working on something or doing chores. He also believes in maintaining a balanced diet & keeping fast-food consumption to a minimum. We're two very different people, in a lot of different ways. If we weren't similar in the way that mattered, our differences would be a constant source of conflict.
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We are similar in the way that counts, however, & that way is love. We love each other & that breeds the respect needed to understand that the little squabbles, like how to load the dishwasher, don't matter. Even if I have to spend the rest of my life reloading the dishwasher & dealing with the other, more impactful, differences that arise when two people live alongside one another, I know that, at the end of the day, his happiness is more important than any of these things. In this mutual respect & deep love, we are alike.
You Can Have Love Without Drama
Too often, when we think of love stories, we think of bold lines & bright hues. We think of love as something large that is filled with the drama of romance novels.
In fictionalised versions of love, a relationship is punctuated by moments. There is the moment when the man sees the woman across the room & knows she is the one he wants. He goes about wooing the object of his affection, while she remains resistant. His persistance pays off, however, & in the end, there is the moment where she realises that he is everything she has ever wanted & they ride off together into the sunset.
I worry that books & movies have created this idea that there must be a physical grandness to love to make it real. I think, sometimes, that we believe in a somewhat fatalistic version of love & that for it to be "meant to be", or for your partner to be "the one", there should be some huge & dramatic moment that forces us to realise this. While I've never been much of a romantic, I think there might have been a part of me that was expecting the drama of love & in its absence, allowed past relationships to wither & die.
With Sean, everything was different.
There was no drama. There was no big moment of realisation. With Sean, falling in love was like getting into a cool swimming pool on a hot day. You ease into the water, dipping your toe in first to discover the water's coolness. Then you take a step in, followed by another step & then another one.
With each step, the water chills your skin, but as you get deeper into the water, your body adapts & the coolness of the pool is nothing short of refreshing. Then, you take the plunge, you let the water rise above your head & when you come up for air, you find that the pool was the respite that you needed on a hot summer's day.
Love Isn't About Big Gestures
The plot to every single romantic comedy is the same. There is always some reason for an unlikely pair to find one another & fall in love. Then, there is a betrayal, a fight or some reason why the couple must break up. The breakup inevitably leads one character, usually the female, to make the drastic decision to move away & start a new life somewhere else. Then, the male character shows up just in time. He declares his love in a huge, grand gesture & prevents the woman from leaving.
This scenario, or something similar, is what we see on TV & in movies ALL.THE.TIME. It has been seen so many times, that this is what many of us have come to expect love to be like. When it's not huge & full of sweeping grandness, we wrongly believe that it isn't love at all.
The thing we need to remember about romantic comedies & Ross & Rachel's "love story", is that it's all fiction. These plot lines are designed to keep viewers entertained. There's something compelling about a "will they, or won't they" story line that keeps viewers tuning in week after week. Of course, once the couple gets together, it can't be all smooth sailing, or viewers will become disinterested.
Real life isn't lived for an at-home viewing audience. It doesn't need to be comprised of breaking up & then getting back together, only to find some other supposed insurmountable obstacle is standing in the way of your relationship.
Instead, love & relationships can be fluid & even keeled. In the smooth sailing of this sort of love, big gestures aren't necessary. Instead, you're together, you both love one another in a genuine & authentic way. This love facilitates the respect necessary to keep you both enthralled - no drama, no huge sweeping gestures required.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR - BRITTEN THOMPSON
Who is Britten? She's a reticent little beast born in the wilds of Northern Alberta to a foul-mouthed, French-Canadian father & an angry, stiff-upper-lipped mother. Britten is, almost always, wild-haired & poorly dressed. She recently left the beautiful & untamed chill of Canada for the blistering & somewhat oppressive heat of Australia. Her list of pastimes is short & includes reading, writing, petting cats, overeating & alphabetizing things. She's a fan of Windex on Facebook because who doesn't want a streak free shine? She dreams of one day writing a super-awesome novel that affords her & her partner a comfortable lifestyle, a large property, a few horses & the means with which to foster children in need...or just becoming a red panda.
When Britten isn't writing, reading, or organizing things in her home, she can be found cuddling with her boyfriend, arguing about why Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the history of ever, browsing Gumtree for a future cat or kitten, or contemplating days gone by, the passage of time & how ridiculous it is that humans have yet to evolve enough to grow a third set of teeth.