1997 :: 1996 :: 2014 :: 2017
Today we have been married for 21 years. If we had a kid the day we were married, that kid would be able to legally drink today. It’s an entire lifetime. And I want four more with him, this time around. And then I want four other lifetimes with him after this one has ended.
This has been a year of serious growth for me and my beloved and we are reaping all the benefits of our hard work, dedication, and love. I am incredibly happy with me, us, and where we are together. Like, fantastically happy. Contentedly happy.
I’ve been thinking about what it takes to be in a long-term relationship; I often do around this time of year. And I realized this year that there comes a point when you have to decide what kind of relationship you want to be in, long term. Because there are several different options to choose from. You can be in a relationship that never changes and stick with it, if that’s what both people want. He always mows the lawn, she always does the holiday decorating; nothing ever changes. You can be in a relationship with someone for a very long time and not care about them or the relationship. It’s horrible, but plenty of people do it. You can be in a growth-oriented relationship. You can be in a relationship that only grows during hardship or difficulty like a sickness or a family issue. There are many options.
For me, though, there is only one kind of relationship: growth-oriented.
Because I’m deeply interested in my own healing and growth, I am also interested in healing and growth in my most intimate relationships.
All of the times we have decided to make a shift in our relationship have been about growth. Our growths as individuals and our growth as a couple. For growth-oriented couples, the growth is their strength. At least, it has been for us.
It took us probably 5-7 years to figure out that we were growth-oriented. And then it took us another 4-5 years to understand our particular pattern of growth. Exploring this and understanding it is how we’ve been so wildly successful, why we still like and love each other, why we still have great sex (although, that is not the be all-end all of a relationship).
We tell the truth. We made a pact, at one point, to tell the truth, even if it hurt the other person. Because telling the truth leaves no room for doubt. Yes, we need to clarify sometimes, but we always tell the truth. Because how else are we supposed to fully understand another human if we don’t?
We work through the hurt. When one of us feels hurt, we work through it. One of our big issues (that it took years to fully work through) was money. We both grew up in families with weird money issues and what was ‘normal’ to me felt oppressive to him and vice versa. When I felt hurt by some of his actions with money we learned to work through it, even if there was pain. He stopped his behaviors. I looked at why they were so frustrating to me (I had to do my own healing so that we could heal). We both looked at what was our responsibility in this fight. Mine was to heal some old stories about money. His responsibility was to deal with some old patterns from his family of origin. It wasn’t fun. It took years. It bounced around a lot. And we had to deal with a fair amount of personal pain and create new habits. But we always work through the hurt until no one hurts anymore and until each of us feels loved and heard.
We really like the other person and want to be with them. Even when some of our habits annoy the the fuck out of other person. Even when we don’t look as sexy as we did 20 years ago. Even when we didn’t have sex very often (there are times when someone is sick or in pain and you can’t, and that may last for a while). Even when we are both bogged down with work, kids, and the daily grind. We still really dig each other as people and we know we want to be together.
We support each other’s dreams. He wrote two books. I am writing one. He wanted to study in England. I wanted to live in a particular house. He got his PhD and is a full professor. I wanted kids and did my Master’s. I needed more sex. He delivered. We both love to travel. We support each other in big and small dreams. And that draws us together as a team. And inside ‘being a team’ we practice loving each other.
I still think my husband is a really cool person I want to spend time with. And, for us, that happens because we grow as individuals and as a couple.
That’s not how it works for everyone, obviously. There are lots of ways to have long term relationships. And lots of ways to be happy in long term relationships. You just have to make sure you’re in the kind of relationship that suits you best, and so is your partner.
Feels like I’ve written this before; I probably have. Oh, well.
Happy Anniversary to my beloved. May we have many more ahead of us.
Joanna :: xoxo
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[FYI:because I keep getting articles about “letting go” on social media. Letting go of someone we loved or cared for (or still do) is some of the hardest work of being a human. It’s something we have to do, but you can have compassion for yourself as you go through it. It took me a long time to learn that. And I don’t particularly subscribe to the idea of soul mates or twin flames, but there are people who teach our souls things. Some teach us how we don’t want to be treated. Some teach us how we do want to be treated. These are soul lessons. But no one that loves you will treat you like shit. That’s not what love is. That’s not what love does. Love can cause us pain (see above), but real love also takes care of us and helps us heal.]