“Cuatro años brillantes a tu lado”
March 15, 2014. The day my life was about to change. The day of our first date. Our first of many times to London. You learn a lot about somebody on the first day. First impressions aren’t everything, but they are important. It’s part of the make or break. Do you see them again? Gut instincts tell you, a lot.
I have been surrounded by positive relationships all of my life. My nan and grandad have been together since they were teenagers. My mum and dad are still happily married. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, I know not everybody has that in their lives. I have been surrounded by love. Relationships built on trust, communication and laughter. My expectations are high.
Four years ago, Alex and I were walking along the Millennium Bridge in London and a couple asked me if I could take a photo of them. After I did, they offered to take one of us. Pretty awkward for a first date. The woman passed me back my phone and said: “you’re a cute couple.” I guess she was right.
I feel slightly odd writing how to maintain a successful relationship when there are couples who have been married longer than I have been alive. But, a lot of chivalry seems to be lost on our generation. So, let’s bring it back!
Never Stop Dating
We still date. Never stop dating. Never stop taking the time to go out together. Never get so caught up in work, or a rut, that you forget to take the time to spend together. Whether you have a child, whether you have a busy work schedule. Once a month, we go out for dinner. We dress up. We date.
Stop Texting and Start Talking
The internet is a great place. It opens up a new world. At the click of a button, you can find out the best waffle houses in New York City, or the best underwater restaurant in The Maldives. But, the miscommunication is real. Texts are often so easily misconstrued. A simple message plants the seed to grow into a major argument. Talk. Listen. Communicate.
Share Your Interests
Things in common is a pretty obvious one, I know. But, conversations are easier when you have shared interests. But that’s not always the case. You can share your interests. Funnily enough, I wasn’t a big fan of travelling until I got together with Alex. There were a few landmarks I wanted to see, sure. But, my world has opened up. I have tried kayaking and canoeing – things I never thought I would try. Alex has sat in the stands at numerous cheerleading competitions, sat on the sidelines of photoshoots for hours on end and has even tried a salsa class. I’m sure these are things he never thought he would try either!
Support Each Other
This ties in with the interests. Please, support your partner. Whether that means spending 90 minutes sat at the side of a football pitch in the pouring rain, or sitting in a cheerleading stand for 6 hours watching what seems to be the variation of the same routine or standing at the side of a freezing cold river for 5 hours watching a kayaking regatta of some sort. Even if you don’t have a clue what’s going on, your support is needed. People perform better when they have an audience that is cheering them on. People feel happier when they finish doing what they love and the person they love is standing there waiting to give them a big hug and their support!
Recognise Their Achievements
When they do well, tell them. Congratulate them. Make a big thing of it. Write a simple letter to say how proud you are. Pick up a ‘congratulations’ or a ‘good luck’ card. We want to feel like we’re doing well. We want people to be proud of us. Tell them. Whenever I get my grades back from university, Alex makes a big deal, acts like I’m the smartest person on the planet. Whenever I post a blog post, Alex acts like it’s the best thing he’s ever read, it’s probably completely boring to him. But, he still supports me. He still makes an effort to recognise my achievements. No matter how big or small.
Spend Time with their Family and Friends
Alex is a lot better with people than I am. But, spend time with their friends and family. Get to know them. Do things with them. Become part of the friendship group. Become a part of the family. But, also give them time to do their own things too. Keep it balanced.
Normal is boring. Embrace ugly selfies. Embrace ridiculousness. There is nothing better than laughter. A happy relationship is filled with laughter and a lot of ridiculousness. Life can get serious and there are times when it gets hard. But, take time to play. Play fight. Take stupid photos. Dress a little bit weird. Be daft. Let them upload that disgusting photo. What does it matter what anybody else thinks? Laugh.
Try New Things Together
Whenever we have tried something new, Alex would turn to me and say “another first!”. Our first holiday as a couple. A country we’d never been to before. A dance class. A kayaking trip. Baking together, even if it is a disaster. You never know, you may just love it! I wasn’t keen on visiting Budapest, yet it turned out to be one of my favourite cities. Alex loves meerkats, so for his birthday, we went to a meerkat experience. I am not a fan of meerkats. But, we did it together. Life is for living. Share it together.
This one is pretty personal. Money is taboo. We never make enough of it. Your lifestyle adjusts to your budget. Nobody ever has enough money. Do not fight over it. We have always shared money. We make more of it every month. Sure, it’s gone three hours after we’ve been paid but it’s shared. When I worked in a big supermarket, I would see couples coming in and splitting the food bill. Or women turning to their boyfriends and telling them they owed them £30 to cover the bill. It always seemed so bizarre to me. We have always split money. It’s ours. Granted, I’m usually the one who spends it on things we don’t really need. Whereas, Alex tends to pay the bills. But, the time that a flight needs booking, or a new piece of decor for the home or a hotel needs paying off, that’s usually my job!
I guess I talk about little things* a lot. But they are important. When we go out on a date, Alex always tells me how nice I look. When I send him a photo, he acts like he’s never seen my face before! When I come in from work, Alex makes me a drink. I leave Alex little notes for when he comes home from work. Whenever I have been on a flight, Alex has always waited in departures with flowers. Alex’s Instagram is filled with photos of me and little captions. He always opens the door for me. He carries the shopping bags. He helps clean up. He cooks every night. He walks to meet me every night at the bus stop. He blow-dries my hair. He curls my hair. He doesn’t update his wardrobe so that I can update mine so often. The little things are endless. For over three years, Alex and I have been wearing matching friendship bracelets. They don’t cost the world, some of them cost nothing. But, little things make for a happy relationship.
The key to our successful relationship? We treat every day like it’s the first day. Alex does this a lot better than I do. But, I try! Be happy. Be loving. Be supportive.
Four years ago, I was sitting at Lee Valley White Water Centre watching Alex work and raft. Now, I’m sitting in our new home together, with our puppy, Rio. Here’s to the next four years.
Happy March 15, Alex. Thank you for seeing the best in me, even in my darkest times. Thank you for being there for me whenever I need you to be. Thank you for being my best friend.
* Can I file for copyright over this saying** because I seem to be seeing it crop up onto my timeline and different blogs so much now?????
** Kidding, of course. ***