Aside from the fights, here are some things that played important roles in our 14 years of being together.
Sweet gestures. May it be grand like big surprises or expensive gifts and flowers, or big efforts like being ‘nurse’ on duty when one is confined in the hospital or sick at home, or just simple things like giving love letters, holding hands, stroking hair, kissing in forehead or cheeks, wrapping arms around, doing household chores and errands, leading when crossing the street, carrying bags or groceries, showing admiration and appreciation to your partner – they all surely matter. I’ve once read that ending a relationship is like closing a bank account. One way is to withdraw big amount or even small amounts at frequent times, without depositing. Yes, every ‘investment’ in relationships, including the small sweet gestures, counts. As brother Bo mentioned in one of his talks, “When you express your love, it becomes stronger.”
Family & Friends. Though you won’t be living with your in-laws, they are big part of your partner, so having a good relationship with them is important. Mel has 3 younger brothers, and being guys, they are not usually expressive and engaged in story telling or discussions, unlike what I got used to, having an older sister. As a sister-in-law, I hold back in giving my sentiments because I don’t know how they will take it, but as ‘ate’ considering them my brothers already, I couldn’t mum some times specially if I see there’s something wrong or when I know advices or reminders should be said.
Friends are a big part of us. Be surrounded with those people who love you no matter what; friends who support you both. Most of the time, Mel wanted me to be with him whenever he’s going out with friends. At first I got pissed because sometimes the introvert in me just didn’t want to. But along the way I realized, I was not just doing it so I could be confident that he’s going with the ’right people’ but it’s also me gaining friends and us having good times. Besides, these are the people we not only have fun with but also the people we usually run to when we have problems. These are friends whom we can trust, who won’t judge us and spread malicious stories behind our back. They know us, and they keep us grounded especially when we’re not thinking straight.
Quality Time. Do what each other loves doing. Go try different things and adventures together. Aside from travelling and trying extreme activities, it’s also the simple activities that make the relationship fun. We studied for exams together, played online games like Red Alert and Gun-bound, played in arcades (and sang karaoke even if it’s just the two of us). We still always go to parks, watch movies, go shopping, have spa, etc. Even if you are not totally involved and you don’t like the activity, keep them company once in awhile; just be there and show support. For example, I watched Mel during his volleyball and basketball games, he watched me during dance practices and competition. When he’s working at home and I’m doing nothing, I give him food and massage.
Quality time doesn’t mean always having a good time or having activities. Sometimes, you just have story sharing or deep talks. Sometimes, you do nothing but just are together, and it’s already enough. As they say, life is short when we’re having fun. Mel and I barely noticed we’ve already spent half of our years on earth with each other and it was never boring.
Space and Privacy. No matter how you want to be together all the time, there are things you should still do on your own. We shouldn’t be dependent on one another, and that will make us grow more. Once in awhile, have a time off each other. Sometimes Mel goes out with friends and so do I, and we also spend some time alone.
Sometimes, Mel gets in to my phone, browses chats or text or even my newsfeed, as I do the same to his phone. We don’t do it regularly like checking up on each other every time. We don’t necessarily share all passwords but there’s a trust or confidence that even if we enter into each other’s account, we won’t be caught off-guard like there’s something to hide. If you are ashamed or having second thoughts of giving your phone unlocked to your partner, then maybe there’s something wrong or you’re not yet completely comfortable with your partner (unless you’re planning a good surprise :p). It took awhile before we reached this stage. Back then, we checked up on each other’s phone like we’re inspecting and just hoping that we wouldn’t find something we’ll be upset about.
There are really no rules to this, as long as it’s healthy and that you and your partner agree and are completely comfortable with it. This quote I’ve read somewhere actually sums it up:
“Being together doesn’t mean being permanently glued and always having to rely on one another for a source of fulfillment in everyday life. To be whole, it is important for us to feel autonomous as well as attached.”
Openness and Communication. While actions speak louder than words, words also play important role as much as actions do. Things go easier when you express what you’re truly feeling inside, and also to hear directly from your partner what’s in her/his mind. You should be able to confidently express what you want to do, what you feel, what’s bothering you, etc., especially the thoughts on your head that has been running back and forth that might affect you and your relationship. You must also be able to confide to your partner whenever you’re down, knowing that your partner will provide you comfort. Knowing that you got each other’s back and that God will give you nothing that you can’t handle; you should be each other’s rock.
Though you have to be open about almost everything, you still have to be careful with how it’s said. You should vent out your anger but sometimes it needs filter because you cannot take back spoken hurtful words (especially those uttered at the heat of an argument).
On our first years, I got used to either not talking or resorting to shouting at him whenever I have a problem with him. I thought he should figure things out on his own and it would serve as his punishment, however, I noticed that the issues were not being addressed and therefore recurring. Things I left unsaid I carried in my heart like a burden and we had always fought. There was a point that it felt so heavy that it’s like going to explode. I was easily irritated with Mel’s actions even if it’s really not a big deal. Then I told him that I was keeping a score between bad and good times to see if the relationship was still worth fighting for. I told him my thoughts, he expressed his side and we began to understand each other more. When we express vocally, there are no more second-guessing. Healthy discussions help us to come up with true resolution.
Being open also means being your self. You shouldn’t be afraid to show who you really are. People who truly love you will not stop loving you even if they see the imperfections in you. Be silly, make faces, sing at the top of your lungs, dance, play tricks with each other. Be completely comfortable with each other, as comfortable as being able to call out the wrong doings or the other’s blind spots. With this you’ll be more aware, which might lead to conscious effort of changing for the better. There should never be pretentions; we deserve to be happy and free.
Persistence. Though I have a lot of patience and effort in making our relationship right, most of the times, if not all, I was the one who would always bring up about having a break; sometimes because of our fights and unsettled differences, and one time, just because I wanted to test our relationship and explore other options. We had just one major break up that I could remember and it lasted for about 2 weeks. Our high school friends even made bets that it wouldn’t last and that we’ll eventually be together again. True enough; the break-up didn’t push thru because Mel wouldn’t allow us to. Even if he were a bit far from where I lived, he’d always show up, waiting for me in my classroom or dorm, just wanting to talk to me or give me something like flowers or notes. He always made a lot of efforts and never gave up. Yes, you shouldn’t give up on your loved ones. Just hold on and keep on trying. If things do not work out in the end, at least you can say you’ve tried your best and that’s what counts.
Aligned faith and life goals. When you get into a relationship, it’s not just anymore all about you. You always have to consider him/her, as what partners do. You should be able to agree or know how to deal with issues like religion, long-distance relationship, home base, career goals, family goals, investments, etc. You’ll be sailing the same boat and if you don’t have proper synchronization and same direction, it’s going to be so difficult to move forward. You’ll just be wasting effort and time and go nowhere far.
Falling in love is much different than loving. Falling in love is a feeling, but loving is an action.While love is blissful, relationships don’t always give us euphoric feeling. When the butterflies of a new love have fluttered away, you’ll discover that you’re with someone who is just as imperfect as you are. There will always be someone better than your partner in one way or another, the same way that there are others better than you. You got to have the conviction to choose each other for better or for worse. People change, situations change and we shouldn’t easily leave when things aren’t smoothly sailing. We have to cope up, fight for our love and don’t give up easily, and surely sacrifices pay off. It’s about fitting and working together. Appreciate what you have and give importance to it, instead of eyeing in to the negatives and finding replacements. We are all imperfect and it’s God who fills in that. You should be able to look beyond imperfections and just choose to love, as long as both of you are committed to work everything out without compromising your values and happiness. It’s not easy but it is what makes it more wonderful and meaningful, and as Bujold says, “When you give each other everything, it becomes an even trade. Each wins all”.