Perhaps relationship goals are on my mind because we were all just graced with the passing of the only holiday that is based on the epitome of love itself, or I just feel the need to address relationships in general and all they really entail. Goals are great to have in your relationship, but I promise they do not come in the form of a picture that candidly depicts you leading your man through an enchanted forest by the hand. Yes, those pictures are adorable and I kind of can’t wait for the opportunity to take one myself, but those aren’t real relationship goals.
I was talking to my dear friend the other day about her new relationship with a guy who she is absolutely head over heels for (we will call her Jane and we will call her man John, I know, how original). Whilst listening to Jane talk about her new relationship with John, I couldn’t help but live vicariously through her anesthesia of novelty. She has been in long term relationships before, but nothing beats that initial first stage of love when all you can do to keep yourself from talking about him is to be with him…and even then you sometimes have to fight off the urge to prematurely express your love for him by way of a long winded conversation about how amazing he is and how much you enjoy being with him. Don’t lie, you’ve done it too.
Any way, listening to her talk about John was great and refreshing. It was great because A.) she’s happy, and who doesn’t want their best friend to be happy? and B.) her view on this relatively young relationship brought a lot of things about relationships in general into a perspective I had not seen it from in a really long time.
I have been with Clint for about four years now, and those four years have been nothing shy of wonderful. I, like everyone else, was love-struck in the worst way for at least 365 days after we started dating (shout out to all my girl friends for listening to me talk about him extensively in whatever context was provided during each particular situation, ya’ll the real MVPs). I remember, vividly, making sure I looked decent at all times in case I’d run into him on campus or at our patio spot where we would all go for beers on warm, spring days after class. Even if I was in yoga pants and a t-shirt, I made sure my make-up was somewhat presentable. When we finally started dating (it took him long enough to make it official), I would always do the little things like fold his laundry while he was at class, clean his kitchen or take his dog to the park. I think I even went a little extra once and folded his roommates laundry, gotta have their approval too, ya know. I did all of this because I was still in the stage of wanting him to like me, think I was cool, find me attractive and thoughtful, etc.
Yet, here we are four years later and there are clothes in the dryer that have been in there since last week, I am pretty sure, and he did the dishes last night while I helped myself to a 3rd glass of wine while wearing the same sweatpants for the fourth night in a row. It’s laughable to imagine, but we just do what works for us now. Our relationship now in comparison to four years ago is most assuredly not the same at all, it’s better. It’s better because we have experienced so much together, traveled together, fought over important things, found a solution, called off our original wedding (I will write about that at a later time), got our lives together, and made things happen.
There are so many ways that love and relationships can be categorized. I have seen couples that have been together for, what seems like, an eternity, yet, appear as if they do not even know each other at all. I have seen people date for three months, get hitched, and still going strong to this day with two kids and one on the way. I have seen people come back from their honeymoon just to sign divorce papers. I have seen couples who’ve been married for 20+ years who are still HOT for each other like they just started dating. I have seen people doubt their relationship altogether, but stick around because their reason for staying is stronger than their will to leave, whether it be kids or family, etc. Whatever the case, relationship goals, like I said, are not all they are cracked up to be; but the gratification of reaching a real goal with the one you love is much more rewarding than holding their hand through an enchanted forest for a sweet Instagram picture.
My relationship goal is to stop stressing about things as petty as money. My goal is to spend what I absolutely have to and save more so that one of these days, we can take off a few months from our jobs and travel to places together, experience life outside of our own capsule. His relationship goal is probably more domestic, and that’s fine because we share a common goal at the end of the day, and that is to make each other happy.
My friend Jane, on the other hand, is in a position I think a lot of women our age find themselves in. She is done dating just for the sake of dating and having a someone to make appearances with. She isn’t going to get butt-hurt when John doesn’t text her back after 3 hours because she has rationally concluded that people, indeed, have lives outside of their cell phones and that she will hear from him by the end of the day. She has more confidence in herself, with or without John, than she’s ever had before. Experience, heartache, life lessons and such will do that to you. It’s crazy to think about how much differently we receive love once we’ve experienced a few low points in our lives. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to Jane, in fact, I can’t think of anyone who I know, personally, that can say without the shadow of a doubt that their love life has been spotless since they got in the game.
The problem with relationships today are these unrealistic goals that merit no particular use to what actually goes into a lasting relationship. Now, before I say what I am about to say, please make sure you read this all the way through: I was born into a generation that would rather throw away the things that are broken instead of fix them.
I am neither for, nor against divorce. Until I have walked in the shoes of someone who chose divorce, I cannot speak heavily on the topic, so I won’t. I am, however, allowed to look at simple statistics. In 1950 there were 1,667,231 couples married in the U.S. That year, 385,144 marriages out of 1,667,231 were unsuccessful, thus, ended in divorce. Thirty years later, in 1980, that standard freakishly doubled, making that 1,182,000 marriages out of 2,406,708 unsuccessful. Today, another 30 years later, the number of divorces are significantly lower due to an overall decrease in marriages. Less marriages lead to less divorces. I realize that the idea of marriage doesn’t exactly turn everyone on, but what caused the sudden decrease in the decision to get married? Among us we have a rapid increase in the influence of technology and the birthplace of social media essentially exists in Generation Y, so pardon me if I find the decision to stay independent somewhat collated with these particular factors.
After looking at the statistics, I had an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. I have listened to people give me their firsthand testimony of love, loss, and the refusal to risk putting themselves through that again. Another strong factor in the decision to refuse marriage is the notion that with marriage comes less freedom and fun. Like marriage is where your sex life goes to die or something. I will say this: intimacy does change over time. Frequency, needs, wants, etc. that will all change. It will change because you will realize that there is much more to love and relationships than sex. I will leave that there for you to ponder. But as far as fun and freedom, you still have both. If I want to go out with my girls, I do it. If Clint wants to go to the casino with the guys, by all means, he’s free to go. I don’t care what he does because I trust him and he trusts me. If we didn’t trust each other, I would not agree to marry him because a marriage built on a foundation that does not involve trust is a marriage that is a surefire candidate for divorce.
Excuse my lengthy blog post, but I just wish that this would get brought to light. I wish we talked about the hardships for what they are rather than going through a few rough spots and deciding to throw in the towel on your relationship. When people say “marriage is hard”, they aren’t lying. You have to work things out, come to conclusions, figure out ways to avoid further confrontation, and sometimes you need to separate yourself from your partner to diffuse the situation. It’s not a walk through the enchanted forest like you see on Instagram. But what they don’t tell you is how rewarding it is once the hardships pass. True, meaningful relationships are worth the work, but are not easily captured within the mere pixels of a photograph.