You’re probably thinking, “What makes you the expert?”
I’m not your typical expert. I’m not a relationship professional. I’m not a couples therapist.
But hear me out.
I’ve been in several serious relationships. Watched relationships closely since I was a young child. Read countless books and am a total psychology nerd. Also, never dated a jerk.
Bottom line, I probably should be a relationship consultant/therapist/whatever, haha. I’ve always been fascinated with them and as a child of an ugly divorce, finding the recipe for success has been at the top of my priority list since I can remember.
And whenever I came across older couples, I always make it a point to ask them what worked. And what didn’t (another day, another article).
However, I want to share what comes from my own experience and intuition.
The two requirements for a lasting relationship are commitment and forgiveness.
It wasn’t until I met my current partner over four years ago that I realized real commitment was what I had been searching for and why none of my previous exes, no matter how fantastic, could receive my commitment.
That’s right, I’ve been unfaithful to every boyfriend that I’ve ever had. And yes, I’m sure that makes me sound awful. Judge me, if you’d like. But part of me always knew that forever wasn’t on our horizon, so if I met a beautiful stranger or realized wedding bells wouldn’t be ringing, I allowed myself to get lost in someone else.
Let me be clear, besides one betrayal, the indiscretions were a kiss or two. Believe it or not, I’m very conservative and protective of who I share my body with.
The point is, I always knew they weren’t fully committed so I didn’t bother to be either. And while I should’ve just ended things, I wasn’t mature enough. It’s hard to end a relationship with a great guy who’s become one of your closest friends. You lose both at once.
But my partner’s commitment was obvious from day one. It felt different to be with him. And mind you, we didn’t envelop the boyfriend/girlfriend labels until four months down the road when he was fully ready. However, I still sensed in him that he wouldn’t bother getting involved if he wasn’t going to commit.
And I’ve never seen commitment like the past nearly 4.5 years. He stayed when things got rough. He never got scared. He wasn’t afraid of the messy or ugly. And I threw everything I had at him in hopes he would spook. But he didn’t. He stood resolute and firm in us, in his commitment. Not in some all-consuming way, he loves his independence almost as much as I do, but in his own way.
It took a few years to hit me that I had always been searching for that type of commitment because I knew that once I truly committed, it would be the lasting kind. And that needed to be matched.
Too many people run away when life gets bumpy, when we see each other at our worst or when the bottom falls out. But my partner and I aren’t those types of people. We stick. We experience life with eyes wide open and aren’t scared when the going gets rough. We expect it.
It was this realization of commitment that made me see, it didn’t matter who the guy was, what he did, or where he was from — without equal definitions of commitment — it would’ve never worked.
And while I’m talking about the monogamous type here, I believe it works across the board. For whatever you want, whatever you prefer, make sure your partner is equally aligned in your definitions of commitment.
The second ingredient is one that surprised me but shouldn’t have because no relationship can endure without it.
As we all know, being in a relationship isn’t easy. Especially if you are dedicated to being honest, which my partner and I have practiced from day one.
It doesn’t matter how alike you are. It doesn’t matter how great you are at communication. It’s hard to share space with someone else who isn’t you. It’s hard to compromise. It’s hard to ask, to include. It’s hard.
So in the midst of building a life together, there are endless opportunities to fall short, miscommunicate, and cross boundaries.
We’ve argued loudly. Screamed wildly. Thrown things. Broke things. Yes, our relationship is real.
But that’s why it’s so important to forgive AND let go. To me, forgiveness is more about letting go than accepting someone did you wrong. Forgiveness must include both to work.
This is where I think most couples drop the ball. They compile the wrongs. Don’t forgive the altercations. And eventually, the weight of all of those disagreements become too heavy to move forward.
I see it in my own relationship.
Forgiving has always been easier for me than for my partner. I’m a forward-moving person and easily forget why problems arose, especially if apologies were exchanged. But he is more tied to the past and often tries to bring pieces of it into the present-day issues, which is defeating in the worst way.
We can’t deal with the present issue effectively if we’re heaping on things outside of it. If we talk things out, if we agree to forgive then it must be left in the past.
Without the “letting go” of forgiveness, there is no future. No next day. No reason to continue.
Our partners WILL fuck up. WILL hurt us. WILL be horrible people sometimes (not excusing abuse or violence, in the least). WILL show their humanity. And we must do our best to offer grace because we will do the same.
Relationships aren’t black and white but I believe there are definite indicators of longevity to look for. In this article, I’m focusing on commitment and forgiveness — two that have served my relationship abundantly well.
We’re still learning, we aren’t perfect. But we’re figuring it out one day at a time. Thanks to commitment and forgiveness.