Keith and I recently celebrated our 3-year anniversary of dating. With that in mind, I was thinking a lot more about our relationship and how it’s transformed me as a person and a girlfriend. I thought I’d share a few things I learned along the way, just in case it helps someone.
Expectations are poisonous.
Looking at other people’s relationships, I realized that ours is very different. We don’t do PDA in front of people a lot, we don’t send each other cute texts every day, and the only flowers he’s ever gotten me were in a flower pot, “because they last longer.” (They didn’t. I’m a horrible gardener.) When I looked at these things and compared them with other people or movies, I started thinking there was a problem with us. Keith wasn’t being romantic enough, or we just didn’t love each other as much as others. I started wanting him to do the things I saw around me and got disappointed when he didn’t. I never even voiced a lot of my desires, I just expected him to do them as a “good boyfriend.” Because of my expectations, I would often leave an otherwise great time together frustrated, disappointed, or upset. Why couldn’t my relationship be like the beautiful couples on Instagram who always had those super cute pictures together?
I had to get to the point where I realized that these unspoken expectations were tearing me away from a great relationship. Keith couldn’t live up to everything I thought our relationship should be, so I was frustrated with him. I understood that I was taking the focus off of the main thing, which is to glorify God and serve the other person, and was putting it on petty things like whether he held my hand when we walked down the street.
So what do you do if someone isn’t living up to your expectations?
Of course, you will always have some needs and desires that you’ll want the other person to respect. If something is an important issue for you, maybe you need to share that with your significant other. There’s a good chance he doesn’t know how much it means to you or even that it’s something you want. But have grace. Even after you’ve talked about it, it might take time for him to start putting it into practice. It’s probably not natural and will take some learning for him. And when you have conversations like that, make sure you check with him to see if there is anything he wants from you that you could be doing better.
But if it’s not important? You may need to give it up out of love. Is it really a big deal if he doesn’t buy you flowers for every “month-versary?” Or if he likes to hang out with his friends every now and then? I had to learn that with Keith; he likes to say hi to everyone he knows at different events, and I used to get hurt when he left me to talk to them. But in reality, we’re about to spend the rest of the day together, so what’s a few minutes we’re not together? So now, in social settings, we’ll usually split up for a bit and connect with people that I probably wouldn’t talk to otherwise. It’s really nice, actually.
Realize that everyone’s romantic in their own way.
I notice more and more the little things Keith does that wouldn’t seem that romantic to other people that are how he expresses his affection toward me. For example, Valentine’s day is our most romantic tradition. Instead of flowers and chocolate, we make no-bake cookie dough and eat it straight from the bowl while watching the most unromantic movie we can think of (such as Schindler’s List or Shawshank Redemption). Yeah, that sounds weird, but it’s our thing now. Embrace the things that make your relationship unique. Those cookie-cutter romances are cheesy anyway.
Most likely, you started dating your boyfriend because you liked him for who his is. You don’t want to change him into something totally different. If you really do want to, you’re probably with the wrong guy. Don’t compare your relationship to someone else’s. Instead, create your own traditions, private jokes, experiences. It will make life so much better.
Dating is awesome, but there’s one important rule that we need to keep in mind: It’s not about you. If your relationship is selfish, you’re going to be unhappy. You’re going to have to sacrifice and overlook certain things in the other person. But that’s what grows you as a person and makes you more selfless. Love isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding!