Relationship Champion

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After mentioning to a new co-worker that my girlfriend and I have been together for 6 years, I was immediately knighted relationship champion.  6 years is just about my entire adult life (see Brantleyism #001 for my thoughts on adulthood being an 18+ condition).

It’s one of those accomplishments that make people assume that you actually know what you’re doing.  When people ask me how we’ve made it so far, I give one big goofy shrug and a Scooby-Dooesque “Idunno!”

That’s too broad of a question.  When it gets more specific, it gets more awkward too.  “You’ve been together that long and you’ve never cheated?  She’s never cheated?  You never even thought about it?”  The tone that people use with these questions make it sound like there’s something wrong with the answer, “no.”  It comes out like:  “You mean you’ve never even considered potty training?”  “You’re telling me that neither of you take showers ever?”  

It really makes me think, though.  Not about cheating, but about the absolute absence of any interest in that.  There’s no place I’d rather be than with my girlfriend.  Why would cheating ever even cross my mind?

Being perceived as some sort of relationship Saskwatch sighting is nothing compared to the weirdness of situations when I’m treated like a sage.  Here’s something that most of my readers would probably guess about me:  I have absolutely no idea how to give relationship advice.

The problem is that my girlfriend is perfect.  Being in love with her is as easy as breathing.  Actually with the amount of pollen in Florida this time of year, being in love with her is easier than breathing.

She makes me want to be my best self, and she knows exactly how to tell me when I’m not living up to the person I want to be (and in a way that cuts through my impenetrable stubbornness).  It’s hard to explain, but it’s everything I’ve ever needed.

We never run out of things to talk about because we share interest in some “evergreen topics” like movies, politics, and nature.  There’s a whole big interesting world out there and neither of us can get enough of it.

Best of all, however, is our love of stories and conversations when we discuss fiction as if it’s real.  Recently, we wondered where J.K. Rowling’s Wizards and Witches were during World War 2.  Rick Riordan mentioned the role of his demi-gods in the major wars of history.  There’s no way Jo hasn’t considered these things, she just hasn’t told us her answer.  (Seriously though:  Is the privacy of a small portion of the population more important than the lives of the millions of Jews that were being rounded up and slaughtered in concentration camps during World War 2?  Wouldn’t a societal decision by the Wizarding community to do nothing to stop the Holocaust color the very psychology of their culture?).

Also part of that conversation is the notion the epic veracity of the old saying “knowledge is power” in the Wizarding World.  Why would anyone study a minute less than Hermione if it meant being able to do incredible things?  Of course, my girlfriend cited mentions of inherent talent and power in certain wizards that determines the range of their potential for magic.

Sorry.  What was I blogging about again?

In short, our relationship is great because we work together.  We are similar in all of the right ways, but dissimilar enough to prevent ourselves from becoming one with the couch in a mutual comfort zone.  We strengthen each other, nurture each other, challenge each other.

She’s perfect, so I’ve got it easy.  She’s the one with the hard part.  I’m very, very far from perfect!

Regardless, our relationship certainly impressed this co-worker.  She wanted to know how after 6 years we still aren’t bored with each other; how we didn’t “go through a rough patch” after so much time together.  It all led to that inevitable moment when I’m placed on a relationship pedestal, and find myself speechless, dizzy and disoriented from the heights.

Luckily, I was saved in this particular situation.  Conversations like these at work are frequently interrupted and rarely carried through to their conclusion.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it though.  Every time I’ve ever been asked for relationship advice I feel like a deer in the headlights.  I don’t know what to tell people who are in trouble with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  If you don’t want to be with someone, don’t be with them.  Life is too short to spend with the wrong person.  As for me, there hasn’t been a single second since I first kissed my girlfriend on August 26th, 2008 that I haven’t wanted to be with her.  For all of my endless imagination, I can’t even begin to understand what it would be like to consider giving up on what we have.

Like I said, the conversation wasn’t ever finished, but I did come up with a few tips on how to be relationship champions:

  1. Don’t ever take each other for granted.  My girlfriend and I have something that people search their entire lives for and some never find.  Remembering that puts everything else into perspective.  There isn’t a single argument or disagreement that we could possibly have that would be worth throwing it all away.  When someone loves you, they will put up with you at your worst.  When you love them back, you know that they deserve nothing short of your very best.
  2. Don’t go to bed angry.  Fighting sucks, but it’s as temporary as you make it.  It’s better to be happy than right, especially because being right counts for so little in most arguments.  When it comes to relationships:  fixing things, apologizing, making up for your mistakes should be your top priority in life.  Arguments are no fun, but they happen.  Bury the hatchet as soon as you can and get back to loving each other.
  3. Finally, the most lame advice I can give people is this:  Have a little bit more money than you need. It’s not romantic at all, I know, but I can’t tell you how many fewer disagreements my girlfriend and I have now that we can pay our bills and go out for dinner and drinks every once in a while.  Being broke is an all-consuming stress that can poison your health, your mind, and your relationship.  It warps your sense of reality and your priorities, which is extremely dangerous when it comes to the most important people in your life.

It’s not much wisdom to impart and it’s probably not all that impressive, but that’s my answer.  That’s how we’ve made it so far, through so much and are still happy with each other.

Next time I suddenly find myself on the relationship pedestal and am completely flabbergasted, I won’t even try to speak.  I’ll just pull up this post, show it to the supplicant and scram before they can ask anymore broad, confusing questions!

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12 thoughts on “Relationship Champion

  1. underwaterraven

    I’m not sure, but I think I win in the “not feeling comfortable in giving relationship advice to people” game. One time when a guy I knew asked me what to do about his relationship which was breaking down, I was so clueless as to what to say that I ended up informing him about Jewish relationship/sexual practices for a good half hour.

    I’m quite sure the information didn’t help him in the slightest…

    • I think most people don’t actually want or need advice (and I bet pretty close to 100% of folks don’t actually use it). They just want to be heard and it feels good to get stuff off their chest. Some of my bigger successes at “being there” for someone involved just doing whatever they wanted to do to cope with their rough patch, be it watching movies, eating junk food, or drinking. Come to think of it, those are three of my favorite things to do anyways!

  2. POLCNRD

    This is awesome Brantley! I’m so glad you are happy and I think your advice is spot on, including the idea that the relationships not being so hard if it is the right person.

    • Thanks! I don’t 100% agree with the notion if soul mates (love can be hard work sometimes, even if you are with the right person you aren’t guaranteed by fate to have a continually functioning relationship), but finding someone that you really get along with well makes a ton of difference!

  3. What’s really fun is when you’re single (or haven’t had a relationship) and people are asking you for relationship advice. That did happen to me. Group Guru or therapist, take your pick.

    Congrats on 6 years. I’m usually lucky if a relationship makes it past 3 solid years.

    • Being asked for relationship advice always feels so unexpected. I wonder if even people that know what they’re talking about feel ambushed for guidance.

      Lucky for us clueless folks, most people don’t take advice or even particularly want it. They’re just looking for a shoulder to cry on and whatever you say to them is pretty unimportant in the process of helping them feel better.

  4. Congratulations on having such a great relationship! Those first two bits of advice that you mentioned are two of the main ideas I’ve embraced over the years. (And the third is smart! When you avoid money trouble, it makes things so much easier. Dave Ramsey would approve. : ) ) That, and communication. Always being willing to talk honestly. The transparency helps. At least, it certainly has for me after 16 years of friendship and 7 years of marriage with my middle school sweetheart. : )

    • Communication is definitely a huge one that I forgot to mention! Within the first week of dating, my girlfriend and I were holding hands and she pulled away from me. I asked what was wrong and she told me that the hand holding was getting too sweaty. It was such a simple, honest thing to say, but so many couples would be afraid of the potential awkwardness and would just sweat all over each other and endure it without speaking up. It was a silly but awesome moment early on, and a life saver too. We live in Florida. Physical contact gets sweaty and weird QUICK down here.

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