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There has always been a certain kind of stigma that encircled long-term relationships. From journal articles to online forums and full websites devoted to tips for love and dating, almost everyone has something to say about how to breathe new life into relationships and bring spark back. They show statistics and colorful infographics - as if they want to ease the blow - about how relationships change over time. They show numbers, they quote scientists and they throw in some numbers and graphs. But do they show the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher known for his doctrine of change, said the only "... constant in life is change." In other words, everything around us moves, transforms, changes. This ultimately creates a chain of responses in which we inevitably adjust or grow in a cycle of endless change.
This inevitably shifts the paradigms of our relationships - not because our relationships are going downhill, but because we, as individuals, are changing. But not all change is bad. Most are even welcome and should be encouraged. Why would we not want our partners to become the best possible versions of themselves, not for us, but for their own personal satisfaction?
Of course, some relationships have a stagnant phase in which everything becomes a routine, from having to show the face at weddings to what happens in the bedroom. Unfortunately, the internet has sparked fire by bringing thousands of doubts into the minds of people visiting their websites looking for advice. If you are on this page, there is definitely something wrong with your relationship. Your partner can cheat on you. If you no longer have sex, you must first love yourself. Of course, some may be viable advice, but it does not apply to everyone.
My boyfriend and I have been together for three wonderful years and have come a long way from the days we had to eat out and always had something to talk about. Now we have learned to enjoy the simpler things; we don't have to surprise each other with flowers or go out to chic restaurants to entertain ourselves. Instead, we find total satisfaction in spending quality time cooking together and working on our projects in different corners of the same room.
This 180 degree change is due to many factors. We are not only 300% more comfortable with each other, but we have created ties that are deeply rooted in our existence. We are both independent in many ways, but our foundations are interconnected; our hopes and dreams of the future are adapted to the wishes and needs of the other, and there is no other way we would have it.
But how have we not only maintained this level of closeness, but also developed it into new forms of love and longing over the past three years? How did we not hit a rut?
I have no answers to this, but I do know that my partner and I are not afraid to try new things. In addition to planning our next adventure and putting together plans for the next weekend with a group of friends, we try new things separately. I started boxing and he devoted two nights a week to reading his books in the coffee house next door - and this has done wonders. It was never planned; these were just things we went for, just because. And now we are not only addicted to our new hobbies, but we always have something to tell about it.
Esther Perel, a psychotherapist and insightful speaker on relationships and sexuality, said that we are most attracted to our partners when we see them in their element - whether on stage, in a gym, with brushes or an instrument. Her words could no longer resonate.
The second key to a successful relationship, based on my experience, is to enjoy each moment together and separately. This means enjoying quiet dinners and singing aloud for The Backstreet Boys together in the car. It means that you tackle your boyfriend while he gets dressed and start a wrestling match. It means he strokes his hair while falling asleep on your lap on Friday night. It means realizing how precious every moment is - isn't that what life is all about? And when we separate, we realize how much we miss them, and in that form of gratitude, all ties are strengthened.
So yes. Relationships do change, but that's great, because relationships have to change. They must grow, they must offer room for the evil and the good, they must adapt to the crooked balls of life. The trick is to welcome everything - what it can do for you can surprise you!