With time and trust, the best is yet to come.
My husband and I recently visited my alma mater for my 30th reunion (yes, that says 30th, and I assure you that I am as shocked by that high number as you are).
Now, it just so happens that he and I actually met each other at this institution. So in addition to connecting with other alums and attending various reunion parades and dinners while on campus, we also made a point of visiting the places dear to us because of their connection to early relationship memories.
We went to the lake where we took our first long talk and shared our luscious first kiss. We walked down paths where we walked arm in arm as we moved from library to dining hall to dorm. We visited my senior dorm room where we spent countless hours talking, studying and... doing other things.
And as we visited these places, we remembered. We remembered those earliest years of our relationship, years awash in the giddiness of our "in love" feelings and our tentative anticipation of an exciting future together.
If you’ve been in a similar situation, you know how easy it is to feel nostalgic about the early years of a relationship, and to long to experience that fresh sense of excitement all over again.
And you know, also, how easy it is to decide that the more mature version of this relationship in which you now find yourself is woefully lacking when compared to its younger self. Because of this, we believe that those first years were the best years.
I’m going to give you three reasons to believe otherwise:
1. Trust is established
There is no early rush of excitement and possibility that can compare to what really becomes possible in a relationship when a deep trust has been established over time. In a relationship that is heading in the right direction, trust is built over time through a million small decisions and events.
We offer a positive response to our partner’s bid for connection, we work hard to engage in respectful communication, we care that there is a fair resolution to the inevitable problems that arise between two different people who’ve chosen to spend their lives together.
All of this.
And then something magical happens. This gradual building of trust leads to an increased openness to both expressing and nurturing vulnerability, which in turn offers our partnership opportunities for deeper emotional connection, a more challenging intellectual discourse and — a bonus! — more robust and creative sexual exploration.
All of these things are less likely to flourish in a new relationship in which both are holding a bit back, waiting for that sense of trust.
2. We grow best in relationship, not alone.
So I’m not going to lie. There are real benefits to living alone. A few of my favorites:
- I can binge watch my taped So You Think You Can Dance episodes.
- I can sleep without the interruptions of a snoring or restless bed partner (sorry, sweetie, but you know it’s true).
- I can indulge in my workaholic heart’s content.
- I can play air guitar in my tighty-whities like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.
Okay, so I don’t actually do that last one. BUT I COULD!
But here’s the thing: I like the opportunity to express my "meness" to its fullness every now and then, but the truth is that I am a better person in my relationship with my husband than I would be alone.
This is because relationships — with their inevitable push and pull of likes, dislikes, needs, wants and alternative viewpoints — encourage you to grow, challenge you to change, to see the other side and accept influence from something besides your own echo chamber.
A viewpoint or need expressed by your partner is hard to ignore or dismiss because it comes from someone you love very much and with whom you share things like secrets, sinks, values, the TV remote, and the bed.
3. A mature relationship tolerates powerful independence and individuality.
When we fall in love with someone, we are in the business of BONDING. In this space, there is a hormonal pull to find all the ways in which we are alike, find all the interests we share, "become one" with the other.
This is the right goal of a young relationship, but if we hold on to it for too long, we run the risk of losing ourselves in this miasma of oneness.
A relationship matures when you log more time together and build trust, and it can offer both partners space in which to explore their own self once again.
We can ask for and receive enriching spaces in our togetherness (to borrow a concept from Rabindranath Tagore) in which we can hang out with the old gang, ask for "me time," explore a new career or take solo vacations.
We can even find the space and time to play air guitar in our underwear.
So take heart. With time and trust, the best is truly yet to come.
Anne Barker is a writer and psychotherapist in Omaha, NE, specializing in working with couples and individuals on all manner of relationship issues. Visit Anne’s relationship blog at Hitch Fix or her website to find out more about her writing and services.
This article was originally published at Barker Therapy Arts. Reprinted with permission from the author.