There is no denying that I like to join the masses and post aesthetically pleasing photos of not only my life, but my relationship with Ryan. We all know that social media is a highlight reel, but even if we're aware, reminders are definitely needed once in a while. If you didn't already know, that's what my blog is all about: balancing my pretty squares with the real-talk, behind the scenes details, and vulnerability.
Amongst the social media highlight reel lies this notion of "relationship goals." It's a good thing to have a relationship to look up to, but only if you know the relationship really well - from all its beautiful aspects to the imperfections. Unfortunately, people only scratch the surface of most relationships they're exposed to on social media, and base their envy off of looks, and whatever the particular couple chooses to expose. It's easy to forget that the gorgeous couple you follow has their own issues and challenges that they're working through behind the scenes. I am guilty of forgetting about this, and I fall into the all-too-common tendency of comparing my relationship to someone else's.
For example, Ryan and I just celebrated our one-year anniversary. Well, to say we celebrated would be an overstatement. We went out the night before our day and spent our whole anniversary recovering. We failed to make plans and failed to communicate what was expected from each other when celebrating milestones. We both ended up feeling pretty shitty about the fact that we didn't prioritize celebrating us for our day. I then felt myself remembering the couple that just posted their extravagant date night for their anniversary, complete with red roses, candlelit dinners, and a surprise trip to a swanky hotel. I found myself upset at Ryan for not planning a romantic getaway of some sort, and he felt himself upset at me for not communicating that's what I wanted, and then upset at himself for thinking he needed that communication.
We learned now that we need to be better at making time for ourselves, for putting in equal effort to do something sweet for each other, especially on milestone days. But the mere act of comparing our relationship to someone else's highlight reel prompted me to write some expectations vs. reality of relationships and first year of marriage. I was also prompted because I am constantly receiving messages from friends, friends of friends and strangers how much they love Ryan and I's love, how incredible our lives look and how perfect we are. While the compliments are warming, I'm here to give you the nitty gritty, and here to show you that we are far from perfect, just like every other couple. You can still love our love, but only if you know that.
Expectation: If you question anything within your first year of marriage, you made the wrong decision.
Reality: We live in a world where everything should be black or white. We're surrounded by a culture that tells us if we're not feeling butterflies 24/7 then we need to leave. We are told that asking yourself questions or picturing yourself in another life once in a while is BAD, and if we think about those things then we shouldn't be married. Nothing could be more wrong. When you get married, you're learning how to live a whole new life. You're learning how to adjust to an inevitable dynamic change in your relationship. When times get hard, it's ok to feel annoyed, to question, to fantasize, and to feel feelings that you're not "supposed" to feel. With transitions come the classic "what if's" and "grass is greener" phenomenons. I've learned to stop shaming myself for questioning and to openly talk about it with Ryan. Most of the time, he questions the same.
Expectation: If you don't feel that *spark*, your relationship is dead.
Reality: If you've been in a long term relationship and still feel a butterfly feeling every single time your significant other walks into the room, get goosebumps with every touch, and your reproductive organs are in a constant longing for your partner, TELL ME YOUR SECRET. The reality is, the spark goes away in most long term relationships. What's worse, is we think this means the relationship has failed. The honeymoon phase is titled as such because it's supposed to be temporary. Butterflies happen because there's a sense of mystery between you and your partner, because in your eyes they're nothing but perfect and sexy and smooth-talking. This isn't meant to last. Long term relationships and marriage are the opposite of mystery. They're supposed to be secure and safe. You're not supposed to be on your toes. Long term relationships are about learning how to let go of the need for "spark" and embracing the beauty of security and knowing the ins and outs of your SO. Forget the spark. There's something beautiful about being so comfortable, vulnerable, and intimate with another human. The trick is to learn how to turn security into sexy. This is something Ryan and I are working on.
Which leads me to...
Expectation: If you're not having sex at least (x) times a week, this is a red flag.
Reality: The topic of sex has been an anxiety trigger for me throughout our first year of marriage. I am under this ridiculous impression that newlyweds are having a consistent hot and heavy time in the bedroom and question our whole relationship if we're not. Some married couples have their sex life down, but I can tell you that wasn't achieved without effort. A common theme about my learnings of marriage is that not a whole lot comes with pure ease; so many aspects take work, and that includes intimacy. Busy schedules, being too comfortable, too tired, etc., all take a conscious effort to work around. As long as you're both communicating about it and are willing to work at it, stop putting a number on how many times you think you're "supposed" to be getting it on. Also, intimacy is more than just sex. Cuddling, touching, kisses, and other subtle physical engagements should not be overlooked.
Expectation: Love is a feeling.
Reality: Love is a commitment. It is a verb. Relationships take a conscious decision to choose to love even when you don't feel like it.
Expectation: Marriage, especially pre-kids, should be effortless if you're with the right person.
Reality: This may seem a little redundant, but it's important. The moment you commit to marry someone your are committing to work. You are committing to the fact that it will not be easy and anything but effortless. This is still a new idea to Ryan and I. We are finding that even little aspects such as finding time for just ourselves takes effort and planning. It is so easy to make a relationship look effortless on the surface, but behind every successful marriage and relationship comes a whole lot of effort, questioning, learning, and growing.
Amongst all this reality checking, there are a few expectations that took me by surprise in the most positive way possible, such as:
Expectation: There's no way we'll find the same jokes to be funny.
Reality: We still laugh at the same inside jokes we had years ago. Laughing is essential. This is something we don't struggle with.
Expectation: I'll definitely get sick of his company.
Reality: Having time away from each other is SO important, but I pleasantly find that I miss being in his presence more than I thought I would, even when living together.
Expectation: Learning how to live together will be super hard.
Reality: You should have a pretty good idea about the type of person your SO is in the house, but you can't prepare for everything. There's no doubt Ryan and I do certain things around the house differently, but if you're willing to discuss each other's living expectations and honor/accept them, learning to live together and keeping the house how you want it is pretty easy.
The perfect marriage does not exist. No matter how good they make it look. The notion of "relationship goals" should not be about making it a goal to be the hottest, most perfect couple out there but to be the most real, vulnerable, and to promote good and healthy communication between couples. Challenge yourself to talk about the hard times with your partner to others and how you're going about about handling them. Challenge yourself to appreciate beautiful couple photos but to remind yourself that they're just real people behind the lens. And lastly, challenge yourself to recreate the meaning of "relationship goals." Social media's highlight reel will be a lot less damaging if we accept the imperfections behind them.
This was read at our wedding ceremony and I refer back to it so often. It's so important, and summarizes the point of this post perfect:
Love is a temporary madness,
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,
it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being "in love" which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.
To more lovin' and learnin' over the next year!