Marriage Myth-Busters Myth #3: The First Years Are The Best

first yearsMy 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 I hope you are.)

Now, it just so happens that he and I actually met each other at this institution. So while on campus, in addition to connecting with alums and attending various reunion parades and dinners, we also made a point of visiting the places dear to us because of their connection to early relationship memories:

The lake that was the site of our first long talk and luscious first kiss,

The paths we walked arm in arm as we moved from library to dining hall to dorm,

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 wax 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 can be 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, and to believe because of this that those first years were the best years.

I’m going to give you three reasons to believe otherwise:

first years1) 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 building of trust over time 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 – big 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 to develop.

2) We grow best in relationship, not alone.

So, I’m not gonna lie. There are real benefits to living alone. A few of my favorites:

  • I can binge watch stored So You Think You Can Dance episodes.
  • I can sleep without the interruptions of a snoring or restless bed partner.
  • I can indulge in my workaholism to my 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 if I wanted to!

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 if I were single.

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 can tolerate powerful independence and individuality.

When we are falling 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.

As a relationship matures, as time together is logged and trust is built, it can offer both partners space in which to explore their own self once again.

first yearsWe 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.

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If you’re in a long-term relationship, what do you remember about those early years? And how has your relationship changed since then? Or if you’re in the early stages of a committed partnership, or have yet to find a long-term partner, how do you hope your relationship will evolve over time? Please consider sharing your stories below.

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