I don’t want to forget this October. It’s a very special one for me because Anthony and I will be announcing to our family and friends that we are getting married on our tenth anniversary. The ‘engagement’ happened very organically as things in our relationship always have. On a normal afternoon we had a conversation about the future we wanted over dinner in a cheap restaurant. A realization that it was time for the sake of our families, for our future family and a pretty convenient celebration of a decade of young love…of our love. So Anthony looked at me, still convinced that a piece of paper and a party couldn’t possibly make him feel differently about us, and gave into tradition.
I’m lucky to have met him when I was only 18 but early on I struggled with the impossibility that the love of my life was at my doorstep right when I was getting ready to start discovering who I was- who I am. Now at 27, I can begin to look back at some of the major lessons I’ve learned about independence, self-love and freedom through the beautiful relationship I’ve shared with my soulmate.
1. True love is energizing
Think about this. Every time you’ve been in a bad relationship you’ve probably felt drained. Sometimes that doesn’t happen right away but there is always a turning point. For most people I think that happens around the 1-2 year mark because at first it’s a possessive kind of love. All you want is each other and the romantic whirlwind that songs are written about unfolds in front of you. Until your family and/or friends start pointing out that you’ve dropped off the planet for this person, that you are no longer doing things you used to enjoy because the center of your world shifted. It’s like waking up from a dream and realizing that the other people in your life still exist- including yourself. The continued neglect of other relationships in your life and of your own voice is what eventually defines if the love is meant to live or end.
So the only way the fire can continue is by re-finding yourself, your interests and by nurturing the other important relationships in your life. Then you might decide on a girls night out, or take up a photography class, and his or your reaction to these little steps that change the dynamic of the relationship are important. If it's true love, then there is trust, support and encouragement which in turn keeps the fire/energy going. In the other hand if you fight every time you want to see your best friend then it starts to become draining, killing the relationship in the process. In conclusion the fire is kept alive by finding independence, which takes me to the next lesson:
2. You’re still Individuals
The biggest lie you'll ever come across is thinking that once you find love, that this person will complete YOU. Nope, wrong, LIES! Take a deep breath, and love each other like you should- act like partners and companions in this life as you should, but don't expect your happiness to be handed over by your one true love. Expecting anyone else to make you happy will only end in resentment. Resentment leads itself to anger,and anger is impatient, anger isn't kind and your love won't have the proper ingredients to grow. It's not selfish to take care of yourself first, of your dreams and your health- because personal happiness will increase the happiness of everyone around you. And of course this doesn't mean the complete disregard of the feelings of others, but rather increasing your happiness and asserting your individuality will cultivate your patience and empathy therefore pushing you to be the best partner you can be. It truly starts with the self.
3. You have to love yourself first
This one I think is more easily a sound bite than reality. Self love is a life-long project. To practice self love everyday is the easiest thing to disregard and yet it's the most important ingredient to a good relationship. Self love gives you true independence, a true sense of gratefulness and completeness and will allow your partnership to blossom and become that 'unicorn' type of relationship that so many believe doesn't exist. I think relationship problems come from a lack of self understanding- by one person or both. Self love is the beginning of the journey to self actualization, to a happier life and to meaningful relationships . In my case Anthony was the one that inspired my journey towards better self-care.
It started with Anthony's sincerity and confidence of the love he has for me which is, by the way, the most romantic thing I've experienced and the most unnerving at the same time. So much so that I would ask myself how he could be so sure he made the right choice by loving me, until one day I figured it out.
Anthony loves who he is, he loves his life, his hobbies and his personal achievements. He creates his life as he wants it- he wields the power to create happiness in his life. I love him because his drive is a constant source of inspiration for me, and then it hit me: Anthony doesn't need me to make himself happy, instead he chooses me to be in his life. This epiphany inspired me to practice self love more seriously so I could do the same. So that I could love my life, so that I could dream bigger and work harder, and so that I could choose to love him instead of needing to love him.
TO NEED ANYTHING IN LIFE IS TO PUSH AWAY HAPPINESS. THE POWER OF TRUE LOVE AND PARTNERSHIP IS IN OUR ABILITY TO CHOOSE ONE ANOTHER.
I guess what I'm trying to say, is the best love story is the one you have with yourself. But the love you receive from your partner is a gift to be cherished forever.
Anthony and I have continued to choose each other again and again and I look forward to facing the next ten, twenty, fifty years hand in hand, supporting and loving each other.