How my partner and I make our long-term relationship work

My recent piece on being with the same boyfriend since we were 14 garnered a majorly positive reaction and a whole lot of love, but I’ve also had some people reaching out to ask me how we do it. While I don’t purport to be a relationship expert by any stretch (hey, I’ve only had one) I am pretty happy, feel lucky, and have made it work for nine years. We are still young and what makes me happy won’t necessarily work for you or anyone else, but here’s how we got it together.

By being friends first

This is number one, and for me, the only thing that matters. Before we locked down an exclusive-type situation, my partner and I were best friends for a while. We had similar friends, similar interests, and a similar sense of humor. We already knew each other really well before we dated. We fell into a romantic situation naturally somewhere attending house parties and finishing our year nine exams. Warnings from friends and magazine articles about the potential pitfalls of being friends first (like not being able to see one another sexually…wtf?) scared me a little at first, but it was the most natural thing in the world. Of course, if you aren’t able to fall in love with any of your current friends, just remember that it’s important to be friends at all.

Being honest 100% of the time

For better or for worse, I have an open honesty policy when it comes to my partner. I tell him literally everything that goes on in my life, whether boring, big, or potentially devastating. He tells me everything, too (I like to think), and it’s how it has to be if we are to have a relationship built on a solid foundation of trust rather than wibbly-wobbly lies.

Having similar politics

I feel very strongly about things like basic human rights. I would expect any partner to feel just as strongly, and while we might disagree on any issues, our basic politics and ideals remain the same. I cannot comprehend the idea of dating someone and then finding out they were a giant racist, or against women’s rights, or anything else. The idea of having to educate someone on why I deserve the same rights as them is terrifying, and I’m glad I’m on the same page as my partner.

Not suffocating one another

Sure, we live in a one bed apartment and quite like hanging out. But we are both individual adults with our own friends, interests, and music tastes. Giving one another room to grow and to be alone is really important, and I can’t imagine having someone in my space 24/7. Having room to grow extends to time alone outside of the home, too, with each one of us making a concerted effort to do stuff apart.

Being prepared to break up

Alright, hear me out. It isn’t that we want to break up, or even that it’s anywhere on the horizon. While a break-up would still be devastating, my relationship has primarily worked because we have been strong people individually, knowing every step of the way that it’s an option to part ways. I expected it to happen for a while, and now I am pretty certain it probably won’t unless we have a major disaster. Unnecessary pressure and saying things like, “We are definitely going to die staring at one another!” when you are super super young is only going to make both of you feel a little fight or flight. Plus, you should always be prepared to let go of something that isn’t making you truly happy. Knowing you have other routes and are staying together out of choice is freeing, and means you both truly like what you’re doing.

Actually liking each other

Alright, you caught me, I like my boyfriend. He’s alright, and pretty funny. I like having him around and it’s not just because of what he gives me. I like him as a person, and he probably likes who I am, too. A mutual respect of one another and your humor, work, past, etc. is a lot more worthwhile and has more chance of longevity than a relationship based on the fact that you like what he does for you, the compliments he gives you, or the half of the bills he contributes.

Having a sense of humor

At all times. Watching TV, during sex, during a fight, just hanging out. Having a laugh is the best. Sometimes life is really crappy, sometimes it’s really good, but regardless it’s nice to be with someone who makes you laugh. My entire relationship is rooted in comedy of one kind or another and it’s the best, we make each other laugh about something or other all day every day. Neither of us are incredibly serious people, and I cannot imagine having to spend my whole day around someone who took everything seriously.

Sharing household responsibilities

In splitting bills, pet care, and chores equally we don’t resent one another for not doing their fair share. Simple.

Having similar interests

Having someone around every day who not only works in a similar industry to mine and understands my work gripes, but one who knows what I’m talking about and is passionate about similar stuff, is invaluable. While differences are important and valuable in their own right, being with someone completely different to me who required a constant education would just stunt conversation. Plus, I can’t imagine trying to pretend to care about sports. I just can’t.

While Owain and I are still young and nine years is hardly a lifetime, we’ve overcome a lot of obstacles and matured a lot together. We make it work, we like each other quite a bit, and I think that’s worth something.

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