What Love Has Taught Me...
I absolutely love my boyfriend. He’s the most genuine, kind, incredible, determined person I know. He says he’s funny too. I disagree most of the time.
Even though we love each other, we’ve had ups and downs over the last almost six years of our relationship. Times where it’s almost been over, times where we’ve both just been insanely happy, and times where it’s just been everyday life.
And trust me, I’ve learnt and grown a lot over those years.
At the same time, I’ve also had countless conversations with my girlfriends about relationships. Usually it’s venting about what our boyfriends have done to annoy us. But I thought, ‘Heck, why don’t I share my wisdom about what works for our relationship and my friends’ relationships…?!’
Let me be clear: these aren’t crazy, whacky tips… They’re pretty straight-forward and maybe even obvious (except when you’re in a heated moment!). But sometimes it’s the simplest of things that make all the difference. And I know they’ve made a difference to our relationship.
Lesson Number 1A: Communicate!
Communication is SO DAMN IMPORTANT. At the end of the day, none of us are mind readers, and neither are our partners (unless someone is hiding something…). We might think something is super obvious, but they might have no clue. We might think we know what they’re thinking, but chances are, we don’t.
It’s when you sit there thinking ‘Why aren’t they talking much…? Are they unhappy…? Is something wrong…?’ And they’re actually thinking about that one time when Shane Warne bowled whoever out…
So many women seem to have this weird habit of overthinking things, holding on to things and getting caught up on a thought we have. (GUILTY!)
And most of the time, when we get hold of these thoughts, we build it up and eventually snap… And usually, our partners DO NOT SEE IT COMING. Bless them.
Honestly, I cannot say it enough: Talk to your partner!
If they do something that hurts you, let them know. If they do something that annoys you, let them know. It doesn’t have to be aggressive, or hurtful, just let them know (more tips in lesson 1b).
On the reverse side, communicate about the positive things too! Our other halves want us to be happy and feel loved in our relationship. So if something makes you feel loved, happy and blissful in your relationship, let them know.
And if you’re unsure of something, talk to them! Speaking of… let me tell you about one of my beautiful friends and her boyfriend.
I’m sure at some point in all of our relationships we’ve thought…
‘WHAT IF THEY DON’T WANT A FUTURE WITH ME! THEY NEVER MENTION IT….’
We’ve been convinced that it’s just for now, they haven’t thought about our future, do they even want to be with me long term?! I’ll put my hand up and say I have DEFINITELY been there!! Well anyway, this friend sent me a message opening up about how she was worried because her boyfriend never spoke about the future, and she just didn’t know if he wanted to be with her long term. They were coming up to a big change in their situation (finishing university and moving back to where they both came from), and even though she knew he loved her, she was anxious about why the future never came up.
I replied saying ‘Hellooooo, he bloody ADORES you. You would be silly to think he doesn’t want to be with you for the rest of his life!’ Because seriously, it was so obvious — if you knew them (or know them!) you’d agree. And then I asked, ‘Have you spoken to him about it…?’
And she hadn’t. So the next opportunity, she brought it up with him. And then I got a message… He did see his future with her, and he was just so comfortable in their relationship he didn’t feel they really needed to talk about the future because of course they would be together. And I can tell you, she was so grateful she'd gulped down any doubts and fears and just straight out asked him! Now I'm just waiting for a ring... or a dog... either will do you two!!
Long story short - chances are, any fears you have will disappear once you finally spit that question or thought out.
So, just like we cannot read our partner’s mind, they cannot read ours. Even if you think something is obvious, chances are they won’t have even begun to pick up on it... SO TALK ABOUT IT.
Lesson Number 1B: Always look for progress, even if that means admitting you’re wrong
It’s all very well to communicate… but if this is just yelling at each other, or getting annoyed at each other, both trying to be right, you’re not really going to go anywhere. There is absolutely no harm in admitting ‘Maybe I was wrong…’, or ‘I’m sorry if you feel I did that wrong, I honestly didn’t think it was.’ Or perhaps taking the high road and instead of getting frustrated, trying to find a solution.
If it means moving forward, I think it’s better to swallow our pride than fight and prevent ourselves progressing.
But here’s the thing… make sure it’s positive communication. Nothing sparks tension like negative language.
It might be:
- ‘I felt hurt when you did [insert action here], and in the future I would appreciate if you did [other action] here instead.’
- ‘It really frustrated me that you did [insert thing here], and it would mean a lot if you didn’t do that in the future.’
- ‘I felt really insecure because of [insert reason here], and I would love if you could do [insert action here] in the future, it would just make me feel really loved!’
Even if it’s just the smallest of things, it can make all the difference because you have it off your chest. Honestly, sometimes I might mention something to Michael and he’ll just be like ‘What the heck is wrong with you, of course that’s not true!’, and even just him saying I’m an idiot for thinking something puts my mind at ease. And then we laugh about it months later.
And let’s be honest, if it’s a man you’re with, chances are they’re oblivious to a lot of things (sorry boys...). I’ve known a lot of couples whose partners forget to mention events, or forget about something that was already planned and make their own plans. And it’s SO easy to get annoyed because you’re thinking… ‘What is wrong with you?!’ but chances are they’ve just literally forgotten.
I remember being with a friend when she messaged her boyfriend about something they’d planned later that day. He responded saying ‘I’m really sorry… I’ve actually organised to grab lunch with one of the boys…’ She wasn’t happy, and was about to message back saying how annoyed she was and asking how he could have forgotten. But after we’d spoken, she realised that was just counterproductive. So instead, she made it clear she wasn’t happy and instead asked if he could either postpone lunch or if it was easier to reschedule their thing. Problem solved.
It doesn’t mean ‘giving in’ or always letting your partner ‘win’. It’s about progressing forward while making sure your feelings are heard. Wouldn’t you rather find a solution and spend your time being happy instead of frustrated and annoyed??
Lesson Number 2: Do Not Live in Each Others’ Pockets
‘Listen. A healthy relationship isn’t living vicariously through one another. True love isn’t someone being there at your side every moment of every day, but being free, and encouraged, to pursue your own passions, and then sharing in the spoils of your triumphs together.’ - Beau Taplin
YES. THIS IS EVERYTHING.
This is one of my favourite and most important tips. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking, ‘we should spend all our spare time together’. But please, do not spend every single moment attached at the hip… this may seem counterintuitive, but trust me, it’s a game changer.
I absolutely love my boyfriend, but we’d both murder each other if we spent every waking minute together. It’s so important to have your own interests, your own hobbies and your own friends, and actually spend time every week pursuing these things.
By having your own interests, you can grow within yourself — learning things, meeting new people, being competitive, building new skills. You also get to grow as people outside of your relationship — and then you get to come back to your partner, tell them about it, and let them be proud of what you’re doing.
In our relationship, Michael has golf, cricket, and sometimes another sporting event. And sometimes, when I have a quiet period in my life, I get sad about him being off doing his own things… then I start moulding my life around him and prioritising him over other things, just to spend time with him — and we definitely aren't at our happiest. But, when I'm focused on the things that light me up and I prioritise my own things in life, not only do we manage to see each other more, we're also happier.
So whether it’s dedicating one day a week to ‘you’ — going for a walk and brunch with the girls, getting a massage and a facial, going and seeing a romantic movie you’ve wanted to see; or whether it’s committing to one or two evenings a week — joining a social sports team, going for drinks with your closest friends, working on that side hustle; make time for the things YOU enjoy.
Trust me, it’ll make a difference. I promise!
Lesson Number 3: Learn Each Other’s ‘Love Languages’
I honestly think this is so important. Humans are as different as snowflakes (a.k.a no two are the same). So it makes sense that we give and receive love in different ways — or at least place more importance on certain things or acts.
So, if you hadn't heard, the New York Times #1 Bestseller Dr. Gary Chapman created this concept, and summarised the giving and receiving of love into five different languages: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and receiving gifts.
It can be so easy to get frustrated at our partner because we feel they don't show us enough love because they don’t actively organise quality time with us, they don’t hold our hands in public, they don’t post things on social media, they don’t help around the house (whichever is most important to us)… but they might be doing something else to show us they love us, and we've just not realised.
If you haven’t read Hope’s piece about Love Languages (which you can find here!), you need to read it. In it, she explains the different Love Languages, and she talks about a time when she felt she wasn’t being shown love by her boyfriend. Hope's primary language is 'Words of Affirmation', and she felt she wasn't receiving enough, so she brought it up (Hello lesson one - communicating people!). But because it wasn't her primary love language, she didn't realise that in cooking for her every night, he was showing her love in his own way.
I’ve been there. In the past, I used to get frustrated because I love getting a good fuzzy message saying ‘I’m proud of you!’ or ‘I love you like crazy’. And then I realised… he makes the bed every single morning because he knows that’s important to me. And all of a sudden it clicked in my head — I might wish he would send me a nice message, but that’s just not his ‘go-to’. So I need to ask for it (and swallow my pride)! If it’s important to me, I’ll tell him. ‘I would love a really nice message!’, and I learn to appreciate the things he does for me.
My biggest tip is to jump online to the Love Languages website (here!), do the quiz (seriously… who doesn’t love quizzes…??), and then get your partner to do the same. And if you have different love languages — like Michael and I do — learn to communicate what you need, even if that sometimes means swallowing your pride.
At the end of the day, relationships are two independent people deciding to do life together. There is always going to be ups and downs, miscommunications and disagreements alongside all of the good stuff. It’s just all about learning how to positively move through all the stages in your relationship! We can always learn… and trust me, I am still definitely learning!
BY COURTENAY MCCULLOCH
Founder of Thrive Collective, activewear-wearing, brunch-loving, dog-obsessed girl on a mission to help all women realise their real potential and start living a life where they thrive in every moment.