Dating is fun, exciting, and romantic, but sometimes it can be downright discouraging. When a relationship ends, it’s easy to get down on yourself and think: Will I ever get this right? I know; I’ve been there.
I spent the first part of this year worried that I’d irrevocably messed up my love life— that I’d somehow lost my chance for a relationship. I wondered if the kind of relationship I was looking for could really exist in today’s world, especially in a place like New York City.
But then I met a young couple who changed my outlook completely.
I moved in with Amy in early spring. She and Daniel had been dating for a little while at that point, and it was evident to everyone who knew them how much they loved one another. Shortly after I became Amy’s roommate, she and Daniel got engaged. Several months later they were married.
I’ve watched Amy and her now-husband date, prepare for marriage, and navigate life as newlyweds. I know there is no such thing as a perfect couple, but these two restored my hope in how a relationship can successfully start and grow, even when it might seem as if everyone around you only wants to hook up.
The example they set for how to approach life and love taught me a lot about what I want. And the lessons I learned from them might serve you well, too.
01. Setting Expectations
From the very beginning, these two were open with each other about their intentions. They were both dating because they ultimately desired a long-term relationship. Sure, it sounds cliché, but being on the same page with a boyfriend at the start allows for a smoother dating experience overall. When their relationship became more serious, they discussed what marriage would look like: children, work, finances, chores. In the past, I would always stay far away from these conversations; they’re not exactly exciting, and I didn’t want to scare a guy off. But when you’re in a healthy relationship, you can put things like expectations on the table, and it will help your relationship thrive.
02. Communicating Clearly
I was continually impressed with how Amy and Daniel communicated with one another. When she was happy or excited, she told him. When she was upset or frustrated, she told him that, too. And Daniel was equally honest with her. Being honest is just one part of healthy communication—they also excelled at listening to one another. They paid attention to each other’s nonverbal cues. Sometimes clear communication means stopping and taking a breath. If they didn’t understand what the other was thinking or saying, they would ask for clarification—crucial for sustaining a healthy relationship.
03. Resolving Conflict
You’ve heard the adage, “Don’t let your sun go down on your anger?” Well, Amy and Daniel showed me how true that statement really is. They made sure to resolve arguments before calling it a night. In my past relationships, I would sometimes ignore an issue, hoping it would magically go away the next day or that I would no longer be upset after giving it time. This strategy rarely, if ever, worked in my favor. My old roommate has the right idea, and research supports it; a study in the journal of Neuroscience found that going to sleep after experiencing negative emotions might actually “preserve” or enhance those emotions. You can bet in my next relationship, I’ll be resolving conflict before saying goodnight—and having much sweeter dreams because of it.
04. Prioritizing Schedules
Although Amy and her fiancé lived in the same city, it could take them an hour to travel to their respective apartments for dates. But they always made it work. They found snippets of time together near one another’s offices or arranged to meet somewhere in the middle. They’d spend weekends in the other’s neighborhood. Living a bit farther apart from each other made moments together that much sweeter. When they couldn’t see each other, they made sure to talk on the phone (yes, talk, not text!).
05. Integrating Friendships
Amy introduced Daniel to her friends early on, and we all hung out often. Whether going on a double date or going to work out, I got to know him as a friend, too. Amy made it clear that even though she was falling in love, she still cared about her friends and wanted to spend time with us. And when I was having a hard day and needed some wine and quality girl talk with my roommate? Amy set aside time for me. Amy and Daniel’s ability to balance friendships and set boundaries has strengthened their relationship and has encouraged me in my own dating endeavors since.
06. Laughing Together
This couple showed me the importance of easy laughter in a relationship. They had to make major decisions about not just their wedding but also their location and jobs after getting married. Despite all these stressors, they were able to keep a level head about everything and made sure to have fun throughout the process. In fact, a 2015 study found that couples who laugh together tend to have higher-quality relationships. Laughter really is good for the soul; it’s no wonder it helps your love life, too.
I’m still going to make mistakes in dating, and you know what? That’s OK. I understand what it takes to maintain a healthy relationship. And thanks to Amy and Daniel, I have great role models to help coach me and hold me accountable as I continue to date.
Photo Credit: Manchik Photography