My relationship with my partner has weathered many storms. Some nearly crushed us completely, while others we scraped by with nothing but love and sheer will to prove the naysayers wrong. Those times we almost broke, I clung to all the subtle hints that reminded me my relationship was worth fighting for. They're not always easy to spot — hell, sometimes we had to search with a magnifying glass — but they're the reasons we've come as far as we have, (almost) thirteen years and two children later.
My experience with relationships is somewhat atypical. My parents divorced when I was young and their relationships with other people post-divorce, were both rocky and unhealthy. I struggled with extremely low self-esteem and self worth, which only became more magnified as my friends in school started dating. I'd never been "the girl who had a boyfriend," so I'd stoop to occasionally making one up to fit in and find some common ground with my peers. My first real kiss wasn't until I was a freshman in high school — ages past my schoolmates — and even then, I had no idea how to maneuver around another person's feelings. Everything modeled around me was anything but unconditional love or security or healthy.
Those years out of high school, trying to understand what a relationship was or "should be," was difficult. I married at barely 18 and with a false sense of all the things I lacked growing up. Inevitably, things came crashing down just four years later when we finally parted ways. I look back on that time as a learning lesson, not just in love but in myself. Had I not been in that relationship, I might not know the signs of a committed, supportive partner I could spend my life with.
So now, as my current partner and I navigate all the highs and lows of our life together, even when all feels lost I can't deny that our relationship is what love is supposed to be. It may have taken years to fully comprehend the complicated emotion of love, and all that it entails, but with him I do. With that said, here are some of the things that remind me daily we're worth it, even if they aren't always obvious.
He Recalled Something I Said (That I Didn't Think He Heard)
One of the biggest downfalls in my relationship has always been communication. I have a soft voice, fearful of being drowned out by those more opinionated. This is a learned behavior that stems from my childhood years but, even now, I tend to meekly make requests and hope I've been heard (until I lose it and end up shouting). The usual response is that, no, I haven't been heard (and I mean that on deeper level, too).
Much like my toddler, my partner isn't the best listener, even if I've made my voice as loud as it will go. But there are times, glimpses of hope, where he has heard me at a time I could've sworn the words just faded into the ecosphere. I can't tell you how romantic it is to feel like someone heard and recalls details from weeks ago, at a time I've lost all hope.
He Rubbed My Legs When They Hurt
From my first pregnancy over ten years ago, my calves have never recovered. They cramp and ache no matter how much stretching, ointments, compression, elevation, ice, and any other remedy I've tried. I'm also an avid runner, so the discomfort is made that much more on days I have an extra long run.
One subtle thing that's kept my partner and I connected, even through the hardest times, is that from all the way back to that pregnancy he's rubbed my legs on a near nightly basis. It's not a magical fix to whatever of life's problems we're dealing with at any particular time, but it connects us when maybe nothing else does. Even when we're not speaking, I so appreciate the nights he pats my legs in a silent offering to rub. This is love, people.
He Continued To Make Me Laugh Through Hard Times
My saving grace through life's hardships has been laughter. My Gram showed me, by way of example, that if you can't laugh, cry and laugh.
One of my partner's most redeeming qualities is his sense of humor. It's what attracted me to him, and what keeps me interested even when I literally want to launch whatever I can grab at him (of course I wouldn't, but you know what I mean). Even when the humor is dumb, at a tense time like after my miscarriages or when my Gram passed, I clung to those bits of laughter like a lifeline because, honestly, they were.
I Saw Him In A Different Light When I Least Expected To
You know that feeling of being so angry with your significant other that you don't want to lie next to them or talk to them when the kids have gone to bed? When we've faced those times (a lot over the years), sometimes all it takes is my partner doing just one extra thing that turns it all around.
Like when I catch him playing with our son, happily, in private, or when he's picked up the chores I'd normally do. Any small thing can turn our entire relationship around, no matter how subtle they may be. I notice them and I appreciate them because they sometimes mean the difference between us parting farther or coming together again.
When I Think Of My Future, I Can't See It With Anyone Else
Probably the most subtle hint my relationship is worth fighting for is the fact that when I think of my future, raising our children and growing my career, I can't imagine doing any of it without him by my side. We don't "complete" each other because we're two separate beings with two separate sets of hopes and dreams. However, our separate selves compliment one another, even when it feels hard. At the base of everything we've built, we're friends and while I can do everything on my own, I enjoy our life together. Good times and bad. In fact, I think I'm stronger because of all our love has taught me and, hopefully, our children will be, too.
Relationships aren't going to be easy all the time and there may be times you want to bail (I feel you), but the next relationship will also have it's own string of bumps. That's life. Those small moments that may go unnoticed, add up. They have to count for something, right? The biggest lesson I've learned through all these years of trying to figure out love is this: it's imperfect, just as we are, and I wouldn't have it any other way.