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18 Truths About Long-Term Relationships

18 Truths About Long-Term Relationships

My husband and I celebrated our 21st anniversary the other day by doing nothing. It’s not that we planned to do nothing. It’s not like we enjoyed a lazy day in which we spent the day in bed taking pleasure in each other’s company. It was just another day. After 21 years, our anniversary had morphed into an average day. And that’s okay with me.

Let me explain. It’s not because we have problems, or our marriage is on the rocks, or that we don’t care about anniversaries, because we do. We didn’t think about anniversaries when we got married. We didn’t think about the fact that my husband was in college to be a teacher and that most teachers start their new year mid-August. We didn’t realize that once we had children, we’d be experiencing first days of school and all that jazz around the same time. And it never fails. Almost every year, the first day of school for the kids and my husband falls on our anniversary, give or take one day.

This year was no different. After both kids finished their first days of school, after our son practiced golf for a few hours and our daughter went to Tae Kwon, after multiple phone calls and faxes between me and several doctors’ offices clearing our kids for just about everything at school, and after my husband’s full day full of 178 new students, duties as head of the math department, and other activities as the coach of various sports, we all settled in for the night.

I do admit feeling a little spoiled having the “expensive” carne asada on the grill for dinner. With several never-ending medical bills, a splurge on the good stuff – good eats and possibly a couple bottles of expensive beer to toast and homemade brownies for (me) the kids – made it feel like a first-class celebration. We also managed to share some amazing stories of the last 21 years that the kids are now old enough to hear and understand, bringing a few tears to all our eyes. I’d say our day full of everyday chaos and nothingness was everything I could hope for.

What topped it off as one of the best anniversaries ever was when my husband sneaked around the corner after dinner to surprise me with flowers. I was sure he didn’t get them, which was okay with me, but he did! They didn’t need to be big, flashy or expensive – in fact, I think they were the average grocery store kind you get when you’re in line and think, “Oh crap, I forgot our anniversary!” even though I know he didn’t forget.

Still, these flowers made me feel loved and appreciated and surprisingly wife-ish, this coming from an independent woman. It wasn’t the flowers, but his action that reminded me why our relationship continues to be strong. He’s consistent, and, yet, surprising at the same time. I’d like to say he’s vanilla ice cream – a regular guy who made my heart melt when I first saw him standing there at that pub almost 24 years ago. But when all those first feelings got mixed into real life, my ice cream guy brought and still brings everything he’s got: the hot fudge, sprinkles and cherry on top. And thankfully, we both are a little nuts!

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It’s not easy to make long-term relationships work, but these tips should help make yours last at least 21 years and hopefully many more.

1. You need to know that those crazy-in-love feelings will meet real life someday.

This doesn’t mean they go away; this just means they have to be tamed. Walking around on Cloud Nine is awesome, until you can’t get anything done at work. Or until your significant other does something that really pisses you off. This is the first time we have a “judgement day” or “Is this what I want?” moment.

“Falling in love and having a relationship are two very different things.” ~ Keanu Reeves

2. You won’t always like your partner.

It’s true. There will be moments when you’ll look at your partner’s face and wonder why you ever thought it was attractive. He or she will make you so angry, or act so silly, or be so. . . wrong, you’ll barely be able to deal with tit. And that’s okay, as long as you both know it’s “a moment.”

3. You won’t always feel attracted to your partner.

What? No way, you say in the beginning. However, it’s true. It’s usually because you’re angry. Or maybe you’re shallow. Whatever the reason, we go through phases and our partners don’t always attract us the same way as day one. It becomes an issue when this is long-standing. Try to remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place. Hint: It’s not always looks. One of the sexiest qualities of my husband is his sense of humor. (Of course, he’s pretty good-looking, too, but he’s damn funny.)

4. Your sex life won’t always be amazing.

In fact, there will be times when you have no sex life. Sometimes it comes naturally and the stars and planets align, the kids fall asleep early, your work schedules mesh or a million other things happen, and, voilà!, sex happens. Other times, you’ll have your hands full of babies, work demands or so much laundry/cooking/cleaning that you’ll be exhausted, or, as in our case, yet another heart surgery (me) that will wipe out this activity for months. That’s life.

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Intimacy, however, doesn’t have to mean sex. Just saying.

5. You’ll wonder if there’s something better out there.

Heck yeah, you will. You’ve probably seen better on social media. That’s because everyone posts the best of the best. Happy families, awesome houses, beautiful new cars, amazing vacations, perfect kids – those are the things we post. Who wants to see pictures of my 12-year-old Expedition that needs new tires? Only when I have all the surf boards on top because I’m posting that the kids are going surfing and that it’s 80 perfect degrees in perfect San Diego. It’s no wonder we think about greener grass out there. Just remember, everyone has weeds in their grass. (Trust me, in California, there’s no greener grass anywhere during this drought!)

6. You’ll hurt each other.

Meaning you’ll say stuff that you wish you could take back. Regularly. It will roll off your tongue in the heat of the moment because you know just how to hurt your partner. You know him well enough to know what stings the most. He knows your every fault, and your family’s faults and your history. Don’t think any of it is off-limits when you argue. Is this okay to do? Absolutely not. We shouldn’t try to hit hard with the zingers, but we do. It takes work to fight fair, but in the long run, it’s worth it.

7. You’re not always right; Your partner is not always wrong.

It’s really not about who’s right and who’s wrong. Don’t spend hours or energy trying to prove it. You’re wasting oxygen and minutes of your life.

8. You’ll ride the edge of trust and so will your partner.

Personally, I think Smartphones are the devil. They are the biggest cause of trust issues these days. Use them wisely. Between social media and texting, we’ve all second-guessed ourselves or our partners at least once. Long-term relationships MUST include trust. While you’re as open as possible with your partner, you will each need to have some privacy. This means trust. Just know that trust has an incredible ebb and flow in relationships.

9. You may hit that rock bottom moment when you think there’s no way this marriage will last.

Sometimes, things happen in life that change the very core of a marriage. My husband and I have two children with devastating health conditions, we’ve been through more than any parent or married couple should have to go through. Ever. I’ve had serious health issues. Some people tell my husband he’s a trooper “for sticking around”. If you’ve ever experienced a death of a parent or, worse, a child, or have gone through a catastrophic event, you know how hard it is to remain together. Only the strong marriages survive. When you hit that moment of truth, it’s not enough to simply say, “We made a vow.” You have to pull out all the punches and remember who you are to each other and who you need to be for each other.

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“Love is no assignment for cowards.” ~ Ovid

10. You need to swallow your pride. A lot.

Just get over yourself and do it. No need to say more.

11. You should be kind. All of the time.

Even if you’re mad, be a kind person. Don’t be an jerk. (Well, sometimes you have to be, but return to kindness fast). Remember that phrase “Kill ’em with kindness”? It works.

12. Understand your partner will change, develop and evolve over time. Be accepting.

Because you’ll change, develop and evolve over time, too. And you’ll expect your partner to accept you. Because life changes around us and experiences change people, you can’t expect people to stay the same. Hopefully, the two of you will evolve together.

“People change and forget to tell each other.” ~ Lillian Hellman

13. Learn to appreciate your partner’s good and bad qualities.

Don’t dwell on your partner’s faults. You don’t want her to nag on your faults all day long, so don’t do it to her. In the beginning, those faults didn’t matter so much. You were able to fall in love, weren’t you? Even if your guy leaves the toilet seat up . . . every single time he goes to the bathroom. Are you really willing to kill the relationship over a toilet seat?

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14. You’ll see each other at your worst.

If you stick around after seeing each other at the bottom most point in your lives, you’re golden. After several surgeries, my poor husband has had to help me in ways I NEVER thought he’d have to do. Totally embarrassing, but he didn’t even blink. He’s a keeper (and apparently so am I).

15. You should be eating dinner together.

Having this time together is almost a thing of the past these days with all our crazy schedules, but this is an incredible opportunity to reconnect with your partner. Talk about your day. Talk about the good and bad things. Use this time to work things out. Enjoy the senses together (sight, smell, taste).

16. You should be playing together.

Activities don’t have to be fancy or planned. Sometimes impromptu is the best. It can be as simple as walking out back to play an imaginary putting contest (as we often do when we can’t hit the course). You can include the kids or go at it alone. Enjoying activities together makes your relationship stronger.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” ~ Plato

17. You’ll always have someone to laugh at your incredibly stupid jokes.

Even if it’s a courtesy laugh.

18. You’ll grow old together.

You can freak out about gray hair together. You’ll figure out wrinkles look better on him; he’ll figure out anti-wrinkle cream is damn expensive and a necessity for you. You’ll both move a little slower or work out a little harder. Food will become a little healthier and a little more important. Money will become an issue you discuss together. You may or may not have children, but if you do, you’ll be exhausted together, overwhelmed together and utterly in love together. You’ll  start watching weird TV shows together and maybe worry more about the news together. Whatever you do, it will all be done as a unit because you’ll always be thinking as a couple.

While it’s not easy to maintain a long-term relationship, it’s certainly doable. It’s not always as happy as butterflies and unicorns and not always as exciting as March Madness, but the hard work is certainly worth it. Who else would understand my strange obsession with Converse, my 365-day-a- year love for Christmas music, and wacky humor about my defective heart? Only you, baby. Here’s to another 21 years and counting.

Featured photo credit: Ian D. Keating via flickr.com

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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