For years I shied away from blogging about the personal details of my relationship with Nick. Not necessarily for privacy or a desire to keep that part of my life hidden, but because I honestly didn’t feel like I had any right to give relationship advice.
I think you guys all know our story—Nick and I met in college our freshman year, began dating our sophomore and moved to New York together right after college. Last August marked five years of living together and in October we celebrated our nine year anniversary. It’s nuts to think we’ve been in each other’s lives for almost a decade.
While I may have felt like I wasn’t a credible authority on love in the past, over the last year my opinion has changed. If you think about it, we’ve kind of beaten all the odds and stereotypes of our generation when it comes to relationships. Millennials are supposed to be fickle, impulsive, selfish and always looking for the next best thing. Committed? Not necessarily a personality trait you’d associate with someone in their 20s.
My point is that I’m really proud of our relationship. I think I was so stuck on the experience that I didn’t have, that I wasn’t giving myself credit for the experience I do. How many 27-year-olds can say they’ve been happy in their relationship for nine years? I personally can’t think of anyone.
I talked a bit about some of the things that have contributed to the success of our relationship in this post here, but today I want to discuss some of the unexpected lessons I’ve personally learned that make me confident in my relationship.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION
Everyone always talks about the importance of “good communication” in relationships. But what about the nonverbal kind? I’m talking body language, facial expressions, eye movements—the list goes on. It’s crazy how simple gestures like an eye roll can negatively affect our partner and flip the mood of an entire conversation.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to have coffee with Body Language Expert, Vanessa Van Edwards and pick her brain about body language and the affect it can have on relationships. The conversation was fascinating. She brought up so many things that when vocalized seem completely obvious, but are most likely actions that we frequently do and don’t even realize.
For example: looking at your phone or not making eye contact when your partner talks to you. It’s a small action and not something we probably actively intended to do in that moment, but it’s something that can result in the other person feeling rejected and disrespected. I know this because I’m guilty of it (sorry Nick I’m working on it!!) Other examples include not reciprocating a hand hold, giving the other person a ‘wrong’ look, or shrugging your shoulders in response to a question— all nonverbal actions that could potentially trigger conflict and result in pent up resentment.
There are so many things I do that I never would have realized if Nick hadn’t been in my life to point it out. I tend to get nervous in social settings and have a bad habit of flickering my eyes away from the person I’m talking to or fumbling with my hands. I had no idea I even did this until he told me and looking back, I realize how I could’ve easily been perceived as rude or uninterested.
It was also really exciting hearing about Vanessa’s partnership with Head & Shoulders—aka the ultimate hair confidence brand. We all have had those days where we don’t feel 100% confident in our skin. Whether it’s caused by a breakout, realizing a favorite dress no longer fits, or an itchy scalp– it’s crazy how negative feelings about our physical appearance can affect our entire mood. Even if we don’t say anything out loud, sometimes our insecurities are obvious to others just by our facial expressions and body language.
I truly believe energy is contagious. I know when I’m not feeling put together, it puts a damper on my entire mood. Nick can always tell because I’ll touch my face, itch my scalp or obsessively braid and re-braid my hair. If your body language screams I’m unhappy with myself, how is that going to be perceived by other people? How is it going to affect your partner? Probably not very positively. That’s why I rely on products like Head & Shoulders—because having a healthy scalp and soft, beautiful hair is such an important part of feeling confident in all relationship moments. When you feel your best self and have a smile on your face, that type of confident spirit will radiate to those around you.
HOW TO GENUINELY APOLOGIZE & COMPROMISE FROM A PLACE OF LOVE
I’ll be the first to admit that I hate being wrong. Nick and I are both stubborn and in the beginning of our relationship, apologies were tough and neither of us wanted to compromise. I think we can both agree that sometimes we said sorry just so we could move on, not because we truly felt remorse or that we’d done anything wrong. I remember there were arguments where I’d still feel bitter about having to apologize days later. It would irritate me that I’d “lost.”
In the last few years my outlook on apologizing has changed. Disagreements shouldn’t be competitions. To have a successful relationship there needs to be some give and take. You should view compromising as a positive gain for your partner—not as a loss on your end. While 21-year-old Katie may have gotten enjoyment out of 100% getting her way, the 27-year-old me wants Nick to be just as happy with the decisions we make as a couple.
HOW TO APPRECIATE TIME ALONE
It’s funny how when we’re single, all we want is to find that perfect person so we don’t have to be alone. After spending the last nine years with Nick and living together for five, I now have such an appreciation for the time I get to myself. I think like most college couples, we were so clingy when we first dating. I mean, we were so young (19!!) and I think a lot of our codependence stemmed from anxiety of our relationship failing and a fear of losing the other person.
For the first few years of our relationship we did everything together. Today? We’re both happy to let the other have a night out with friends, visit family solo or give one another time alone to just chill in the apartment. We’re both secure enough in our relationship that we don’t need to be together 24/7 and value the ways in which we’re independent.
Are there any unexpected lessons you’ve learned from your relationship? I’d love to hear in the comments!
Big thank you to Head & Shoulders for partnering on today’s post!