The Key To Long-Lasting Relationships (As Told By My Best Friends)

I'm not sure how it happened (life and age I guess), but almost every single one of my friends is married, engaged to be married, or in a serious long-term relationship. My attitude about it changes daily, but recently, I was in a good and inquiring mood about all things long-term relationships, so I decided to interrogate four of them. Depending on long you've been following me, you may know them as "Whataburger." If you just hopped on the emma's thing bandwagon, you'll think my best friend is a fast food chain. Albeit, a delicious fast food chain but a fast food chain nonetheless.

So you have an idea of who TF is about to serve you advice, here's everyone's relationship status breakdown.

12yr: This one has been with her man for 12 years total (yes, 12); married for 5. 

7yr: This one has been with her man for 7 years and just recently got engaged and already had us book hotel rooms for her wedding that's a year away. It's fine.

5yr: This one has been with her man for 5 years; married for 2. 

3.25yr: And this one has been with her man for 3.25 years, is also very recently engaged, and has the best one-liners known to mankind.

And now, here's what they all had to say in response to my slightly panicked list of questions re: how in the actual hell people get and STAY together.

How in the literal fuck do people stay together for so long?

12yr: I don't think anyone sets out in a new relationship thinking is this long term? If things are progressing well then it just kind of happens. You are having a great time together and all of a sudden you look up and go wow! It's been a few months. This might be going somewhere. You just know you want to be with that person so you are. It's that simple.

7yr: I mean, honestly? It’s happenstance. I feel like it is truly a “one in a million” thing (despite there being a new wedding, engagement, or coupling every 4 minutes*). If I had to attribute it to something, though, I think I’d place my bets on patience, mutual admiration, and flexibility.

*Not an actual statistic.

5yr: I'm no expert but.... Learn how to best communicate with each other. And be ok with lots of compromise, some sacrifice, and consistently putting your partner before yourself. Both of you have to play the part, though — mutual support is mutually beneficial.

3.25yr: Beats me.

To expand: what would you say is the most vital component of a lasting relationship?

12yr: THE single most vital thing is hard. There are several different aspects. First and foremost you have to like the person as much as you love them. These two things don't always go hand in hand. Respect and appreciation are also key.  Respect and appreciate who they are as a person. More specifically, respect each other's opinions, needs, wants, and time. Appreciate this person for who they are, knowing that there WILL be things that you don't necessarily like, but loving them regardless. Lastly, laughter. If you can laugh together you can get through anything. You know you have found someone special if you are in the middle of a disagreement and you can both laugh at how ridiculous it is. There will be hard times in your relationship, but if laughter is a part of your lives then the hard times won't last long.

7yr:  I can’t choose so I’ll say it’s patiencemutualunderstandingandflexibilitybutalsocommunicationandcompromise.

5yr: Communication. It opens the door to everything: intimacy, trust, respect, vulnerability, personality, understanding each other's needs/wants/dreams. The list goes on. 

3.25yr: Two-way communication.

People always say "when you know, you know." What does "knowing" feel like? What should I be expecting?

12yr: It's this moment or recognition of "oh, there you are!" It will feel so right, so natural- you will question how you had been going on about your life without this person because they make everything THAT much better. Its a feeling that you have found someone who is your partner in life, that you trust and KNOW will be the one by your side no matter what.

7yr: Let’s be real – I don’t think that always applies and I also don’t know if it’s a feeling you can expect to have on one certain date. There wasn’t an exact date that I woke up and was like, “OH! It’s him.Tight.” It took time, merging our lives together, and actually experiencing some tough SHIT for me to know that I was A. in love, B. in a love that had longevity, and C. in a love that was felt mutually. Maybe for others it was a BAM! moment, but personally, it occurred over a series of moments, months, and experiences with my person.

5yr: This is a tough one, and I think it's different for everyone. For me, it wasn't an "Aha!" built over time. Most of us know what settling feels like — it's the OPPOSITE of that. And realizing that you no longer fear the unknown future together, but are instead over the moon excited about the possibilities with that person. And obviously, all the feels. 

3.25yr: When you "know," everything feels very effortless.  It just works? Of course it's not perfect, and there are still things that drive you crazy and probably always will, but it comes with the feeling of ease without having any doubts. In past relationships, there was always a reason why it was so hard (that's what she said).

What is something in your relationship that you were nervous may not work in the long run, but has worked itself out? (could be a habit, a lifestyle, religion, small annoyances, etc.)

12yr: We did long distance for four years through college and it was extremely hard. It was never a question of if it would work out or not, but rather would we go insane in the process. Thankfully we were bot committed to making it work, no matter the odds. Of course there have been bumps along the way, but nothing to ever make me question if it would end the relationship.

7yr: Ha! I had ALWAYS said I’d NEVER date a smoker. But when I met Blake I very intentionally overlooked it because I loved so much about him. I knew if I wanted him, it’d come with the good and the bad. I also knew that smoking was a habit that was more common with mid-twenties and going to bars and blah blah, so there was always hope he’d drop the habit, which he officially did one year ago. When he stopped smoking it was definitely NOT because of me or because I asked/badgered/forced. He dropped it because it was no long applicable to his lifestyle – he had started working out, eating healthier, and smoking became something that was bringing him down.

5yr: Our schedules are almost entirely opposite, and I knew that would be a hurdle (for me, mostly). It has its challenging moments, but overall we've made it work very well. As life gets busier, we adjust and spend intentional time with each other, which speaks directly to my love language (QT). On the flip side, our schedules still allow us independence and "me" time when we need it, and that is crucial.  

3.25yr: All those things. But what I've learned is when you're with someone you care so deeply about, it makes everything else seem less important. They may not work themselves out per se, but you learn to sort of compromise and realize that you too have faults that they still love you for. and you appreciate their good parts even more. Yes of course I wish he didn't smoke, I wish he'd take out the trash when I ask, I (sometimes) wish he was a nice Jew, etc etc but when you put things in perspective, at the end of the day, none of these things are deal breakers. Unless he was a murderer or something.

Do you think it's natural/healthy/normal to still eyeball other men and maybe even have a split second meaningless fantasy about them? (Come on. You're in a relationship — you're not dead!)

12yr: I can recognize when someone is attractive, but honestly no. I don't ever fantasize about them. Love is falling in love with the same person over and over again. Sure there are other attractive people out there, but the depth to which I love my husband is so much greater. It's just not the same.

7yr: I think people differ significantly here. For me, meh, I just don’t really care anymore (maybe I AM dead). If there’s an attractive man (lookin’ at you, Tom Hardy), I 100% acknowledge he’s super good looking and has a lovely accent. If there’s an attractive man off-screen and in the real world, I definitely take note and appreciate that he’s handsome. It’s human to look – we like things that are visually pleasing. Would I fantasize, approach, or entertain flirtation? Nah, not my style.

5yr: I think it's human and natural to eyeball other people. Fantasize about them, though, I'm not sure. Maybe a celebrity, but not a human with any realistic possibilities. I just feel it unlocks a door that should be kept locked.

3.25yr: Haha duh.

How do you handle a fight or disagreement? 

12yr: Calmly. Respectively. Carefully. If you can't handle it in that manner then it's important to take some time to cool off before you discuss it further. This is the person you love more than anything in the world. You can't take back hurtful words, so it's imperative that you clearly and thoughtfully think before you speak. The end goal should be a joint resolution, not right vs. wrong.

7yr: We learned how to fight fairly in counseling. The biggest thing for a successful fight (you need to come to terms with good fighting versus bad fighting because, let’s be honest, we ALL fight) is that you have GOT to listen to the other person. They’re 50% of this argument and if you air your grievances and expect your partner to absorb it, you better be sponge-like in return.

Our counselor taught us to fight fair – talk about the immediate issue (don’t bring up shit from months ago), don’t be mean (name calling is stupid, being passive-aggressive is pointless, and being hurtful is damaging long-term), be prepared to compromise (if you can’t compromise, meet me in the middle on this and learn to compromise ASAP).

5yr: It depends on the fight or disagreement. If it's something petty, we disagree for a few minutes and get over it fast. If it's something bigger, I try to put myself in his shoes and hope that he does the same, so that we can understand each other's perspective.Then, we're more likely to compromise and agree on a solution. All in a perfect world. :) 

3.25yr: Instead of making excuses for my actions, I try to understand WHY it upset him so much. The majority of our fights stem from HOW a situation was approached, instead of the situation itself.

Also, how have you learned NOT to handle a fight or disagreement?

12yr: Don't use absolutes - you "always/never." This just adds fuel to the fire and doesn't accomplish anything.

7yr: For my relationship personally, I had to learn to drop stuff and reevaluate it. I liked everything to be wrapped up with a bow on top. I had boxes that needed to be checked for the things I was upset about and how they were resolved. Well, that was a really dumb expectation to have for fighting in a real, adult relationship. My fiancé sometimes needs to step away – he’ll take a walk, go to another room, or ask if we can regroup when we’ve cooled down and had a second to think. I HAD TO be okay with this. You can’t force someone to fight and makeup on YOUR timeline. It don’t work that way, y’all.

5yr: Don't give each other the silent treatment. Don't bring up past mistakes if they've already been resolved. And be careful about how you use the word "You." 

3.25yr: Oh I guess that's how I answered #6. But also yelling/screaming/crying is not good. Of course it happens — we are both impulsive and let things get far too heated. But hurtful things get said when they shouldn't. Sometimes we both have to walk away to calm down and gather our thoughts. I will say though that every fight we've been in from tiny to HUGE where I'm shaking and crying have been so different than any other relationship. Like, I've never once thought it was going to be the end of us. I've hated him in moments and thought very negative things, but am never like "Welp. That's that." And I've never felt scared that he felt that way either. 

Do you think everyone's relationship path should be linear with little to no hiccups or do you believe in the idea of things ebbing and flowing?

12yr: It really depends on the relationship. There is no right or wrong.

7yr: LOL, FOR REAL? No. Let’s look at life on a grand scale – does it ebb and flow? Hey, it sure does. You cannot expect your relationship to be smooth and without issue. If you happen to be lucky enough to never experience financial struggles, the death of a parent/child/sibling, sickness, job loss, house buying, infertility, in-law issues, being pregnant, being a parent to a newborn/infant/toddler/weird middle schooler/ high schooler who is an asshole, and so on, THAT’S SO AWESOME – happy for you and your life free of any flaw. But here in the real world, shit goes down sometimes and it’s quite literally impossible for downturns in your life to not affect the state of your relationship.

5yr: Absolutely not. A linear path just isn't realistic and would dramatically limit your growth as a couple. Hiccups and ebbing & flowing are a natural part of life. And most of the time, challenges bring you closer together once you've overcome them. 

3.25yr: If there are little or no hiccups then you're doing it wrong. That said, the hiccups shouldn't be like cheating or like serious red flags.

What other long term relationship do you aspire to in your life? One that you feel has done it right? (could be parents, friends, celebrities, strangers, etc)

12yr: My Grandparents had the most beautiful and loving relationship. They adored and cared for each other and truly were each other's partners in life and love. Their relationship is something that I always appreciated. That said, your love story with your person will be unique unto itself. No one truly knows what happens in another couple's relationship behind closed doors so it's important to keep that in mind. Don't aspire to have someone else's kind of love. Instead turn your focus on your own.

7yr: Ugh, my parents for sure. They went through a LOT but never allowed it to take away from the fact that they loved each other and made a serious commitment to being partners and parents. I hope my marriage can be like theirs because it’s one I admire.

5yr: Uhhhh. I've never thought about this much and now am questioning everything I know. If I had to choose off the top of my head, I would say an older couple who we know that has been married for 40+ years, have had several successful and unsuccessful businesses, are well traveled, and who have had 3 kids. They still love & serve each other well. 

3.25yr: We both have parents that are still together (and have been for 30+years). It's very rare these days, so we are very lucky. That said, it may not be the most realistic thing approach to you and your partner, but I absolutely think it makes a difference in the way you think/act with said partner. Their relationships have definitely given both of us a sense of stability.

But, seriously. How the fuck do people stay together for so long?

12yr: When it works it works. And you won't have think about it in terms of time. It will be the most natural feeling. In fact, time will weirdly melt away. 5 years will feel like nothing and you will find yourself truly understanding how precious time is because when you spend it happily with someone you love, you can never have enough time.

7yr: Girl, I don’t know. I think it works in different ways for different people. But it happens and it’s really nice when it does. Did I mention compromise is important? Well, it really is. And patience. And not expecting perfection. And also accepting your partner has some things that might drive you crazy, but you’re also the one who can’t have any dishes sitting in the sink so like you’re probably not always easy to live with.

5yr: Whatever you do, don't keep score. Make it a goal to serve your partner. Make time for yourself. Learn how to compromise, and what's worth and argument and what won't matter in a few days/months/years. Ultimately, do your best to understand what you're signing up for, and if you're not ready, then wait. 

3.25yr: Beats me.



      (and Whataburger)