2016 has been a weird year, there's no denying it. But I've found it really odd because, as the world seems to be slowly crumbling around me, I've actually had a pretty amazing year somehow. I mean, Leonard Cohen died and somehow I'm having an amazing year — that defies logic. But it's been a good year professionally, a good year for friendships, and a fantastic year with my girlfriend. We started dating toward the end of 2015, so it's been our first full year together. 2016 has seen us from being newly dating to ready to move in together and it feels like a significant one. I've also watched friends get engaged, get married, break up, and swear off relationships all together.
Basically, I've seen a whole lot of relationship makeups and breakups and feel like I've learned a hell of a lot about love. Some things haven't changed— I still know how important is it to have some independence in a relationship, I still know that your whole life shouldn't revolve around whether or not that you're single, and I still know that that being in love isn't enough to keep a relationship together. But, as I get older and I watch my friends, and myself, make bigger relationship steps, I can see how much there still is to figure out.
I certainly don't know it all, but here's what I learned about love in 2016:
Relationship Aren't Always Better Than Being Single
Being single is better than being in a bad relationship. Because this year, more than ever, I can see how true it is. Since I've been with my girlfriend, a lot of my friends who have always been coupled up have talked to me like I've suddenly realized being in a relationship is the only way to be. Not true. In fact, if anything I've learned how important it is to be single.
As we get older, the relationships we get into have the potential to become more permanent— at least for some of us, it means we're starting to settle down. And watching people make life-changing decisions and tying themselves into relationships that don't quite fit is hard to watch. I was single for eight years before I met my current girlfriend and I'm so happy that I was single instead of being in a relationship just for the sake of being in one. Being single can be amazing, fulfilling, and exciting.
Relationships Are Work, But It Doesn't Always Feel Like It
I'm not surprised that it takes work, but I am surprised at how OK that work feels. Hear me out. Over the past year I feel like I'm constantly learning more about my girlfriend— and learning more about myself— as we navigate things together. And it's a lot to learn. Quirks, communication styles, sore points, goals, priorities... it's a lot to be aware of. In fact, in some ways it's way more mental space than I'd ever give someone I was dating. But as I'm learning and having the tough conversations and figuring things out, I enjoy every second of it. Even the hard parts. Because when it's with the right person, you want to figure everything out, to keep learning.
It's Never Perfect
I'm in a better relationship than I ever thought I'd be in and I adore my girlfriend. But we're not perfect. We won't ever be perfect. We just can't be. But what we can do it learn where those little miscommunications and incompatibilities are and how to deal with them when they rear their ugly heads. Because not being perfect is totally OK. I've learned that having your deal-breakers and priorities— and not compromising on them— means you can handle the smaller things that come along.
Love Really Helps You Grow
Along with learning a lot about myself, I'm amazed at how much better my girlfriend makes me want to be. Projects I've been putting off, plays I've said I wanted to see but never did, finding a new favorite workout plan— suddenly I'm doing all of it. And it's not just things we do together — though I definitely book trips and activities because I want to do them with her — a lot of it is total self improvement. She never pressures me, but just being with her makes me want to sort sh*t out. It's a self-improvement marathon, but in the best way.
This was my first full year of being in a loving, happy relationship in almost a decade... or maybe ever. Seeing how amazing it can be has also shown me how much it's not worth settling or compromising. I'm so glad I stayed single for as long as I did, and now I'm enjoying my not perfect but incredibly happy relationship. Bring on 2017.