Back in September, we started a three-month journey across the country to capture 100 incredible American love stories. Our goal was simple: figure out what all of the couples had in common, and then produce a podcast and final book to share everything we learned along the way. Over the next 10 weeks, we’ll share our story on the Couple blog, one week at a time, starting with our first stop, Los Angeles.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a relationship truly go the distance? Have you ever wondered what great married couples have that those who end up getting divorced don’t?
We went out in search of the answers. And boy, did we find them. Some of the lessons we’ve learned solidified what we already suspected it took to find and build an incredible, loving relationship. But many of them took us by surprise, forcing us to redefine our own beliefs about love and marriage.
Here are the top three lessons we learned in LA, thanks to MeiMei and Kiran, a beautiful couple we interviewed at the start of our journey.
(1) Love yourself first.
MeiMei and Kiran had both been through a divorce before they met one another. In her first marriage, MeiMei noted that she didn’t feel like she was good enough, and thought she had to prove herself or be something more. After her divorce, and before meeting Kiran, she began to work on loving herself fully:
“I put all of my focus and intention into having incredible adventures, a great job, rich family life, great friends, and an incredible community. I was so happy with me, and who I was, and my life. I still wanted to manifest an amazing partner, but I was happy. I felt good. I wasn’t reaching to fill a hole in my soul.”
We’ve hear this come up time and time again in our interviews across the country: love yourself first.
Personally, I’m learning that love isn’t just a thing you feel or say. Love is very much a thing you do. As it relates to loving oneself, the manifestation of self-love is self-care.
Are you taking good care of your body? Do you move it and nourish it well? Do you take time to learn new things and pursue activities that interest you? Are you doing work you really enjoy? Do you let feelings like anger, resentment, and jealousy sit inside your heart for too long, or do you love yourself enough to quickly replace negative feelings with positive, affirming beliefs?
If you want to be in a loving relationship with someone else, start with yourself first. If you can care for your own heart, mind, and body, it’s a lot easier to care for someone else’s.
(2) Be radically honest with your partner.
MeiMei and Kiran practice radical honesty, which is the art of being completely forthright about everything you’re thinking and feeling. Radical honesty is about communicating with your partner about how you’re feeling, the past issues that have shaped you, your dating history, your own darkness, and the stuff you’re proudest and most ashamed of. Radical honesty is hard.
One of the hardest things about radical honesty is that sometimes, you’ll say something that hurts your partner. But, Kiran says, “Only good comes from the truth.” You have to decide, is the potential immediate heartbreak worth the long-term trust?
In the long-run, being radically honest is going to get you to a place where you’re closer to and more trusting of your partner. One of the best feelings in the world is knowing that you and your partner don’t have any secrets between the two of you. That allows for a level of closeness that would be impossible without the trust that comes from complete honesty.
Kiran also noted, “The truth will eventually come out. Either you seek the truth out and express it openly, or it will come and find you. You can’t kill the truth.”
So how much better would it be to just open the front door, and let the truth in? That takes courage—and in the end, you’ll be rewarded with a deeper trust and love than you could ever imagine was possible between you and your partner.
(3) Marriage can be a 24/7 slumber party.
We asked MeiMei and Kiran what they thought was the biggest popular misconception about marriage. They said, “The idea that marriage is hard work.”
MeiMei said, “It really bugs us when people say that. We all buy into it. Good relationships are not about work. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t take effort—anything you make your #1 priority is something you’re going to put a lot of energy into. But, it so rarely feels like work to us. It’s only about 10% of the time when we’re together, if that. The rest of the time, it feels like play.”
They both noted that marriage really can feel like a 24/7 slumber party. Kiran said, “Every night before I go to bed, I think, ‘I can’t believe I hung out with you all day…and now I get to sleep over! This is awesome!'”
I love this mentality.
What I learned most from this piece of advice wasn’t just that marriage can be very fun. I also realized how quickly we subscribe to common “truisms” about love and relationships.
Here’s the thing: your relationship with your partner is completely yours to design. If you want it to be like a 24/7 slumber party, you can make it so. If you want it to be like a zen garden on a sunny afternoon, then that’s what you get to create.
You don’t have to buy into anything that doesn’t feel like the kind of relationship you want to be in. You can create one that is all your own, complete with a unique set of relationship guidelines that are special to your relationship.
Whatever kind of relationship you want to have, you can create it now. Your relationship is your masterpiece.
What will yours look like?
Love this advice? You can listen to the full interview with MeiMei and Kiran here: