Alvely, 30ish, Married, NC

Curious about others experiences in dating and relationships, I posted some questions out on Facebook in early September 2017 to collect stories from a wide range of hearts and experiences in love. This is one of many:

This is Us

The following is based on my own experience in this relationship. I am certain there will be similarities in Robert's response, but the following is what lives in my heart and my perception of our marriage. 

+ if you’re coupled, how did you meet?

We met on a social media website for Latinos back in 2004 before it was cool to meet people online. I was 17 years old and decided to create a profile just for fun while killing time at the school library during my lunch break. It was not a dating site and it looked like a mixture of Myspace and Facebook. I am grateful to have been bored and making that profile! I messaged him and told him he was cute. I have always been a go-getter. He was wearing a shirt that said "I'm a ray of fucking sunshine." I liked his style.

+ what are your fears & concerns about dating and relationshipping? 
The part on dating does not apply to me, although we make sure to continue dating each other as this creates fun, excitement and we continue to get to know each other as we are constantly growing individually and as a couple. In terms of my relationship, I don’t have any fears. I have learned to let go of any expectations and attachment to the outcome of our marriage. This might be an interesting concept to some, but it is what works for us. As humans, attachment is significant in our lives from the moment we are born and continues to influence our future relationships, but attachment in adulthood and relationships often creates a sense of fear. Robert and I choose to do life from a perspective of love. We do hope to grow old with each other, but there is no attachment there to how it happens. We have future plans but we are not attached to them happening exactly as we imagine or hope. We are aware that we will experience challenges that lead to growth (as we have done so already) and we are secure enough in each other and our love to know that we will work through them and continue choosing each other. Letting go of the attachment and expectations was something we had to learn during a very difficult time in our marriage. That experience healed a lot of the emotional baggage we carried from before we met each other, childhood fears, and generational trauma+fears that had been passed down to us by family. The hardest experience in our marriage was the catalyst to get us where we are today; a place of love and connection without fear. Thich Nhat Hanh put it perfectly- “you must love in such a way that the person you love feels free”. That, my friends, is how we love each other, how we encourage and support each other towards emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical growth without expectations or attachments.

+ are you happy in your current status? Why or why not?
I am the happiest I’ve been for a long time now and I am not attached to this happiness as I know we will have some challenges to tackle together. I choose to be present in this happiness and not worry about the future. This happiness has been possible due to lots of communication and emotional vulnerability with each other. It’s a happiness that is present even when we are not getting along or having some stressful issues to take care of. I choose this happiness on a daily basis and it has improved our individual happiness as well as happiness as a couple. 

+ do you view marriage as a destination or a journey? 
I view marriage as a journey of discovery, challenges, excitement, and growth. I do not believe it is a destination because we are constantly changing and growing and these changes and growth evolves our relationship to the point that we must continue moving forward and traveling the journey of life together. He is my best friend and it is my purpose as his to encourage him towards growth. That cannot be done if we have hidden expectations for each other, as it will only set the other up for failure. Therefore, journeying this life path is a choice that we make on a daily basis. That path will change and sometimes the journey will be more difficult and emotional than we expect, but we trust that it will take us where we belong and teach us what needs to be learned at various stages of our lives.

+ if married, how much work does it take to maintain a happy and loving relationship with your spouse?
Marriage takes a lot of work from both persons involved. There have been times where I’ve given more than 50% and others where he has. I don’t believe in marriage being 50/50 all the time. Robert and I have experienced so much together, from deployments, to mental health challenges, to growing up with each other and finding our identity/purpose as we’ve gone through various life stages, to doing it individually and together. I have not given 50% all of the time and neither has he. But this is not a problem for us, as we know that when the other one is not doing well, the other one will be there to hold us together. I trust him with my life. Robert and I have developed a few values on maintaining our marriage. These are values that are deeply written in our hearts and guide our marriage. They are the foundation of what we’ve built together. Those values include friendship, communication, respect, trust, laughter, honesty and vulnerability. Those are our family values. We know that we are amazing humans on our own, but we are definitely better together. We enjoy spending time on our own, exploring different hobbies/activities, but we always return to each other. We give each other space to miss one another. We use The Five Love Languages every single day and speak each other’s love language. We communicate our needs and wants to each other and hold back from making assumptions on our understanding of what the other has said. We seek clarification instead of judgments or letting resentment build. I strongly believe in and practice The Four Agreements (from Don Miguel Ruiz) and Rob has learned to do so by watching me. We make each other better. We push each other forward. We call each other out on bullshit. We are compassionate with each other. We laugh all the time, and play jokes on each other, and we play games with each other as if we were still children. Playfulness is always a must. We have forgiven each other whenever we hurt each other. We are intentional with our time together and our marriage. We give each other space to grow; as introverts we both need this. We spend quiet time with each other, sitting on our couch, doing our own thing (me reading a book, him reading from his iPad) but being next to each other sharing that moment and space. We talk, actually I do most of the talking, and he listens. He listens so well. He is a man of few words but he is brilliant when he speaks. And we are okay with silence. We are clear with our needs; for example if I need Robert to listen to me or hold space for me to cry, I tell him this. If we want feedback/solutions, we ask this of each other. That has been a lifesaver for us. We don’t set each other up for failure. We practice individual self-care, knowing that we can’t give the best of us to the other if we are not taking care of ourselves on an individual level. We do not expect the other one to make us happy. My happiness is not dependent on him and he is not responsible for my happiness. I am responsible for my happiness, and he is for his. We definitely add value and joy to each other, but we don’t give each other the power or responsibility to make the other one happy. We put each other first, above anyone else. We love hard through all the seasons of our marriage. It’s been difficult. There have been tears, and conflict, and doubts/insecurities, and lots of love and healing. We don't purposely hurt each other. We have seen each other at our absolute worst, and we continue to choose each other. We accept and embrace each other, even the things that annoy us about the other. We are committed to maintaining a loving relationship. He knows my heart and I know his. We are each other’s mirror and teacher. 

+ if coupled, do you follow traditional gender norms or share responsibilities in a different manner? 
We do not follow traditional gender norms. Since the beginning of our relationship things have been pretty equal in our home. We both cook and clean. We both have a say in how we decorate our home. He helps me and I help him. Simple as that. 

+ if coupled, how long have you known each other, been a couple and married (if applicable)?
We have been married for 11 years and together for 13 years. Our relationship has been a mixture of many love songs from “you should let me love you”, to wanting to “smash into you”, to “I don’t want to miss a thing”,  to “I miss you”, to “say something”, to “just give me a reason”, to “just the way you are” and “all of me”  + “thinking out loud”, and so many more that I can’t think of right now. We have experienced all of the emotions in this 13-year relationship. We keep choosing to grow with each other. 

+ do you have couples you know, either personally or from afar, that are your #relationshipgoals? 
I don’t really believe in the #relationshipgoals concept as I think its not realistic to the individual needs of two people in a relationship. To me, relationship goals based on what we see in other couples is a form of expectations and I don’t care for expectations in any of my relationships. In addition, we truly don’t have an idea of what the couples others see as #relationshipgoals are going through or have gone through, and social media is often deceiving. The only relationship goal I have is for the two of us to continue loving and growing together. I do admire other couples based on how they are with each other. My favorite couple is Justin and Emily Baldoni. 

+ do you believe marriage is still necessary and viable or is it an antiquated institution?
I’m not sure about this one. I think people can have a wonderful relationship without being married. I respect everyone’s right to determine what’s the best for them whether that is to get married, live together and make choices based on their needs. I’ll support whatever makes them happy and is aligned with their emotional/mental/spiritual/physical needs and beliefs.