Keeping love alive
We haven’t written a blog post in a really long time. I wanted to be able to share something important and not just share beautiful pictures with a generic text, full of fluffy adjectives.
If it’s true that an image is worth a thousand words, we also find that the right words, said at the right time, may have a big impact on someone else’s life. The last time we opened our hearts like this, it was 2015 and we wrote this blog post. It took us a long time to feel like we had something to say again.
We share beautiful wedding pictures daily, pictures of people who love each other and who celebrate a high point in their relationship. Incredibly happy moments, when we see them at their best. What we never see is what they had to go through to get there and, most importantly, how they are going to spend the “ever after”. What happens when life gets hard? Will they remember their celebrants’ words, read the best wishes cards, go through their wedding album? Or will they improvise as life gets complicated and then uncomplicated again?
Wherever we look we see incredible and inspiring relationships, but we also see difficulties. In keeping love alive when work gets more demanding and we run out of time for our family. When people expect us to work like we don’t have children and be parents like we don’t have to work. When people expect us to be and look perfect, with Instagram worthy lives and impeccable houses. I’m glad real life doesn’t look like that.
If you just landed here and don’t know our story, allow me to share it in a few words: we met in high school (almost dated back then) but only reconnected in 2005 through the internet. That following year we talked daily, seeking a supportive shoulder on each other. Pedro was still living in our hometown and I was studying in Lisbon.
Mid 2006, Pedro went to Lisbon for work and offered to cook dinner for my birthday. The meal wasn’t his best but our love grew quickly. A week later I had my toothbrush at his house and a month later we were officially living together. I was 19 and he was 23. That first year of living together we lived in what we called back then, “the pressure cooker”: we had housemates, he was working, I was studying and we were unable to go to our own houses to “cool off” any arguments.
When we came back to our hometown we remodelled an old apartment, picked tiles through e-mail and other similar adventures. In 2010, due to a job opportunity, we lived apart for three months. Those were the hardest three months of my life. We learnt that we wanted to spend all our available time together.
In 2010 we decided to abandon the corporate world and start our photography business. Pedro quit his job and we were finally working together. No clients, no financial pillow, both of us working full time with no experience on being an entrepreneur, in a logic of all or nothing. It was a scary phase: the country was in a deep economical crisis, with no opportunities. As optimists, we stopped watching the news, got to work and thought “if we can survive this, we will survive anything”.
We’ve been together for 12 years, married for 10, with a one year old baby in our arms after a miscarriage and 4 years of trying to get pregnant, an adopted dog and a stray cat. We still have a lot to live and we consciously keep choosing to go together on new adventures, big or small, that make both of us happy.
But what’s that got to do with the post title, you ask? During these years we had the chance to learn a lot from each other, with the couples who hire us and share their love story with us.
Many people ask us how can we work and live together. Here’s what our experience tells us:
1. Mutual respect
Respect is, for us, the basis for everything. To respect our diferences and understand that we are different people, with different tastes and ways of thinking, makes us a stronger team. Respecting each other’s dreams, finding ways to make those dreams become a reality, according to our own means. Respecting effort and commitment, even if the other person does things differently. We respect each other as intelligent adults we are and avoid talking to each other in a patronising way.
2. Talk, talk, talk
Wow. Hours upon hours of talking about everything. About our childhood, about the meaning of our feelings and our words. The first year of our relationship was endless hours of talking. We learnt how our minds worked and we were, in fact, unconsciously, establishing the foundations of our relationship. At that stage, talking also meant sharing each other’s dreams, concerns and celebrating small victories. Communication is, for us, the basis of our relationship.
We are deeply grateful for having found one another, for being able to accomplish a handful of goals and still have another hand full of dreams. Gratitude for the small things. Saying “thank you” all the time. Saying “thank you” when one of us did something that needed to be done. The acknowledgment of the effort makes our days happier and removes the feeling of obligation from everyday’s chores that can wear us down.
4. Realise that love doesn’t last forever if we don’t nurture it
We don’t take each other for granted. We understand that at any given time, if unhappy, one of us may leave the love boat. But we choose to stay together because it makes us happy. We treat our love like it is our first child. Somedays it means to look at each other in a more endearing way over dinner, other times a 20 second hug. We say out loud that we love each other, we appreciate and care for each other daily. Treating each other like we are part of the furniture in a logic of “I don’t need to tell you because you already know” doesn’t make our love bigger, it only makes it invisible.
5. Be fair
Fairness in our words, in house chores distribution, in the choices we make. The constant favouring of one of us only makes the other feel overwhelmed and in an inequitable situation.
Going into a relationship hoping that the other person will change is one of the most common mistakes I see people stumbling upon. If change happens, it happens naturally as a result of the daily living and as we try to find balance as a couple.
7. Not being afraid to love
Our past doesn’t define us. Whether we had relationships that didn’t work or grew up in a less than ideal home, our future is entirely in our hands. It’s hard to live a full life when we constantly have a leg off of the boat, when we’re constantly in flight mode.
8. Don’t bring pride to the table
For us, love is not a battlefield. It’s what connects us and helps us to be happy together. We don’t get a medal every time we’re right in an argument. In the long run, life is a harmonious dance: sometimes you are right, sometimes you are wrong. It’s the number of times that we are both right that makes us move forward. Also, we’re not afraid to ask each other for help. I constantly try to remind myself that we’re a team.
9. A marriage of equals
My dreams aren’t more important than yours. Our needs are equally important. The house chores are both our responsibility. I’m not always right. We’re in this together.
Oh man. Such a tiny little word and so hard to do. Learning to trust may be a huge task if we have a heavy stone in our past that needs to be put away in order for us to move forward. Trust is built daily, over time. For us, to trust is to listen to our partner more than our fears and personal traumas and to be able to write a new story together. When we trust, we create room to grow together.
11. bonus: our clients’ tips
Because we are fascinated by this, we decided to ask our clients what their tips are for a happy marriage. Their answers were sweet, caring and made us realise something we somehow already knew: people love in different ways, find ways to adjust to one another and find their own safe place with something that works for them in their particular dynamics.
Here are our favourites:
1. Go to bed at the same time and never fall asleep mad at each other;
2. Never criticise your partner in conversations with other people;
3. Create time and room to talk about common goals;
4. Spend time and create memories together. A quieter end of the day, a night out, a weekend getaway or a backpacking trip to a faraway country;
5. Keep a sense of humour and don’t take life too seriously;
6. Spoon 5 minutes everyday before starting your morning;
7. Exchange small gestures of care outside of special dates: bake a cake or give a foot massage;
8. Show your love through words daily;
9. Listen. Truly listen to what you are being told. Empathise with what the other person is going through and respect their feelings, no judgements;
10. Respect each other’s difference in opinion;
11. Don’t compare your partner to other people’s partners;
12. Never say words that will hurt your partner. Mean and nasty words said in fragile moments can leave last longing scars.
The more people we know, the more we realise that there isn’t a recipe for a healthy relationship but we do know that it’s the small and daily gestures that make a true love survive the everyday wear. With love and respect.
What about you? What is your secret to a happy love life? Is there something you would like to share? Please leave a comment below or send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your thoughts.
Disclaimer: This is a delicate subject and we just wanted to share what works for us. Being able to love is an incredible blessing and no relationship has to be painful to the point where we feel bad about who we are and our individual dreams. In any way this blog post replaces an appointment with a therapist. If you feel like you may be in an abusive relationship, please do seek professional help.
Pedro & Marina.