This is for the boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife who lit the spark that will warm your heart forever. It's for the lover that really and truly became your partner; the person who changed everything.
It's not a single moment. There isn't a magical strike of lightning to your heart indicating that your relationship has evolved into something unknown to you. There isn't a benchmark, threshold or classification for what it means to achieve a real partnership with another human being. It's actually quite unnatural. We live in a time when self-interest and unwavering dedication to independence are widely encouraged. This is a good thing. We should be empowered, confident and able to thrive without deep ties to anyone or anything. It should be difficult to achieve that relationship. If it were easy, it wouldn't be so unfathomably valuable.
Partnership is hard. It's about more than just passion. I used to believe that was the only thing a relationship needed to be successful and real, but I was wrong. It's a choice, and one you keep making every day until something inside of you changes.
I've been selfish in relationships. We've all been selfish in relationships, especially when we're young. It's natural. That's how most of us acted when we were first trying to navigate the complexities of caring deeply for someone else. If we got hurt, we gave hurt back. If we felt betrayed, we dished out equal betrayal. If we felt like we were going to be left, we left first. We fought for our own feelings in arguments. We fought for what we felt, and at all costs. At least that's what I did, and what so many people around me did also. So much love and passion was thrown around, but it didn't matter, because in the end I always chose myself, and so did everyone else. This wasn't something I noticed at the time, and you probably didn't either, until you actually started choosing someone other than yourself for the right reasons.
My boyfriend is the farthest thing from a romantic, but he made a statement when we first started dating that changed my entire perspective on relationships. We were talking about a classic "college relationship" like the ones I previously described. He very calmly and decisively looked at me and said, "They just aren't on the same team. If you aren't on the same team, nothing will ever work." That was it. That was the piece I was always missing. I could love so deeply and in such an all-encompassing way, but I never understood that the reality of true partnership is friendship. It's being that person's teammate. If you're reading this with an overwhelming warmth traveling from your mind to your heart, you know exactly what I mean, because you found it too. You're someone's teammate and partner.
Becoming partners is a process. It's a combination of growing as a couple, and growing as a human being on your own. It's the reality of true friendship. It's more than the fun parts of love. A partner means being there for each other at your worst, when you're sad, sick, frustrated and heartbroken. You're both there. Not a drop-by-with-chicken-soup kind of there, but an up-all-night, spoon-feeding you at 4 a.m. in the ER kind of there. A partner means compromise. It means trudging through the muck of life knowing someone really has your back. It means supporting each other. It means sacrifice. It means admitting when you're in the wrong, and it even changes the way you fight.
Often an internal process takes place that we are hardwired to embrace. It's when you feel disappointed or unfairly treated. Your mind starts to get defensive and angry. You have an urge to fight for your own pride, until that feeling of partnership gets strong enough to overcome pride. To this day my boyfriend and I will actually say, "I feel like you're not being on my team," in the midst of an argument, and it's like an earthquake of reality shakes into my heart. Because that's really all any argument is; losing perspective. Partnership is when that perspective is loud enough to drown out any differences. It's when everything else is small compared to something much bigger, the strength of your love for each other.
Above all, if you've found a lover who's also your partner, you've found a best friend. You've found someone who teaches you about yourself. You've found someone who would never hold you back. You've found someone you're comfortable being vulnerable with. You've found someone who you can have complete, unadulterated fun with. You don't need constant reassurance, because you know you're loved. You've found someone who not only physically attracts you but also entices you through sheer strength of character. They take your heart to levels you never thought it could reach. They know who you are. They know when to pour you another cup of coffee, wrap you up in a bear hug or leave you the heck alone. They're your person.
You're on the same team. You fight together, grow together, fall together and laugh together. You're partners. That's what makes you a winning team.