For three years, I had the most perfect marriage in the entire world. I never set out to brag about it, but it's really hard not to. We loved each other. We liked each other. We finished each other's sandwiches, sentences, and Starbucks (he was the slowest drinker on the planet). We left each other love notes every day. We surprised each other with the exact same gift on more than one occasion (Sleater-Kinney tickets, the Wes Anderson coffee table book, and Gaslight Anthem tickets). We were only married for three years (He died, OK? Cut us a break.), but if you have a person to text about the Ivy Park line, or a person to play with your hair while you watch Buffyand eat three bowls of ice cream, or a person to remind you to book the dentist appointment you've been postponing for, like, 100 years, consider yourself lucky.
Like your mother and those cheesy signs from TJ MAXX are always saying, life is short and we don't know when we're going to die, so treat each other well. Unfortunately for all of us, those wise TJ MAXX signs cannot talk, but I can, and here's what they'd want you to tell your person. Every day, if you can.
1. "Here's what I really want…" So many people are romantically crippled by this weird idea that it's somehow bad to tell people what you want, specifically if the person in question is a man. Um, no. If what you want is to have your hair pulled in bed, or have an exclusive relationship with the guy you've been casually seeing for a few weeks, or to just have your partner of 10 years take the goddamn trash out on a regular basis, say so. Just open your mouth and say it. No, it's not "too pushy" or "too needy," and in my experience, men in particular seem to really appreciate being handed a road map to your happiness. And in the experience of me and you and everyone else we know, nothing destroys a relationship like unmet expectations that were never verbalized. If the success of a relationship is contingent on your bottling up your feelings and expectations, hi, your relationship sucks, let's find you a new one.
2. "I choose you." A relationship is a choice that you make every day. How cool is that, to keep picking each other over and over and over again, even though you have to see each other's toothpaste spit in the sink and he has definitely sleep farted on your leg? Letting one another know that you're happy to have each other and that being together is a choice you have made is weirdly romantic.
3. "I love [INSERT VERY SPECIFIC AND SUBTLE QUALITY OF THEIRS HERE]." Chances are, you know the highlights of why your person loves you: You're smart, you're funny, you're a hot babe. But the best parts of love grow in those quiet little places, like how he makes that weird little face as he tries to open a jar of pickles for you, or how he always knows the cardinal directions, even in a city he's never been in. Those little ways you love someone are so worth noticing for yourself and so worth telling someone.
4. "I appreciate you." Eventually, relationships fall into a series of comfortable rhythms. He makes the popcorn while you queue up Netflix. You make the coffee while she wipes up the kitchen counters. He tucks the kids in while you put on 16 different face masks at night. All of these mundane things are secretly so special: They're the basis of your relationship together, the little things you'd miss about the other person should one of you be hit by a bus or die of cancer. Whatever you appreciate about this person, say it. And say it as often as you think it — it costs you zero dollars and it's a great investment.
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