7 Years

On November 2nd, Zack and I celebrate our 7 year anniversary (thats what happens when you start dating at 16… you’ve spent a little over half a decade together by the time you’re 23!). I try to veer away from writing too much about my relationship because I don’t really feel qualified to be giving ‘advice’ on love when I’m not married yet. I feel like that’s your credential to start writing about your relationship. Until then, I feel like a crazy, obsessed girlfriend (*fiance* that word still feels weird to use 😂) writing about my undying love for Zack.  BUT, here we are anyways! Seeing as though 7 years is a pretty significant amount of time, I’m gonna give myself a green light to write about it and you can decide what to do with my ramblings 🙂
Over the past 7 years, Zack and I have walked through many seasons together. Some dark, some bright. We’ve experienced high school together, our first jobs, college, &  starting our careers. We’ve seen new life come into our families with the births of our nieces and also dealt with some really hard deaths. We’ve seen friends come, go, and stay. We’ve experienced living close by and also far from each other. I have had Zack for the most memorable times in my life, and to be honest I don’t really remember very many teenage years without him. It’s hard to picture life before him at all. Over these years, I have learned a substantial amount about Zack as a person; the important things and the little things. Big things – like that he will climb mountains to help the people he loves, he is always the first to apologize, and he never ever complains about a single thing. Little things; like movie previews are his favorite thing ever, he makes up his own lyrics to 95% all songs, and tries every “new” item on any menu — anywhere. (Like, you know when you pull up in a drive-thru and the girl at the speaker asks if you would like to try their new bacon-wrapped jalapeño spicy teriyaki bell pepper (+10 other ingredients) sandwich? Zack will say yes about 8 times out of 10 without even letting them finish their description). I have learned a lot about love, a lot about Zack, and a lot about relationships in general.


The most important things I’ve learned in 7 years:

 Pray for him. 
Along with keeping Christ at the center of a relationship, I think praying for your partner is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. Praying for him in any way you can –  for his work responsibilities, a cold he’s fighting, or for God to continue to mold him into who He designed him to be. When I love someone, I shoulder all of their stress. If they are stressed, I am stressed for them. If they are hurting, I hurt for them. But praying for someone you love is a way to surrender all that to Christ. I am not meant to carry that, but Jesus instead. Praying for Zack is a way for me to humble myself before someone who loves him more than I do — our Heavenly Father.

 Not everything needs to be public.
This is something I definitely learned & am still learning from Zack! In a world of social media, it sometimes feels harder NOT to take pictures / post everything you do. For someone like me who is an open book & enjoys sharing with people, it’s kinda hard for me not to write novels about Zack in an Instagram caption — (yes I am one of those people!). But I’ve learned that there is a beauty in keeping memories to yourself sometimes rather than “checking-in” on Facebook for every date night or trying to get the perfect picture to post. There are precious moments in sharing my love for Zack through words in person rather than in an IG post. Nothing wrong with doing those things here and there, but not every time. Not everything needs to be public.

 Making our schedules work.
I’ve learned this lesson with friendships and in my relationship alike. It is so important to not only understand, but support each other’s schedules. When we dated in high school, we saw each other before, during, and after school, and on then on weekends. Then, we got to college and we only saw each other when he came home on weekends. Now, after college, we are both working full time. So, as weekdays are pretty busy, weekends are usually our time. We don’t get to spend too much time just he & I, so we always try to step back and remember that before committing to plans with friends. Sometimes we will meet somewhere in the middle; like grabbing dinner just us 2 before meeting up with a group of people. We have both made it a priority we get that one on one time together while also supporting plenty of time with friends and doing our own thing in our free time.

 Voice *REASONABLE* expectations.
I feel like most girls can relate with this. It is so easy to get your feelings hurt if ‘expectations’ go unmet. But this miscommunication gets simplified with answering two questions: Is your expectation realistic? Have you actually voiced it? It would make sense for me to get upset if Zack made other plans for Saturday if I had already said I wanted to do something with him. But is it fair for me to get super bent-out-of-shape if I never told him that? How is he supposed to know? Granted, a lot of ‘expectations’ are givens and don’t need to be voiced. But there are some smaller things that might be better said than left up for assumption.

 For crying out loud, let it go.
Honestly, this one is hardest for me. I think as a girl, or maybe just someone who is very vocal about their opinions, I want any disagreement to be fully discussed. If we get into an argument about something, I want to write a 500 word essay as to why we disagreed, where we miscommunicated, and how we can prevent it from happening again and that is just STRAIGHT UP unnecessary like > than 80% of the time. Not every last thing needs to be talked about in detail like this. I think a cliche key to a healthy relationship is picking your battles.  Is this something worth turning into a 15 minute discussion? Or is it small enough to let go? Save the long discussions for real issues, not the issues that will mean nothing tomorrow.

 Keep a long-term perspective. 
This is surprisingly something that I feel like a lot of people disagree with. From a pretty young age, Zack and I talked about how we wanted this to be a relationship that ended in marriage. It may have sounded naive to some way back then, but having that mindset caused us to take our relationship a little more seriously than most people do in their college years. We agreed that breaking up was not something we were going to keep on the table of options. Some people may disagree with this, but let me explain. If you are (seriously) dating someone and you know you want to make it work, you are naturally going to do everything you can to make the relationship last, and in essence, avoid breaking up. If you want it to last, you need a long-term perspective. Trying to make a relationship work through good and bad seasons means not resorting to breaking up the second troubled waters hit. It does not mean ‘keeping your options open’ or ‘seeing where it goes’. In my opinion, that is the mindset of someone who is dating for fun. If you want a relationship that lasts, you need to keep a long-term perspective and not run for the hills if times get tough.

These 7 years have been the most amazing experience. I have learned so much and grown to love Zack in ways I did not know were possible. I cannot wait to marry him and learn more ways to deepen our relationship and love each other better.

Heres to 70+ more!

img_6568img_6567zack + toni -- engagement-19zack + toni -- engagement-32

Photos by Maple & Elm Photography




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