Being in a long-term relationship is all about sharing. You share your time, your living space, your most intimate secrets, your friends, your life. When you strike a nice balance in the sharing department, it feels easy and natural. When you share too much, your relationship can veer into codependent territory. When you share too little, your connection might feel cold and distant. The stakes are higher now, but basically, your preschool teacher knew what was up when she forced you to let Billy play with the toy truck in the sandbox: sharing is caring. Obviously every couple needs to figure out their own ideal sharing arrangement, but there are definitely some guidelines that apply to most everyone. With that in mind, here are a few things you should share with your partner, and a few things to keep for yourself.
SHARE: A big group of friends. It can be stressful at first, but blending friend groups — when it works — can be one of the greatest perks of being in a relationship. You each get an instantly expanded social life without a ton of effort, and really, is there any better feeling than seeing your friends love your partner almost as much as you do?
DON’T SHARE: A best friend. This is nonnegotiable. Both parties need to have their own best friend, a confidante who will always be on their side, whom they can vent to about the other person in the middle of a fight, etc. Sharing a best friend is complicated and can get very messy.
SHARE: Your yummy smelling lotions and toiletries. I’ve never met a guy who didn’t steal his girlfriend’s moisturizer, conditioner, and sunscreen on occasion, which I find both adorable and beneficial. Sure, you might have to spend a few extra bucks at Walgreens every month, but wouldn’t we all rather have a boyfriend who smells like Morrocan argan oil instead of Axe body spray?
DON’T SHARE: Your $200 eye cream. If he’s so intent on combating his crow’s feet, he can shell out for his own tub of La Mer.
SHARE: A hobby. Every time my relationship has started to feel stagnant, it’s because the time we spent together as a couple had become very passive: stay home, eat dinner, watch TV, sleep. There are many ways to create more quality couple time, but my favorite is to find a new hobby you like to do together (key word: do). Frisbee golf, painting, cooking, tennis, modern dance — anything that involves a little effort and a high chance of looking foolish is a good choice.
DON’T SHARE: Every moment of your free time. It can be so, so tempting to default to Couple Time whenever you have a free space on your calendar, but remember to make time for yourself too – alone time, quality time with friends, spontaneous activities that don’t involve your partner, etc.
SHARE: A few pieces of clothing. Button-up shirts, pajama pants, sweaters, and jeans (depending on your respective sizes) are all fun to swap and steal, especially on lazy Sunday mornings. Side note: why are guys’ sweaters always SO much more comfortable?
DON’T SHARE: An entire wardrobe. You don’t want to be one of those couples that look like 10-year-old twins dressed by their mom. Trust me.
SHARE: A big, crazy dream. All of my favorite couples have one thing in common: they have a shared dream that’s huge and scary and maybe a little crazy, but they are mutually committed to it. Maybe it’s moving to Berlin, or opening a pizzeria, or starting a dog shelter, or joining the Peace Corps, building a massive dream home, or selling 90% of your stuff and living in a converted storage container. Whatever it is, nothing keeps a long term relationship feeling dynamic and alive like a shared goal — the bigger, the better.
DON’T SHARE: Every single tiny goal. Keep that big shared goal on a slow simmer on the back burner, and in the meantime, fill your day-to-day life with your own smaller scale goals that don’t necessarily overlap with your partner’s. Have separate professional ambitions, fitness goals (bonus: you are free to pursue Pilates even if your partner hates it!), travel experiences you want to have, and skills and talents you want to work on.
SHARE: Enthusiasm. Be happy for each other! Never hold back genuine enthusiasm and support for your partner, through every up and down. Let all that good energy be contagious in your relationship. No matter what path you’re on or how different your personal goals might be at any given time, swear to always be each other’s biggest fans.
DON’T SHARE: Bad moods. One of the best pieces of relationship advice I’ve ever heard is “take turns having a bad day,” meaning that if both of you are grumpy/overwhelmed/sad/cranky, whoever is slightly less grumpy/overwhelmed/sad/cranky puts on their big girl pants and snaps themselves out of it. The next time a mutual bad mood pops up, you switch roles. Only one person wallows at a time. No mutual sadness spirals. Is this always possible? Of course not. But keeping it in mind can really help give you perspective on your own mood, and think, “do I have it in me to rise above this and be a happier person today?” More often than not, the answer is yes.