Written by: Lauren Steeves
“And they lived happily ever after.”
A phrase that has been repeated to us after every fairy tale basically since we came out of the womb. But we rarely get to see what it took for a couple to get to the point where they lived happily ever after – I mean, beyond a glass slipper mix up of course.
When you’re in a relationship, there are obviously signs that things are going well. In fact, most of us can attest to having a mental checklist even though we all know relationships develop in different ways.
It usually starts off with an initial attraction (or a right swipe) and then progresses to a first date. The first date is very indicative of whether there’s something beyond the initial attraction, and from there, you basically decide if the person is worthy of your time and your bed. After the first date, comes the second and then the third, and potentially many, many more to follow. Somewhere along the dating chain, you test your sexual chemistry (because let’s be real it’s important to test-drive before you commit or purchase). I mean if Sex and the City taught us anything this is one of the key lessons – let us not forget Charlotte and Trey.
From there, comes meeting your partner’s friends, and more importantly, their family where you put on your favourite outfit that’s cute, but classic and hope to god that his or her parents turn out to be somewhat normal and not people that will have you running in the other direction.
Then comes those three words – ever small, but oh so mighty. From there, you’re thinking you’re committed, it’s the real deal, nothing can tear you apart and that your story might just end in the happily ever after. However, if we’ve learned anything through our dating history, we’ve learned that sometimes those people we thought were the “one” turn out to be nothing more than a “boy (or girl), bye”.
Other big relationship milestones include: taking your first trip together, moving in together, and potentially, putting a ring on it and saying the infamous “I dos”.
However, somewhere along the way we may bypass or ignore a major relationship milestone – one that is a key indication of whether or not we’ve found lasting love with a person that is truly “right” for us. While there may be a technical term for it, I like to refer to this milestone as emotional exposure or being emotionally stripped.
So what does emotional exposure mean exactly?
Well, let me start by explaining physical exposure first. Physical exposure or being physically stripped in a relationship involves reaching the point in a relationship where your partner has seen you without makeup on or riddled full of a horrible acne breakout and still finds you attractive and loves you all the same. Or as Drake eloquently puts it, “Sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no make up on, that’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong”. When you’re physically stripped in a relationship, you essentially know that person will love you even when your skinny jeans don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, getting to the level of being able to be comfortable in your own skin is definitely an important relationship milestone. However, being comfortable in your own emotions in a relationship is a completely separate pool.
This means you feel comfortable enough sharing all your most embarrassing, dark, guilty, vulnerable and completely terrifying thoughts and feelings with your partner and you know that they will completely support you and love you all the same.
This means being able to express fully all those thoughts and feelings we hold back because we fear that if we expose them the person will pack his or her bags and run for the hills.
But instead that person stays.
That person fights.
And that person picks you up.
This person is essentially willing to go to hell and back for you and proudly bare all the battle wounds.
Recently Jennifer Aniston described this level of emotional exposure best when asked how she knew Justin Theroux was “the one”. She said, “Why is he the right person for me? All I know is that I feel completely seen, and adored, in no matter what state. There’s no part of me that I don’t feel comfortable showing, exposing. And it brings forth the best part of myself.”
If you can’t get to the point of emotional exposure with the person you are in a long-term relationship with, then that’s a good indication that this person is not right for you. That being said, getting to this point in a relationship takes time and it takes work. But as you slowly expose the layers of your authentic being to the person you love, you will too see glimpses into what kind of partner he or she can be for you and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of whether or not you’ll ever hit this level of connection.
Ralph Waldo Emerson says it best, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” And in any long-term relationship, if you can’t truly be yourself with that person then what is it all really for?
If someone can’t handle you at your worst, then they don’t deserve you at your best. It’s as simple as that.
And that right there, might just be the key to your happily ever after.