Credit: Jane Tan

Turning 30 is certainly a cause for celebration… but what are we celebrating exactly? In ‘My Dirty 30s’, columnist Samantha Y. reflects on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly truth about what this decade spells for “ageing” millennials like herself. 

Before anyone questions my expertise, let me preface this by saying that I am in absolutely no position to give anyone relationship advice. Heck, I’m still trying to figure this marriage stuff out myself. 

That said, my dating CV spans over a decade and includes two long-term relationships, two engagements (got promoted to wife with the last one, yay) and far too many disastrous dates in between. Now that I’m on the other side, here are three things that I wish I knew earlier when it comes to that elusive happily ever after (Hint: it’s not rocket science, but it does involve some really hard work).

Don’t look for The One… look for The One who’s willing to make it work with you 

In my experience, it isn’t that difficult to find someone whom you have a connection with. I mean, the world has a population of over 7 billion people – you have to be some kind of unique (and I don’t mean that in a good way) if you can’t find a single person in the dating pool who sparks your interest. 

And speaking of sparks – sure, having that spark between the both of you is an important pre-requisite. That rush of oxytocin when you find someone whom you vibe with? Completely intoxicating. But the thing about sparks is that they fizzle out, and life has a thousand and one ways of doing that. What then? 

After a string of f*ckboys sometime in 2018, I came to the realisation that I’ve been going about my search for The One all wrong. Things like chemistry, similarities, or amount of time spent together doesn’t mean jack unless he’s shown that he’s willing to put in the effort to make the relationship work. 

The thing about dating is that the timing can really suck sometimes. Someone might have to relocate because of work, you might have met “The One” in a foreign country, or they firmly believe that they’re not “ready” to settle down till they’re 40 (all excuses that guys have used to fob me or my girlfriends off, btw). But when you think about it, there are ways of trying to make the relationship work even with these hurdles in place. They just didn’t want to because it inconveniences them. 

So here’s my advice if you’re looking for a committed relationship – no matter how good the sex or banter is, he’s not The One unless he’s willing to make some adjustments to his life to include you. Please don’t waste any more time on him. 

And yeah sure, that guy asking you out on a second date immediately after the first might not seem like the most exciting prospect you have right now, but here’s the thing about people who are stable, responsible and committed: their behaviours are predictable, so they just come across as less exciting at first. No harm saying yes to that second date; the fireworks might just happen later.

Love isn’t about compromise… it’s about accommodating 

I used to think that relationships are all about compromise. I moved in with my partner two years ago and ended up compromising on a whole bunch of stuff – like how our bedroom should look like, how the housework should be split between us, who gets to hog the TV on which days – because I naively thought that is what love is. 

A few arguments later, I was hit by an epiphany. Love isn’t about compromise. The very definition of compromising means that no one is happy because nobody gets their desired outcome. Wouldn’t you be f*cking miserable if you spent the rest of your life not getting what you want because of this one person? 

These days, instead of trying to reach a compromise, my partner and I have a discussion about who is willing to accommodate the other party. And we found that the whole reframing of the situation really helped with not letting resentment build between us. Instead of the both of us being dissatisfied with the outcome, our conclusions are now along the lines of, “OK, I don’t 100% like this but I can accommodate this because I love you”. 

Of course, we take turns doing this (don’t let it be a one-sided thing!) and it’s been working out so far, so… I don’t know, I actually might be on to something? 

Love is not enough 

The feeling of love fades. Just ask anyone in a long-term relationship. Some days you think you can’t live without a person, and some days they just need to breathe a little too loudly for you to wonder why you’re together in the first place. 

This brings me to my last point. Love is not enough to sustain a healthy relationship. Sure, it’s an important building block, but this foundation will crumble when not reinforced by other equally important (but admittedly, boring) things like aligned values, life goals and finances. 

And I would argue that it’s perfectly normal for the feeling of love to come and go. In a monogamous long-term relationship, love isn’t just a feeling anymore – it becomes a choice. You wake up every morning and choose to continue to be with this person. That involves action from both parties, like having tough conversations and confronting issues in your relationship head-on.

It will stir up some unpleasant feelings. One (or both!) of you might end up crying. They don’t show you this part in rom-coms or fairytales. 

But hey – this is what happily ever after really looks like. It’s not glamorous, and it’s kind of boring at times. As for whether all of this is worth it? That’s for you to decide.