Greg and I met in the eighth grade. After three years of crushing from afar, I finally worked up the courage to say hello. A few weeks of casually talking after lunch in the cafeteria led to our “first date,” (aka, a walk in my neighborhood). My 13-year-old self knew right then and there that he would be the one, whatever that meant at the time. From there on out, we had awkward “dates” at the playground near our houses, got our parents to drive us to the ice rink and texted about how we liked each other. I would do anything to not go back to the eighth grade, although meeting Greg has undoubtedly been one of the best parts of my life.
The two of us have been together since our freshman year of high school. Normally when I say that, everyone goes, “AW OMG THAT IS SO CUTE.” Which, yeah, it is, but it’s honestly kind of crazy. We liked each other before we even knew how to drive. Before we started high school. Before going on dates was even a thing. (Seriously, if you went on a date with a boy in eighth grade, everyone knew about it and it was not romantic at all.)
I often get asked the question, “How do you date someone for that long?” When I first started getting asked this question, I would just respond with “I don’t know” or, “it really hasn’t felt like that long.” While no relationship is truly a fairytale, through time, experiences and maturity, I am finally prepared with my answer – it’s because my boyfriend is a keeper. And if you are with a boy who has the following characteristics, you need to hold on to him.
- He makes you feel beautiful even when you feel your worst.
If he can manage to make you feel pretty when your face is bare, you’re wearing sweatpants and you’re dealing with that time of the month, he’s definitely a keeper. You deserve to feel special and beautiful all of the time, because you are special and beautiful all of the time. Once, Greg told me that I looked better without any makeup. I don’t know who told him to say that, but props to them. I’ve felt prettier and more confident in my natural skin ever since.
- He doesn’t limit you in anything.
If your boyfriend tells you who you can and can’t hang out with, where you can and can’t go or what you can and can’t wear, it’s time to say goodbye. But if he encourages you to have a girls’ night or go to a party with your friends, then you should hold on to him. Don’t be with someone who keeps you from living your own life. While spending time together is great, it’s important to get to know yourself and what you want.
- He continues to make you feel special.
Wasn’t it really nice on the first date when he opened the car door for you and gave you his jacket to walk outside in the cold with? If he continues to make you feel like the most important girl in the world far beyond the first date, that’s a good sign. A relationship is meant to make you feel happy and loved, always. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of those good morning texts, telling me to have a great day or random kisses on the cheek when we’re in the car. It’s nice to be reminded that you’re special to someone.
- He lets you be the leader.
For me, there’s nothing better than getting to put a smile on Greg’s face when I plan a picnic in the park, complete with fried chicken and too many Instagram photos. Or, seeing his smile during a night under the stars where we quote all of our favorite episodes of The Office. If he gives you the opportunity to take charge and plan something cute, hang on to him. Who doesn’t love using Pinterest to help come up with with cute little ideas to make their guy smile?
- He never pressures you into anything.
Be with someone who never makes you feel pressured to make a decision, whether it’s going to a party you’re not comfortable with or doing something that you might regret later. A guy who respects your wishes and boundaries is hard to come by, but if you find one, don’t let him go. I think one reason Greg and I have been together so long is that he never pressured me into talking and obsessing about the future. We took each day one step at a time and are thankful for that now.
- He continues to make you laugh and smile.
You should stay with someone who continues to spread a smile across your face far past the first date. Last week, Greg tried to pull a lame April Fools Day joke on me by telling me that he wasn’t coming home for Easter. He broke into a smile before he even started the joke, and that made me laugh so hard. While being serious is important at times, there are times when it’s important to laugh together. That’s always been an indicator to me that our relationship is strong.
- He supports you in accomplishing your dreams.
He never tells you that you can’t accomplish or achieve something that you’re passionate about. He stands beside you and even gives you confidence when your self-esteem is low. Greg always makes sure to remind me that I can get the internship, or an A on my exam, or meet the deadline (even when I have 1,000 other things going on). Be with someone who always supports you and gives you that extra boost of confidence when you need it.
While it may take some time to find that “perfect guy,” make it a point in any relationship to establish a friendship before anything else and to make sure that what you’re involved in is healthy. While jumping in without first creating a foundation may give you an adrenaline rush, there is nothing like finding someone who can continually make you smile and feel like your best self, all of the time. If you find a guy who fits any of these qualifications, hold on to him. You may have found the start of one of the best relationships of your life.