Rachael Kirkconnell: Thoughts on Love & Relationships
Written by: Rachael Kirkconnell
I used to ask myself all the time, what even is love?
I remember being younger and thinking “love is magical..it’s a fairytale feeling..it’s where every kiss feels like a first kiss..it’s easy.” Clearly I didn’t really know much about love but that’s what I thought.
When I was in high school, I thought it was flowers, surprises, gifts, nice dinners, extravagant promposals…
And by the time I was finished with college, I wasn’t really sure if it existed at all. At least for me. I really didn’t think I was going to ever find someone that I could see myself spending the rest of my life with. The idea seemed ludacris.
Now being in love, I know love is, or can be, all of those things, but it is so, so much more.
When your relationship starts on national television, there’s a general misconception that there isn’t much left to the imagination. The truth is that like in any other relationship, there’s complexity, depth, understanding, healing and connection that doesn’t exactly happen in front of cameras, social media or even other people. I hate to break it to those who think they see everything there is to see on dating shows, but in reality, they don’t even scratch the surface. For one example, Matt’s and my first one-on-one started around 10 AM and finished up after midnight. I think about 11 minutes of it was aired, and half of that time was just me trying on dresses and crying about shoes. Another example of this came with the airing of the ‘After the Final Rose’ episode. Everyone assumed “the door was shut for good” and, “he didn’t even want to look at her” but I can’t express enough how that wasn’t the case at all.
Matt’s and my relationship has faced quite a lot, but at the end of the day we’re held together by a strong foundation and a commitment to each other, no matter what. We’re not perfect by any means, but we both pour a lot of time, energy and love into our relationship to make it a healthy one. At the end of the day, love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a choice. It’s a choice that you have to make everyday when you wake up.
Like every relationship, our relationship takes work (and it isn’t always pretty). We disagree. We bicker. He forgets to let me know about an event, I get mad at him because I have nothing to wear. We discuss. We try to do better. And we’re stronger because of it. The challenges we face(d) make everything else seem like a breeze for the most part, and they’ve enabled us to love one another stronger.
I can’t claim to have it all figured out with love and relationships but I do have some specific thoughts I want to share that I think help Matt and I keep our relationship strong.
Check in with each other
A lot of the time, life moves so fast that it becomes very easy to get caught up with work, stress, plans, friends, and family, even your own self, which is important. But making time to stop and ask each other “how are you?” makes you and your partner feel seen, heard and cared for. I sit down with Matt and ask him probably every other day “how are you?”, at first I think he didn’t understand the question because we spend almost every minute together. But we both understand now: I’m asking how he is mentally, how physically, how is he emotionally. Is there anything he needs to talk to me about? Is there anything I can help him with?
But don’t just ask them the same way you’d ask a stranger on the sidewalk. Actually ask them and hear them out, see if there’s anything you can do to ease their mind and if not, a good venting sesh is always helpful.
It’s been so helpful to us and has actually helped Matt become more open and communicate better- I think in the past he struggled with that. If your partner has a similar issue, I think asking “how are you?” is a simple question that can open up deeper conversations. Doing these check-ins helps us feel so much more connected, which makes navigating life’s day-to-day madness way easier. It also enables us to communicate with each other how we’re actually feeling and opens the door for conversation if either of us needs a boost.
Be each other’s biggest cheerleader
We really are each other’s biggest fans. This can mean anything from literally showing up to their marathon to cheer them on (I was such a fangirl cheering Matt on at the Boston Marathon!! I was so proud of him!!), or making the other lunch while they’re glued to their desk. Whenever he does something thoughtful for me, he always jokingly says “Even when you don’t think I’m thinking about you I’m thinking about you”, reminding me I’m always being seen by him, even if life feels fast and we might not necessarily have all the time to go on romantic dates or do big gestures for one another. The big things AND the little things matter.
There’s no better feeling in the world than knowing that the person you love, wholeheartedly believes in you and is there to encourage you, support you and even pick up the slack where necessary. Matt believes I’m capable of doing anything I set my mind to, and when I don’t feel so confident in myself, he’s there to remind me. Knowing I have him as my cheerleader enables me to be a better person, and I know that’s mutual for us.
Meet your partner where they’re at
You aren’t just dating the person your partner is today – you’re dating their past, their present, and their future. Everything that encompasses WHO they are.
You don’t stop growing, learning or evolving because you’re in a relationship. Chances are, the person you were when you first met is a little different than the person you are today, and that’s okay! It’s important to see each other for who you are every day, and be open to meeting that person over and over again. As you face ups, downs, changes and challenges, it’s crucial to be able to flex and evolve to meet each other’s current needs.
Some of our favorite conversations are when we talk about the future together. We have hopes, dreams, aspirations, goals, things we want, and things we need. BUT we can’t get to the future if we can’t also talk about the past and the present, and everything we have gone through to get to where we are today.
There’s always room for a joke or two
One thing about us is that we’re always cracking up. Matt gets so many comments about his personality because the show made it look like he was this stoic gentleman who never cracked a smile, or as others would describe as “boring”. I feel like I don’t even have to say this at this point, but let me tell you, Matt is so much more than that. He’s probably the goofiest person I have ever met and makes me laugh so much. His personality is one of one. Laughter is such a big part of our relationship.
Making room for laughter and joy keeps so much freshness in your relationship.
Sure it helps that we’re both goof balls, but finding ways to incorporate the simple pleasures into your love makes things so much fun. Watch funny movies together, bond over a funny Tik Tok, or even do something outside of your comfort zones and be able to giggle at yourself through it.
Life is too short to take it seriously and not have a good laugh.
Prioritize your joy
Easier said than done? Totally. You and your partner’s joy should sit on a pedestal, above all else. To us, that may look like blocking a couple of Instagram trolls or choosing to pass on events or situations that might not be healthy for us, but to you this could mean setting a boundary between your relationship and your mother in law, or taking a step back from an unsupportive friend. Whatever it is that’s getting in the way of your joy together, find a way to remove it.
I’ve said this time and time again, but a true pillar of our relationship is fully believing that we were not put on this earth to please other people, or to live our lives for others.
Prioritize what feels right for you and your partner and let the rest be noise – your relationship is between the two of you.