Being in a relationship can feel like you finally found that missing piece to your puzzle, or it could simply bring a sigh of relief knowing there is at least one other person in this world that you can stand.
But, jokes aside, relationships aren’t always going to be easy. That’s why many people make an effort to acknowledge progression. Whether it’s a wedding anniversary or a one year celebration of your first long-term relationship, recognizing how far you and your partner have come together will keep your bond strong. But relationship milestones look different for every partnership.
Mya Kermelewicz, relationship coach and founder of MK Prevention Services, believes some of the most exciting and memorable milestones are those that are considered your “firsts” and your “triumphs.” She categorizes them into different relationship stages: honeymoon, attachment and the commitment stage.
Some “firsts” in the honeymoon phase could be your first kiss or the first date you and your partner embark on. Your first argument and how you both overcame that could be considered one of your “triumphs.”
During the attachment stage, a “first” could be saying “I love you” to each other for the first time or your first trip together. Triumphs can come in the form of solidifying your commitment to each other even when conflict arises. For example, if your partner has to move cities, you find a way to overcome that, which could mean moving with them.
The final stage, the commitment stage, may welcome engagement or having children. Additionally, working through real life conflicts together, like the loss of a loved one, can prove to be an important triumph in your relationship.
“You might say ‘why would someone celebrate a fight; why would someone celebrate getting over the loss of a loved one together?’ But you have to look at who that person (your partner) is at the core and what that relationship looks like. What are the important things to them,” Kermelewicz said.
But in today’s world, fueled by social media, it’s easy to feel consumed by the online image you want to portray to others. This often means getting caught up in likes and numbers. We have grown so used to scrolling through our phones and stumbling upon anything from a three-month-iversary post to a two year anniversary post. Yet this often inflicts an invisible pressure to make similar posts, if the time comes. Because of this, we lose sight of the more personal milestones, as Kermelewicz mentioned, that are also important to acknowledge offline, or online if you choose. But don’t let social media be the third wheel.
“I think we usually just follow along with what other people are doing. You should never feel the need to just do something because everyone else is. But if that’s something that excites you and you want to show people, then go for it, who cares,” Kermelewicz said.
This pressure also exists in terms of the “right” or “wrong” way to correctly honor relationship milestones, Kermelewicz mentioned, as we continue to compare ourselves to others. A one year anniversary post may depict a couple on an extravagant trip to celebrate their special day. But to the viewer, who may have an anniversary approaching, this may induce a panic. Suddenly, they feel they are in a bind and might not be going as above and beyond as they think they are supposed to.
But to avoid this questioning, hone in on the number one thing we are told to do to make a relationship work: communicate. No one wants to show up empty handed while their partner smothers them in gifts on their anniversary. Luckily, with the right conversations, this can be avoided.
Kermelewicz emphasizes that certain triumphs may be important to one partner, but not to the other. For instance, one individual may only see milestones as time stamps of how long they have been together. But the other partner may like to focus more on the bumps in the road the two of them were able to get over, like a first fight.
“You can’t assume that your partner understands what’s going to be really important to you, especially right off the bat,” Kermelewicz said. “They don’t know your entire story yet or anything you’ve gone through in past relationships and life.”
Kim Crossway, a junior at the State University of New York at Purchase, said in a written statement that this communication was unfortunately lacking at times in her previous relationships.
“I’ve had relationships where I tried (to) celebrate each month-iversary, and I’ve had some where we did absolutely nothing.”
She said both left her feeling sad for various reasons, but in one she felt as though her partner wasn’t matching her energy, let alone remembering their anniversary date.
For these reasons, Crossway strongly advocates for open communication about approaching relationship milestones and what each partner expects out of the other.
“If they don’t take in your expectations or try to compromise, rethink why you’re with them,” Crossway said. “There have been so many times when I’ve been let down because it didn’t seem like the other person cared, when I made a big deal out of it.”
Kermelewicz said sometimes this head-butting can stem back to a difference in love language. If someone is more of a words of affirmation kind of person, that’s something that they would want to communicate to their partner, she advised. But if they are more keen on quality time together, she added, that is also something to let their partner know about so maybe they could consider planning a trip for an anniversary as opposed to buying each other elaborate, tangible gifts.
But no matter what and how people choose to celebrate their relationship milestones, it is important to acknowledge what feels right.
“The things that you never thought possible for you to experience, like feeling the love you never thought you could or getting over whatever triumph it was that you never thought you could, I think those are the things that should be acknowledged and celebrated,” Kermelewicz said.