Summer is notoriously known as the season of love. It’s the subject of your favorite JT bop (John Travolta or Justin Timberlake, take your pick), some of the best rom-coms in existence, and a hilariously horny series by The Cut. This year, the hot weather has lived up to its expectations: we’ve seen pop stars get engaged, breakup rumors fly, and exciting new couples form (yes, I’m talking about Cara Delevingne and Ashley Benson). Since we know that love, sex, and S.O.’s are on almost everyone’s minds as they soak up their last days by the pool, we’ve made it a point this summer to dive deeper into the relationship nuances we all experience. Last month, we consulted with our readers about when to know if it’s time to end your on-and-off relationships once and for all. Now, we’re approaching things from the opposite angle — by speaking to a couple about how they overcame the obstacles in their relationship and realized that staying together was ultimately the right choice.
Kirstin and Claudia currently live in Miami. They spent all of their free time together when they were in high school and quickly became best friends their senior year. Then, they noticed their feelings for each other extended way beyond what they had originally imagined. “It was completely natural. I didn’t even realize that I was in love with her until I stopped and recognized that she was the first person I wanted to text in the morning and the last person I talked to at night,” says Claudia. “I fell in love with her in the best way possible, effortlessly.”
It was the first time either one of them had been in a serious relationship, and with all the excitement that comes with first love, drama tends to follow—especially when you add family approval to the mix. Claudia was raised very Catholic; although her parents never disapproved of her relationship, it took a lot of time and work for her to help them process that this is who she is and the person she wants to be with. For Kirstin, things were a little more complicated. She kept her relationship with Claudia a secret from her family at first, pretending that they were only close friends. “I suppressed a lot throughout my adolescence — intense anxiety and depression, which in turn prevented me from acknowledging and exploring my sexuality,” she says. “When I finally came clean, everything else came up with it…[My family] wanted me to end the relationship to focus on therapy and getting myself healthy during a big transitional period of my life; I knew I had something good in this relationship and didn’t want to let go.”
That transitional period was college; While Kirstin stayed in Miami, and Claudia moved away for school. They attempted to make the long distance work, but found it way too difficult—especially due to pressure from Kirstin’s family to let go of the relationship altogether. Calling it off left the pair in an on-again, off-again limbo for the next three years, which was incredibly tumultuous for both of them as they couldn’t figure out how to move forward. “Though I was still crazy about her, I tried seeing other people to move on from it all. Kirstin and I would see each other every now and then and I’d immediately fall back in love with her,” says Claudia. “We’d text, pretend we were friends, hook up, and then we’d have a falling out where months would go by before we’d speak again.”
Claudia eventually moved back home during her junior year, but it wasn’t so simple to put the pieces of their relationship back together. In fact, it took a lot of work—but they realized their love was worth fighting for, and have been going steady since December of 2016. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you know it can be difficult to forgive, heal, and build a new foundation together. Here, Kirstin and Claudia tell us what helped them overcome the obstacles in their long-term relationship to get to a place they’re both happy with.
Don’t Ignore Your History
Although Kirstin and Claudia were finally in the same place once Claudia transferred schools, it didn’t magically eliminate everything that had happened up until that point. They both realized they had to address the issues that had been stirring underneath the surface before they could get to a healthy place together. After all, deciding you want to be together isn’t the solution to an on-and-off relationship; it’s only the first step. “We had both really hurt each other so even though we missed being together, there was some distrust we had to work through — which manifested itself as two years of friendship, flirting, hookups, and fallouts that eventually ended in us calling it off again,” says Kirstin.
Claudia had also become involved with somebody else after her first breakup with Kirstin, which left her struggling to decide between a relationship her heart wasn’t into and the one she really wanted to go after. “Though [Kirstin] and I had always been great together and we’d always gotten along so well, there were definitely things I needed to change in order to make it work,” she says. “I also learned that sometimes, you really just have to do things for yourself, even if it hurts other people. I had stayed in a tumultuous and pointless relationship one time for much longer than necessary because I didn’t want to hurt her. But all I really wanted was to be with Kirstin.”
Give Yourself Time and Space
Working through past conflicts can be emotionally tolling for both you and your partner(s). That’s why you might need to take a break in order to let yourself process and really figure out what it is that you want and need from this relationship. Although it can be difficult to take a break from the other person, sometimes doing this can be the best way to make sure you’re listening to yourself openly and honestly. “Although I’m not proud of it, there were definitely a lot of games being played between us at that point. We both had a lot of distrust towards each other and were not ready to take the plunge back into a fully committed relationship,” says Kirstin. “We would go through phases where we would hang out, hook up, fall apart, and repeat. In the spring of 2016, I had had enough and called it off. We didn’t speak at all for eight months before we found our way back.”
During that time, Kirstin allowed herself to heal from the hurt she and Claudia had caused one another. Despite everything they had been through, this time gave her perspective on what they could have if they both opened up and relearned to trust each other. Instead of scrambling to patch things up, Claudia agrees that things didn’t feel quite right until she and Kirstin both took some time off from one another. “We hooked up from about February until about April of 2016. But it seemed rushed and we hadn’t taken the time to properly build the foundation for the relationship,” she says. “I think we were both too reserved because we had been through so much before, so we just broke things off.”
Listen to Your Heart
Ultimately, what it comes down to is being sure that the relationship is still something you want. After everything they had been through and months of not speaking, both Claudia and Kirstin knew they still loved each other and wanted to make it work. “She was on my mind all the time as if we were still together, even though we weren’t. I eventually confided in my mom, who advised me to shoot my shot,” says Kirstin. By this time, her family had seen that she and Claudia genuinely made one another happy and were capable of being in a healthy relationship. Kirstin was taking better care of herself mentally and physically, and she still just wanted to be with Claudia. “I took a risk and invited her to join me and a friend at a bar one night, where we drunkenly admitted to still having feelings for one another—and have been together ever since!” she recalls.
If you know what you have is worth fighting for, then all that’s left to do is take that leap of faith for yourself and for the person you love. In Claudia’s words, “And last but not least, I learned that soulmates do exist. I found mine at 18 years old and I am the luckiest girl in the world.”
Feature image via Vanessa Granda