Girlfriends, Forever! LTRs in your 30s vs. your 20s

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When it comes to dating, we’d all like to think of long-term as a good thing, but obviously it isn’t when you’re in a bad partnership. As we get older, we start to realize there is a huge difference between a relationship that actively works and a relationship that just keeps on going. This seems to be the major change from an LTR in your 20s to one in your 30s. 

Los Angeles actor, comic and writer Ilea Matthews (@ileamatthews) has been with her fiancée Briana Alfaro, a personal trainer, for four and a half years. Ilea describes Briana as the love of her life and the way she talks about their relationship is enough to make anyone jealous. Ilea seems to really know the ins and outs of what makes a good LTR work, having been in a few serious relationships in the past that were rocky. I sat down with Ilea and chatted about what a good LTR looks like versus a bad one, and how she and her fiancée make it work.

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AfterEllen.com: How did you and your fiancée meet?

Ilea Matthews: We met in a gay bar Sacramento. She was the bartender, but she hit on me. I had seen her two months prior and thought she was really hot. My friends said, “go hit on her,” but I had just gotten out of a marriage. And, I mean, everyone hits on the bartender. Then Briana said to me, “You look like Jenny from the L Word,” and I said, “Yeah, but I don’t cut my wrists.”

AE: Do your careers overlap at all?

IM: Briana is a personal trainer, and I’m an actor/comic/writer. I like that she’s not in the industry. My ex wife was an actress and I hated it. Briana loves watching movies and TV, she loves coming to the wrap party—so she can appreciate it, but industry talk completely bores her. There is still some overlap though. Sometimes Briana will do physical training with me for roles—like for both seasons of Kiss Her I’m Famous, we worked out twice a day everyday. And we like to work out on weekends together at Runyon Canyon.

AE: You both have such busy schedules, how do you make time for dates?

IM: We have to schedule date night. Usually on a Saturday or Sunday. In between we’ll have little things—like we go to the movies. Or, the other day, we were running errands and she was craving Mexican food, so we stopped at a place for happy hour and that sort of became an impromptu date. We like to surprise each other. She took me to the Natural History museum for the Galapagos Islands screenings because she knows I like documentaries—that sort of thing.

AE: How does your current relationship compare to past ones?

IM:  My first relationship was really toxic. We fought every single day. She had a problem of not letting her wall down. She had this pride that just didn’t work. It was like, “I’m too prideful to tell you how I feel.” She would never really let me in. With my second long relationship, my ex-wife and I were just polar opposites—yin and yang, night and day. We couldn’t have had a more opposite opinion on anything.

Now, with Briana, I finally see—oh, this is what it’s like to be with someone who is on the same wavelength. Once in a while we have a bad day but overall we have really good days. I never get bored with Briana. I don’t. In past relationships, I got bored within two years. I got annoyed being around them and the sex just died instantly. With Briana, I feel like every day is the first day I met her. I love her so much.

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What’s the biggest difference between an LTR in your 30s versus your 20s?

IM: Relationships in your 20s and your 30s are very different. In your 30s, you aren’t finding yourself anymore. You know what you want. Both of us want to sit down and communicate. We are really committed to having an adult relationship. We don’t want to be manipulative or angry. When something goes wrong, we try to apologize and fix it.

AE: You and your girlfriend seem perfect. Do you have any pet peeves?

IM: I don’t like anyone to use my makeup. And I can get territorial of outfits. Pajamas are OK. I wear her shoes all the time. We borrow pants and hoodies, but not outfits.

AE: Speaking of sharing, social media has become a big part of relationships, from sharing passwords to posting cute couple pics. How do you guys tend to use it? Does it ever create tension?

IM: I never ever look at her phone, not that she doesn’t want me to. I don’t know her passwords, I don’t check her emails. I don’t know anything about that world. I have no need to look at her stuff. It would make me uncomfortable.

Briana doesn’t post much about me on social media, and sometimes I notice it. Its funny, sometimes, I’ll ask her, “How come you haven’t posted that you love me in a while? Are you not proud of me anymore?” but I know she’s more like the guy, she doesn’t really post in general. She likes to show me off in person. And I like to show her off, too. We both feel like we scored trophies. She’s just perfect to me.

AE: What’s your best piece of relationship advice?

IM: In a fight really try to put your pride aside and listen to what your partner is upset with. Regardless of whether you agree or not, the bottom line is that you have upset your partner is some way and hurt their feelings. So rather than prolonging the argument, I try and see it from her perspective and apologize for hurting her feelings. Genuinely apologize. Somehow it has built a stronger bond and we really trust each other.

Have ideas for topics you want to hear about? Know a great LTR couple we should interview? LTRadvice@gmail.com.

Caitlin Bergh (@caitlinebergh) is a stand-up comic. Find out more at http://www.caitlinbergh.com.

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