I used to have an expiration date, like eggs or 2% milk. Nine months was my limit; nine months of dating and then a guy gave me my walking papers. But tomorrow will be one year since my boyfriend and I met each other at a birthday party and sometime in the next couple of weeks, we will have been dating for one year.
This whole experience has definitely been weird for me: I’d been single for the past two years and now I share a sock drawer and a toothbrush holder with someone. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much things have changed in the last year:
1. Relationships are hard. The other serious relationships that I had before David were pretty brief: one was nine months and one was six months. Those experiences gave me an inkling that relationships were hard work, but not like this relationship does. I think that knowing I’m in it for the long haul makes me work harder at resolving our differences and making sure we’re both happy. That’s an amazing driving force, but, well, it’s not always fun times. I definitely have a new-found respect for those cute old couples 50 years deep.
2. The only two people who really know what a relationship is like are the ones who are in it. There are times when we get irritated with each other in front of friends and I think, ‘Oh, man, they’re going to think we have a bad relationship, even though we’re really happy!’ Or there are times friends will say they’re jealous of me, or of us, and I think, ‘Well, just because I don’t tell you about arguments doesn’t mean they don’t happen.’ I realize now that no one else really knows what goes on between two people or how intense the love that they share is.
3. I’ve learned to let the unimportant things go. If I got angry at David every time he put a wet bath towel on our bed, we would be miserable with each other. I’ve had to teach myself that in the grand scheme of things, I can live with wet bath towels on the bed. In high school, I scribbled a quote from a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald on my bedroom walls: “Very few things matter and nothing matters very much.” Now I finally understand what that Zen-like saying actually means.
4. It’s possible to love someone so much you always fear for their safety. I finally understand why my mom and dad worried and freaked out so much when I was a kid. He’s driving on the highway? He could get hit by an 18-wheeler! He’s eating fried chicken? He could choke on a chicken bone! It’s not like I lie awake at night worrying about him, but I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when he calls me after getting off an airplane and I generally feel more relaxed when he’s around and I know he’s safe. Clearly, I’m going to be a total nut-jobber when I have my own children.
5. I don’t understand why women date a**holes anymore. I used to have pretty bad self-esteem and I dated a lot of a**holes who treated me badly. When I met David, I was kind of a mess: I’d been led on and lied to by a guy who said he was going to leave his girlfriend for me and then my (ex-)best friend since 8th grade basically ended our friendship by choosing sides wither the leading-on-liar guy. The whole experience was an emotional carpet bombing; I had plenty of reasons to be bitter, suspicious and mistrustful of other people, but especially men. It took me awhile to believe that David was legit and to trust myself that I could actually be a good judge of character by choosing him. I am so, so glad that I did. And the more time I spend with him and the happier I feel, the more I regret all that time I settled for a**holes. I never would have been able to love any of them like I love David or be loved back like he loves me.
6. I’m less of a workaholic now. It’s lame to admit this, but I do not have a lot of personal interests. I love reading, I love writing, and as a professional writer, I’ve always loved my job. For years and years, there were a lot of times at night or on weekends when I would work — usually freelance writing for magazines or newspapers, but sometimes work for my day job — when I would work for fun. Lame, I know. Honestly, I liked it — but that could just be the workaholicism talking. But being in a relationship with someone who has a lot of interests — cooking, eating good food, playing and listening to music, craft shows, traveling — has made me tone down my workaholic side a lot.
7. Sex in a long-term, loving, committed relationship rocks. A couple of times in my life, I’ve had amazing sex with one-night-stand kinds of guys. But the other eight years or so of sexual activity? Not worth it. (Sorry, ex-boyfriends!) I hate to agree with religious fundamentalists on anything, but having sex within a long-term, loving, committed relationship actually rocks. I trust him and I feel safe with him and I truly believe he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me; I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that I’ve had better sex more times in this past year than at other times in my life.
8. I care a lot less about weddings and engagement rings than I previously thought. But I care a lot more about marriage than I previously thought. I want to get married. He wants to have a wedding. Maybe I just watch too much “Platinum Weddings,” but throwing a wedding seems like a stressful, expensive pain in the ass. I would be happy to exchange vows at City Hall with just an inexpensive, pretty ring. But David wants to buy a schmancier ring (his Dude Logic being that it’s a waste of money to buy a ring that’s not really nice); plus, he and his family reeeally want to have a traditional wedding-wedding. OK, that’s fine, I’ll compromise on that (so long as I don’t have to pay for all of it). But for someone as liberal as I am, I’m very surprised that makin’ it legal is as important to me as it is: I so badly want to stand in front of all our family and friends and promise that we’ll be together forever. It’s so important to me that we make that commitment to each other in front of other people because it’s been in our heads for almost a year now. Oh, and another thing: my biological clock is starting to tick loudly — even though I’m only 26. Anytime I see an Asian baby out and about (David is half-Chinese), my ovaries go completely bonkers. This is all very weird to me.
9. Wanting to marry someone makes me feel ever more strongly that gay couples should have the right to marry. My best girlfriend since 6th grade is a lesbian, so I have always supported gay rights. She’s in a committed relationship now, too, with someone she wants to marry. And because we’re both in the same position relationship-wise, it’s become really, really clear to me that it’s effed up that she is not allowed to get married most places in the United States. Her love for her girlfriend is no different than my love for David. More than ever, it’s clear to me that marriage discrimination against gays is just not fair and not right.