Before I met her my longest previous relationship was three years, and during two and a half years of that one it was like a nuclear warhead. I guess I should have quit while I was (slightly) ahead, but that’s altogether a different story for a different time. The point being that I really had no idea how to be in a long-term relationship, when there wasn’t an end in sight from the very beginning, at least for me. I’ll admit that right off the bat.
And I made a ton of mistakes. I’m not going to say they were all caused by finally being in a relationship with no end date in sight, but I will say that my psyche wasn’t helped by having no solid horizon. Yeah, I was pretty screwed up when it came to getting and giving love and affection, and in accepting that not everything needs to be a battle. She taught me almost from the very beginning that being part of a couple doesn’t mean giving up our autonomy or our individual preferences. It means that the other person understands and appreciates us for those idiosyncrasies and differences.
I can’t imagine what it’s like for those couples who are exactly the same, and how they don’t bore each other to death, but she’s so very individual from me. We approach life in two totally disparate ways, which should be constricting, but which is in fact freeing because she “gets” me in a way that no one else possibly could. She understands my frailty and she helps me get stronger without coddling me or telling me that everything will be okay, because she knows talking about things isn’t all there needs to be. I also need experience, even if it’s negative, to help solidify who I am for myself, and who I am in this relationship.
Has it really been 13 years this month since we first talked online? In the aftermath of 9/11 when everyone was evaluating and re-evaluating. And we had a lot to talk about, so many exchanges through which I realized I didn’t want to live without her, even so early on. Which is how it sometimes is when you meet the person you’re destined to spend the rest of your life with. But it’s not like a fairy tale. It can’t be. Because fairy tales have magic, and life isn’t magic. Life is a grind, but a grind that should be worth it, and we need someone to grind along with us. (You know what I mean.)
It’s her birthday today, and we aren’t like we used to be back in the beginning, when she was helping me to mold myself. Now I’m being me for me, and we have a fluid exchange that wasn’t fully there way back then. We were babes in the woods, and now we have matured into ourselves, both individually and as a couple. I have the plethora of gray hairs to show for it, but that’s okay. Each one of these hairs is a reminder that I’m older and wiser, that we’re older and wiser, and I’m so pleased about that. I wouldn’t trade them in for anything.
And she’s in the kitchen right now, overjoyed because of the new dishes I bought for her. Go figure. Happy birthday, sweetheart.