Yesterday was the six-month mark. Six months till big white dress day. Considering that, and the fact that Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought it might be time for me to stand on a soapbox and talk about romance.
You should take my word as gospel because:
a) I am not in the least bit romantic, so I’m completely unbiased;
b) It took me a long time to realize what I wanted and who I wanted to be in a relationship, but once I learned it, I lived it;
and c) You shouldn’t, my word is most definitely not gospel. I’m a silly lady who types things in the general direction of the Internet.
My dating history: Oh my, it was painful, and long, and I was always looking without looking. The truth is that I believed that I didn’t get that kind of love. I have so much love in my life already. My parents and I have maintained a mutual adoration society since the day I was born and I have AMAZING friends. I truly felt like I had reached my love quota for one lifetime, and romantic love was meant for other people.
And I’m a workaholic. I dated a lot of great guys (and a few not-so-great guys) but nary was there a date night more important to me than spending a Saturday night getting up close and comfortable with my keyboard and an enormous to do list.
I know, I’m talking all sexy now. That’s how I roll folks, total vixen.
And so I dated, but my heart was never really in it. And when it was in it (which did happen a few times, I’m not completely frigid) it was guarded, very guarded.
And then I met The Fella. If I had met Roy a year or two earlier than I did, I don’t think it would have lasted. When I met him I was in a very strange place emotionally—I was open…and I was unemployed, which really helped with the whole Saturday night work pile thing. Timing wasn’t the only thing that worked in our favor, I will give the guy I’m marrying a little credit, Roy saw my walls, he saw my reluctance, and he stayed the course. And because he was definitely the more emotionally mature half of our relationship, I let myself learn from him.
Here are a few of lessons I’ve learned, the hard way, over the last few years.
THE ME/WE BALANCE
Roy likes to say there’s no more ME there’s only WE. I like the sentiment, but I disagree, I am fiercely autonomous (I won’t even go into all the ways I like to remind him of that fact on a regular basis.) But, he has taught me a lot about being a WE, and putting the health of your relationship above all (and that doesn’t necessarily always mean personal happiness or the happiness of your partner). Here’s a recent example: When we first spoke to our Rabbi about our marriage ceremony, Roy was very concerned about one particular part of a traditional Jewish ceremony—the bride circling the groom. It’s supposed to be symbolic of the walls of Jericho coming down, but to us it just seemed antiquated and submissive. “If we have to do that, then we choose another Rabbi,” Roy said. I was willing to play the part for the sake of tradition, but Roy insisted that we cut that part, “We’re not starting our marriage with you circling around me seven times. It’s not who we are and it doesn’t set a good precedent.” He was right, the more I thought about it, the less I liked what felt like a dated ritual and a serious hit to feminism in general. We negotiated with our Rabbi, who was reluctant to cut that aspect of the ceremony at first, and now we’ll start things off on an even keel, standing side by side.
TRIALS ARE MANDATORY
Life is hard. It always has been, and always will be, and a big part of being with one person for the rest of your life is knowing you can go through the hard stuff with them and get out the other side. Weddings are a really romantic notion, but a marriage (I say this like I know, right?) is real life. I really believe that a couple should go through something major with one another before committing, because how someone handles a catastrophe says a lot about who they are and how committed they are to you. If your life happens to be catastrophe free please do not take this as instruction to create problems. No problems is a good problem.
DON’T CONFUSE YOUR INSECURITIES WITH YOUR PARTNER’S DESIRES
Before we started dating Roy dated every model and dancer in New York City. Okay, that’s not true, but it’s how I saw it. Here’s an example. Roy and I each have a list; celebrities we’re allowed to have wild, unbridled sexy time with if per chance we meet them. On Roy’s list was any Victoria’s Secret Model. I was fine with that, until I found out Roy actually knew a Victoria’s Secret model. Before we met the two of them were planning a date! Lucky for me she had to travel out of town for work—and in that time he and I met.
I’m not tall, I’m not leggy, I’m not waify, and I’m really not all that limber. Knowing that I was so outside the mold of his dating history was something that really haunted me, and made me really insecure.
My mom once asked (because I was talking incessantly about those insecurities), “Do you think Roy would break up with you if you gained weight?” and I said, “Absolutely.” Then I gained weight. I gained 30lbs…and Roy proposed. Roy proposed to me at my absolute heaviest weight. My non-model/dancer status doesn’t seem to bother him a bit. That was my issue, not his.
LEARN TO FIGHT
Roy and I have very different fighting styles. For starters, I like to calm down before talking things out or I get really upset, Roy likes to talk things out as soon as they happen. He’s learned to give me some space to put my thoughts in order. On the flip side, I grew up in a house where yelling was totally kosher, even encouraged. You yell, someone yells back, you get it off your chest, you move on. I don’t take yelling all that seriously. Roy absolutely does, he takes it as a sign of disrespect. I could argue with him about the validity of his beliefs about yelling, but his feelings on this one trump mine because hurting his feelings doesn’t help my argument. Trust me, this one will always be a work in progress for us, but luckily we don’t argue all that often.
YOU’RE BOTH THE REACHER
There was an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall and Lilly talk about how every relationship has a Reacher and a Settler. One person who is dating way outside his or her league, the other who is settling for someone not quite up to par. Roy always says he’s the reacher. But he’s wrong, I am. We both think we’re so ridiculously lucky to be with each other. I think that’s just about the best definition of a good relationship there ever was.
What are the most important relationship lessons you’ve learned?