Love Comes Back to You

I’m not sure how old I was when my fiancee gave me his army blanket. But I’m pretty sure it was fairly early on into the relationship (the first 5 years, give or take.)

He gave it to me in the hopes that it would keep me warm when he wasn’t there. When he handed it over, though, I wasn’t convinced. It was very light and raggedy looking. Nothing at all like its fluffy, thick cotton candy cousins I ordinarily called blankets.

It wasn’t until I wrapped it around myself later that day that I saw what a gift he had given me. It’s deceptively thin, but it insulates incredibly well. You have to generate your own heat for it to work, but once you do, there’s no getting rid of it. And best of all, when he first gave it to me, it smelled of him. Not in a gross gym sock way, but like clean laundry. Occasionally, when I was feeling generous, I would bring it to him, and he would spread it out over us like one of those huge colorful parachutes we had in elementary school. I was glad he didn’t ever ask for it back, even though I knew he missed it some days. I think he just knew I needed it. (And not just because I was cold.)

And now that we live together, the army blanket is on our bed. It warms us both. It covers us both. It has come back to him, but it stays with me.

And yeah sure, I probably would have given it back had we broken up or something. (Well, I would have put up a good fight for it because I do love it, but I definitely would have given it back…probably.) But we didn’t, and so we share it now.

Which I think is a perfect lesson about love. You quite literally get what you give. And if you wait long enough, what you give will return to you again.

I shudder to think (in more ways than one) what would have happened if he had been selfish and had kept it for himself, or had simply let me borrow it. But he didn’t; he gave it to me, with no expectation of getting it back. And there’s a lot to do with love in that, too.

All I know is that love can be smothering or lightly covering, but above all, it should warm you all the way through.

 

 

Love Makes You See Things Differently

Love is weird.

As you may know, I have been dating my boyfriend for 10 years.

I’ll wait for that to sink in. (Everyone needs time with that one.) And I have to say, we’re quite different. And not even in a girl/boy sort of way. More like a tomato/tomatoe sort of way. He likes all things concrete and science. I love all things abstract and literature. So, we tend to see the world very differently.

For example? Cars.

My boyfriend loves cars. (I don’t know what the deal is with men and machines. Kindred spirit? Fueled by gas? Anyway…) He likes the way they sound, he likes the way they’re made, and he knows the difference between the two.

Me? I like…the way they look. Some of them. And how some cars have faces. And how some look really angry or really dumb. And that’s about as far as my engine will go. (I know, I know. The “I’m a girl, don’t ask me to change a tire” flag is flying high tonight).

Well. That was before we started dating.

Now? After a decade? I can tell cars apart. The worst part? I have a preference. Before we were dating, I just wanted one that went forward when I asked it to. Now that we’re dating, I’d prefer a Lamborghini Aventador. Poor guy. He doesn’t know he’s dating a Libra with incredibly expensive taste. (As if there were any other kind!)

So now when I drive down the highway, my head turns a little too long when I see a nice Volvo. I find myself drooling a bit when I see a Dodge Challenger in black. And of course, when I see someone driving like an idiot up ahead, I am always right when I guess it’s an Acura, a Lexus, or a BMW.

I never paid much attention to what I was driving, let alone the cars that were driving next to me before. But now I’m excited to identify the car (and to get it right). Just because I love a guy who loves cars.

Now, if only I can get him to acknowledge Hemingway over a Hemi, Poe over a Porsche, and Nabokov over a Nascar race, I’d say my work here is done.

But I’ll take mileage over matter any day.

10 Things I Learned from Being in a 10 Year Relationship

This is starting to become an annual tradition. (If you didn’t see last year’s post, click here.)

Let me catch you up. My boyfriend and I started dating 10 years ago. Today, we celebrate a decade of being together. And now that our relationship is the same age as a child, I am going to impart some gems of wisdom (which are probably just like fool’s gold).

Of course, I am going to give you fair warning before you move forward. By no means should you adhere to my relationship advice. Everyone is different, and what is true for me may not be true for you. But I think we’ll have fun talking about what is my truth, and hopefully, you can relate on some level to the zaniness that we all call love.

#10 

Find someone who will eat your pickles. 

Listen, it’s great to have someone who shares your passions and who will have an adventure with you. Of course you always know that one couple that’s like, We run, bike, garden, and cook together. We’re inseparable, and we haven’t slept for weeks. But it’s also wonderful to have someone who has completely different interests than you. This way, you get to share your likes and help them to discover something new. For example, my boyfriend and I have this perfect arrangement where he absolutely despises pickles, and they are my favorite food. So, he just plops them down on my plate, and I gobble them up. He could buy my love for pickles, and yet he gives them to me for free.

#9

Communicate creatively.

At the beginning of our ten years, we talked on my sister’s phone (there were only two landlines in my house) and on AOL instant messaging. (I bet the words “away message” just flashed before your eyes.) Since then, we have skyped, texted, DMed on Twitter, telegrammed, snail mailed, passed notes, etc. I’m sure we would have talked through a can on a string if we felt that it would have given us better reception than our pay-as-you-go phones. (It probably would have.) Our relationship has truly experienced plenty of technological advances, but our own communication has not. Sure, there are days that we don’t get to talk to each other nearly as much as we want. But the point is that the other one knows that he or she has someone in his or her corner, no matter what. I may not have texted back in the last hour, but I’m always a phone call away. (Well, maybe a voicemail message away…)

#8

Difficult doesn’t even cover it.

I think sometimes The Notebook comes the closest to reality when it comes to relationships, which is why it is such a favorite among chick flickers. The reason I think it is so accurate is because Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling fight. They don’t just bicker about whose turn it is to take out the trash or whether Zooey Deschanel is the cutest thing on Earth or what, they actually have knock down, drag out arguments. And yes, that’s accurate for us, too. I don’t think there is anyone on Earth that has faced the full brunt of my anger, the screaming and the insults, like my boyfriend. I’m surprised he still has eyebrows because my fury could burn them off if he got too close. Which is why it’s always important to take a step back and start over because it is absolutely never easy to be with someone you love. They know how to push you, and that’s good, but then again, they know how to push you. So, tread carefully, and practice the phrase, “I’m sorry.”

#7 

Flowers and battles should be picked carefully.

Which brings me to my next point: try not to take your anger out on each other. #8 makes it sound like most couples are fighting all of the time. That’s probably not true for most healthy relationships, but you will surely feel moments of acute irritation. Like, oh my god, he just double-dipped. That is so disgusting. He literally only thinks about himself and that bowl of guacamole. Now, are you going to go nuclear over such a little transgression? Probably not, but there will be times when you will feel like you should burn the bridge that connects you to your shared apartment. This is also a good time to step back. You have to ask yourself if you are willing to lose this person over something, anything. If you truly love them, the answer will be no, until he double-dips again.

#6 

Be you.

This is just general advice for life, but I cannot stress how important this one is. I met my boyfriend when I was just 14 years old. (I’ll let that sink in for a moment. You can keep reading once it does.) I don’t pretend that this isn’t completely weird. But I owe our success to the fact that I have always been the person that I am, and so has he. We are a bit mature for our age, but we are comfortable with ourselves. Sure, I’ve changed. But not in ways that matter. Not in ways that detract from the person I am at the core. And neither has he. So, to attract your life partner, don’t do anything but be yourself. The right person will find you. (Maybe a little later than 14, but better late than never.)

#5 

Surprise!

It should come as no surprise that I am not generally a fan of surprises. I avoid horror movies and perfume stalls in the mall because I don’t like when people jump out at me. However, my boyfriend is a master at listening to what I’m saying and then surprising me much later with the exact thing that I was describing. Baby stuffed penguin? Found it on Amazon. Trip to your favorite restaurant? Let’s go tonight. Need to unwind? Here’s some chocolate I bought on the way over. Those little unexpected treats are so pleasant for me because even after 10 years, I can’t really predict when they will pop up next. (Especially the chocolate. Just sayin’.)

#4

Trust that the other person knows where he or she is going.

I could probably write an entire book on the importance of trust in a relationship. Truly, it is the only thing that will help you move forward in life. But it’s hard, right? Giving up that control and possibly allowing yourself to get hurt goes against our survival instincts. But even when we know the person is reading the map wrong and has a malfunctioning GPS, both literally and metaphorically, you have to let them figure it out first. Trust can sometimes be the only thing that the both of you are able to fall back on, and so you need to build it up, brick by brick, by not pulling over to ask for directions immediately when your partner has gotten you lost.

#3

Help! 

As a strong, independent woman, I am often faced with the choice of hiding my emotions and figuring it all out on my own or asking for help. It’s actually hard to call it a choice because I almost never end up picking the latter. However, in a relationship, it is critical to admit that you’re not really sure how to proceed when you really don’t know. Again, it can be difficult to give the reins over, but you’re in this together. If you’re going to share your successes, you will also have to share your pains. And most of your food.

#2

You’re dating a village.

When you have been together this long, there are a lot of people involved in your relationship. Whether they simply hang out with the two of you, or were the ones to set you up once upon a time, or have eavesdropped on your arguments, there are a lot of people who have an investment in your love. This is why it’s incredibly important to make an effort with the people that your partner enjoys the most in life. You may be dating a village, so make sure that you surround yourself with support.

#1

Get mad, get over it.

I have a heady heritage of Irish/Scottish/German. I have a short fuse and a long cooling off period. And, don’t forget, I am incredibly stubborn. So, when we are bickering or I am not choosing my battles wisely, things can go downhill very quickly. For example, this past weekend my boyfriend and I were out to dinner. We were arguing about something very trivial when we suddenly got so irritated that we refused to speak. I stared moodily off into space, and he went to the bathroom. When he got back, I tried my best to soften myself, but I was having trouble working up the nerve to apologize. I looked over at him briefly, and even in that moment, I could see that I was forgiven because he reached up to wipe away some of the food on my mouth. He even licked his finger to rub it off. And it was all at once the most mundane and caring response. It said, I may be mad, but I will always love you. Having someone who wants the best for you even when he or she is seeing red is the best gift a person can give. It is the gift of true acceptance.

And so, 10 years has passed. I knew I had someone special all those years ago, but I didn’t know how important you would be, Tim. Thank you for this adventure. I can’t wait to see where life brings us.

And thank you to everyone who has ever stood by us, listened to our arguments over the phone, encouraged us to be with each other, or simply hung out with us. Your importance cannot be overrated.

RoadMate

There can be a lot of roadblocks in a relationship.

Meeting the parents. Learning about the exes. Finding out what way your partner puts the toilet paper on the roll. There can be many times in a relationship that you are testing someone to find out what they are all about without even realizing it.

Yet, if you’re in a relationship, and you need to know if the one you’re with is the “one,” all you have to do is take a road trip with them.

Think about it. A tight, confined space with just the open road in front of you, as you pass mile after mile. (I mean, really just going to a rest stop together can be a good test of wills.)

So, ask yourself. Does your partner turn the music up and refuse to turn it down when you try to have a conversation? Do you even like the music he is listening to? Or, on the other hand, is there silence for hours? Do you fight to keep the silence because you don’t know how else you would fill it?

And how is your partner as a co-pilot? Does he or she have the money ready for the tolls? Or is he constantly scrambling for his wallet as you pull up closer to the booth? Does she tell you where to go next or leave you blind?

The point is, if you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, it means about as much as if you’d answered no. You shouldn’t break up with someone if they don’t have the toll money ready when you’re driving. But if you can spend an hour in the car with them without completely hating their existence, then maybe you should give them a shot.

For the millionth time this year, I’ve been reminded that I am incredibly lucky in the relationship department. My boyfriend and I not only talked the entire way on a road trip we took tonight and enjoyed each other’s company, but he also helped me to make sure that there was no one behind me when changing lanes. (I wasn’t very good when I had to quid pro quo, but he assured me that I was doing fine.) We were working as a team (a swearing, traffic-cursing team, but a team).

In the end, you can look at life like a roadmap. But even if you have all of the directions, you can sometimes get lost. So, enjoy life, just cruising with your partner. Or be with someone that you enjoy getting lost with. Unlike a GPS-guided route, the choice will always be yours.

9 Things I Learned From Being in a 9 Year Relationship

Yes, you read that right.

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 9 years. Although dating hardly seems like the right word after all this time. Is “going steady” still a thing?

I know. Our relationship is as old as a young child, and we’ve been dating longer than most married couples are, well, married.

We met in middle school, began our relationship in high school, and stayed together through college. He wrote in my middle school year book, “will you go out with me?” and we never looked back.

But now I am looking back. On all of the lessons we’ve learned along the way. Maybe you’ll learn from our mistakes or maybe you’ll just laugh at them.

Thing #1

Never give or take relationship advice.

As you can imagine, I’ve been asked for a lot of relationship advice throughout the years. Unfortunately, I gave out a lot of it. That is, until I realized that it doesn’t really do anyone any good. You are different than me, thus your relationship will be completely different than mine. What will be your line in the sand is just my Tuesday. Your final straw will be my latest mistake.

So, really, the argument of this blogpost just collapsed in on itself. If you’re still here when the dust clears, go onto #2.

Thing #2

Relationships are hard. Make it easier by dating your best friend.

Like I said, I don’t give out relationship advice. But if I did, I would tell you to date your best friend. Tim and I work well together because at the end of the day, I’m still excited to tell him how my day went. He shares my interests and my goals, but he isn’t afraid to disagree with me.

Thing #3

Sometimes, people that are completely different than you make the best partners in life.

People have argued with me on this point, which also supports my thesis about why relationship advice is completely bogus. But I believe it. Tim is a chemist, and I’m a writer. Our brains are wired differently, and when we do argue, well. To put it in his terms, we can go a bit nuclear. And sure, there are times we don’t see eye to eye. (Mostly, because I am a foot shorter than him…) But I can accept his opinion, and he can accept mine because we respect each other. Respect is not something I see in a lot of relationships these days. Tim and I try not to talk over each other (although it happens), and we try to support each other, as a result. Most days, if we give each other the time to blow off steam, we can avoid an impending argument.

I once heard that soul mates are not the people who are exactly like us, but the people who make us better versions of ourselves. Most people cannot even be in the same room as their soul mate because it is so hard for people to accept their own flaws. Tim is a rare soul mate, who pushes me, albeit gently, to be the best person I can be. We like to think that we knew each other in a past life but were unable to be together for some reason. This is why we’ve been given so much time together in this life. (Cue the “awww’s.”)

Thing #4

Every relationship experiences growing pains.

I think the hardest thing about dating someone during high school is that we are all trying to find ourselves. Yet, Tim is one of those rare people who has always known who he was. I had a pretty good lock on my identity during my high school years, but my center of gravity started to drift when I got to college. I felt the need to reinvent myself, which caused a lot of unforeseen heartbreak.

Kids, don’t be afraid to break up for a little while, if you have to. Sometimes, you need to figure out your own situation without dragging someone else into it. Trust me, love will find a way. There are too many success stories of people who went their separate ways only to end up back together a few years down the line. So, if it doesn’t feel right, try to take a break. Tim and I tried to take one, but we found it was much easier to keep each other in our lives while we went through the rough patch then to be pushed away. What can we say? We’re masochists.

Thing #5

Don’t force it.

I can’t say this enough. I’ve seen too many couples try to “work it out” when they are really two soggy puzzle pieces: they may have fit together once, but they don’t anymore, and that’s okay. Sometimes we grow out of people, like old clothes. This is natural. If it happens, don’t fight it. Appreciate what the person has brought into your life and kindly show them the door. If it feels like you are truly unhappy with any part of your relationship, besides the little things (he/she snores, he/she leaves the seat up, etc.) then you should get out of there.

Thing #6

Don’t have a lot of expectations for your relationship.

I used to wear myself out. Every anniversary, I would wait for Tim to ride in on a rented white horse to take me to a duck pond where we could spend a moonlit night feeding the fowl. When this didn’t happen, I would get upset.

Finally, I realized I was looking at everything the wrong way. Tim works hard to show me how much he appreciates me in his life every other day of the year. I started to realize that anniversaries were a special day for me, but for Tim, they were just another chance to prove his love, just like any other day. I’ve accepted that he isn’t going to ride in on a white horse, but we still have a rule that he must make me/buy me a card on our anniversary. For a few anniversaries, when we couldn’t drive, we didn’t even get to see each other. Now, I’ve learned to appreciate any time we spend together. Try to remember that the other person is probably doing the best they can with what they have. Cut them a little slack.

Thing #7

Be vulnerable and communicate.

I don’t really believe in the “your my other half” business. I believe in being my own person while the other person is their own person. If you can be yourself together, then it’s perfect. However, when you try to hold back your emotions, or you don’t communicate exactly what you want, feelings can and will get hurt. You really want that white horse? Tell him/her.

Thing #8

Check your pride at the door.

I see a lot of relationships fail because one person is really concerned with being right all of the time. While we have an element of healthy competition in our relationship, Tim and I don’t let it get the best of us. We begrudgingly say the other one is right, this time, and we move on. Instead of repeating “I’m right” in your head, maybe try listening to what the other person is saying for a change of pace. I believe people show their true colors through conversation, but sometimes we are too busy thinking of our reply and we miss it.

Thing #9

Be the other person’s cheerleader.

This is something that I didn’t know how to do until I met Tim. I’m sure dating a writer can be really scary at times. We want fame and fortune, but we are usually full of self-doubt. Also, I expected Tim to write me poetry for the first 4 years of our relationship because I thought, “I can, why can’t he?” But he’s always supported me, no matter what. He doesn’t ask why, but how. He always reminds me of what I am capable of, even when I don’t see it. He’s proud of who I am and what I am going to become. Most days, everyone just needs someone to believe in what they can do and who they are.

I love you, Tim. I always have and I always will. I’m not sure I deserve you, but I’m going to spend the rest of my life proving that I do.

Here’s to another 9 years…