Two years ago today R told me to be his girlfriend.
It happened some time between 11pm and 1am on the night of my L.A. housewarming party. R claims that I was introducing him to everyone as, “the guy I’m dating,” and he wasn’t having that. He said something like, “Enough of this. We’re either together or we’re not.” I said something like, “I know…but it’s complicated…and I just moved here…and I’m a jaded New Yorker, and…” and he said, “It’s not that complicated. Let’s do this,” and so we did. It is the best decision I’ve ever been told to make.
We now share a one bedroom apartment, herb garden watering duties, and a jar where we keep the $5 bills we save for vacations – so in other words, a life.
I’ve thought a lot about what makes a relationship work over the past two years that we’ve been together. I like to think we have a very healthy thing going. We don’t fight. We don’t keep secrets. We don’t find ourselves overly annoyed with each other outside of when I insist the TV volume is too high and R insists that all the lights in the apartment are too low. So the “secret” would seem to be that two compatible people with mostly identical habits and desires make for a happy couple. That’s true, of course, but it’s not enough.
For us I think the special sauce is this thing I believe people refer to as kindness as in, we’re really nice to each other all the time.
We don’t say nasty things or bicker, especially in front of other people. We give each other compliments a lot – things like, “I like your beard that scruffy,” or, “that outfit doesn’t look like a costume!” We take each others feelings into consideration in everything that we do.
What’s crazy about this “situation” is that I didn’t know it was happening. Or, rather, I didn’t know it was anything special? Maybe what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t know it was so obvious? But people kept commenting on it after spending time with the two of us. They’d say, “you guys are really nice to each other,” or, “you can really tell how much you care about each other.” I would say, “Thank you. We really like each other.” Because what else do you say to, “it appears you and your boyfriend really like each other,” but, “yes, it appears that way because we do. What exactly are other people doing??”
I really care about R. I don’t ever want him to be sad/frustrated/nervous/angry/hungry/too hot. So I a. make sure he knows that and b. do things to try and prevent him from being sad/frustrated/nervous/you get it. Sometimes I think something rude or mean in my head because everyone thinks something rude or mean from time to time, but then I think about how I would feel if R said something like that to me, and I don’t say it. Instead I say what I’m actually feeling, which is usually, “I was about to snap at you for being loud while I’m writing, but I didn’t, so could you please blow your nose five times in a row with the bathroom door closed instead?” Then R laughs at me and closes the bathroom door. I think he appreciates that I decided not to be mean, and so he decides not to be mean too. So really what we’ve got going on is this vicious cycle of kindness that we can’t stop because it would throw everything off. I believe that’s called “a successful relationship,” but I’m only two years in, so I can’t be sure.
I am sure there will be massive fights. I’m sure I’ll eventually say something really mean, and R will fire back. It’s only natural, and it’s only healthy. I am not naive about what relationships look like three, four, and 34 years down the road. But I feel like we’ll always know how to re-set to this whole kindness thing because that is what’s at the core of our relationship. We really like each other, and we want to be nice to each other because being really nice to each other feels really good.
And there you have it. Perhaps at the three year mark I’ll have something more profound to say, but I’m kind of hoping I can just re-post this and say, “FYI, it still works.”