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One year and six months. This is typically when I decide to hang, draw and quarter most of my relationships.
Yes, this is when fights are instigated and integrity is questioned. I become a pain-seeking missile searching for hurt and deviation; I sniff out foul play and, let’s be real, when you’re actively looking for flirtatious missteps, you’re likely to find them.
To be honest, I’m horrible at committing to a person, but I am a notorious serial monogamist who loves her idea of love.
On the surface this is an oxymoron. How can one be poor at commitment and a disney-loving idealist? What?
Let me explain.
Although I approach each prospect seriously, I am similar to those that practice the three date threshold––I just place more value on the initial connection and its progress. And I know there are loads of mini-monogamists like myself that behave in a similar fashion. We allow ourselves to engage with a partner for an extended period of time because we find genuine excitement in the first inside joke, the first exchanged childhood memory, the first time we consider a forever together.
It’s not a very complex game: Collect each emotional marker and prepare for the next challenge.
However, after these goals are unlocked, I invariably grow discontent. How does one stay interested in a companion when the immediate milestones pass? How does one stay incentivized without check points to conquer—without ascending levels, without participating in some game-like pursuit of human accomplishment?
As mentioned earlier, I highly value love and human connection, but I self-sabotage and leave once I realize that our time together has grown dull and formulaic.
Love should be exciting. Expansive. Evolving.
(Insert Beauty and the beast image with caption, “There must be more than this provincial life!”)
After a year and six months, you should be able to order your lover’s very specific coffee order. His or her house auto-populates when you pull out your phone to uber or lyft to a destination. You’ve met the family, you’ve been initiated into the friend circle (or you’ve burned this bridge and you’ve both come to terms with it) and everything is safe.
Everything is static. Banal. Yes friend, you’ve plateaued.
And you are now deprived of the ability to work toward those shining short-term goals that basically define my idea of love. You are thrown onto an infinite, linear road that leads to marriage and some contented cohabitation. Segmented by nothing but a yearly anniversary.
Sometimes, you meet a person, and this horrifying narrative no longer seems true.
I’ve recently shacked up with a sweetie who has been able to dispel these awful feelings from breeding in my heart. And in an effort to capture just how he’s been able to change the refrain I’ve believed in for so long, I have started to reflect on how, why and by what magnitude this relationship differed from my former snuffed flames.
Emotional advances are only possible when our domain of love is enlarged, and so, this is my homage to the people that move us, change us and completely redefine our perspectives. This is my humble thank you note to those of you that make the rest of us better human beings.
Specifically, this is to the person special enough to become your benchmark for love. The person who will be your point of reference and the one who helps mark where everything starts in this newly rendered world and where everything ends.
And so, on behalf of all of us:
Thanks for understanding and acknowledging my sometimes excessive passion for you in the beginning of the relationship. And thank you for entertaining my inexperienced desire to pick apart and understand and analyze the composition of your heart and brain as quickly as I could.
More importantly, thank you for always for managing to keep me interested, challenged and even grounded. You have never wasted our time on generic sedentary dreams. Instead, you helped widen my scope of love and you cast new markers into the world, grounding them in goals that we could conquer together.
You have shown me that the pursuit of a dream does not have to be independent, that that the world could be explored on as grand and expansive a scale as I want and that we could do this together without diluting either of our personal dreams.
You have genuinely listened to me and genuinely encouraged me to take control of my happiness and to start writing again. And you even satisfied some of my more outrageous whims without hesitation. You continued to push me toward my personal goals even when they didn’t benefit you or our relationship, and frankly, you have made me reconsider the human heart, the ego and one’s capacity to care. You don’t even mind that I am hungry for life, that I am constantly searching for peaks to scale and for experiences to soak up, and that I change my passions on an hourly basis.
You just smile and keep the wheels spinning.
Really though, you have shown me that commitment is worth investing in and that an infinite road does not necessarily lead to contented cohabitation and marriage.
I know now that this road has tributaries and side streets to explore, vagaries to embrace, detours to get lost in and a limitless amount of experience to look forward to together.
Thanks for encouraging me to pick up a notebook and write again.
Love doesn’t have to be contained by some predefined timeline. It is not a finite resource. If your love ever feels limited, then you might have to enlarge your definition of love and what loving means.
Thank you for helping me do this, person.
Author: T. Walsh
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: M Yashna/Flickr