I have been in a relationship for thirteen years. At twenty nine years of age, that’s pretty amazing. Before you start sending me congratulatory kitten baskets (which I would totally accept, btw) I must stress that as much as I love my partner, it has not been all sunshine and roses. We met when I was only fifteen years old and began dating when I was sixteen. I was young, naive, careless and I fell in love quickly and completely. He had me at hello, etc.
Throughout our relationship, there have naturally been ups and downs. We have weathered every storm with our hearts full of the knowledge that there is only us for each other, that our bond is too strong to be broken and that we would be incomplete without the other.
And then last month happened. Out of nowhere, we were left completely shaken, questioning how we became virtual strangers in such a short space of time. I can’t really speak for Jack, but I felt completely detached from him; like I was living with an awkward acquaintance. Nothing has ever upset me more. Without coming across as too self-pitying, it hasn’t been the best few years. I’ve had deaths, the destruction of my parents’ marriage, illness, unemployment… And throughout all of that, Jack was my constant. He was the one thing I knew I could cling to, like a rock in the middle of a stormy ocean. I felt I didn’t know how to exist outside of our relationship, so the dawning realisation that we were falling apart was just too much to handle.
While I tried to talk it out, Jack completely shut down. He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) speak to me, and when he did, it wasn’t exactly reassuring. I became more needy, constantly needing his reassurance that the last thirteen years hadn’t been a complete waste. Jack was tired. Tired from his job, his PhD thesis, and from me. I was hurt. I felt alone and unwanted. I felt pathetic. The strong, confident, feisty woman had been reduced to a whining, pitiful mess.
I could blame a number of factors: I was on my summer holidays from work, which are far too long and always leave me unfulfilled and therefore bored. Jack’s job requires him to work long hours. We moved into a house that needed extensive refurbishment and we had workmen in most days till late, as well as our well-meaning friends. I could blame all of those things…but it was us. We were angry with each other. We weren’t laughing anymore. We weren’t even being nice to each other. It felt over. It felt broken.
So did we break up?
I mean sure, I could have bought a Taylor Swift album, a litre of icecream and a dartboard with Jack’s face on it, but actually making an effort seemed like an imminently less destructive idea. The bottom line is, we love each other. We love each other a great deal. We have grown up together and evolved together. We are an intrinsic part of the other and I don’t want to live a life that doesn’t involve Jack.
We’re working on our issues. Yes, it involves actually trying (you know, the part they don’t show you in a Disney movie). I’m trying to be less of a pain in the ass, and he’s trying to be less of a pain in the ass. Richard Curtis-take notes. This is real life love. Relationships are really difficult at times…you know those moments: you’re sitting on the toilet and you realise that they have left a centimetre squared of toilet paper and you imagine your gleeful expression as you pour tobasco into their coffee. Those moments are hard. At other times, being in love makes you feel like the luckiest person in the world. Those moments fill you with a feeling akin to inebriation (which I happen to like). I don’t want to let go of that. Neither does he.
We’re going really well at the moment. That’ll last until I accidentally leave my hot straightening iron on his favourite shirt (again) or until he forgets to pick me up after work (again). And then we’ll argue. But we’ll always come back to the same realisation: we love each other. And that’s enough.