When we got together I told her I would like to celebrate a monthly anniversary. At first it was because I was hugely skeptical of our relationship, and in general I was skeptical of all romantic relationships, unlike many people I don’t have the confidence to celebrate yearly anniversaries. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, much less next year.
Then, as our relationship length started to be counted in years our monthly anniversaries became opportunities to be mindful of the state of the relationship: do we still cherish that day every month when we spend quality time together? Do we still feel excited about making special plans together? Does it still feel special or has it become a chore, a routine?
I think in general human beings are not very good at noticing the passage of time, or how impermanent everything can be. I have become appreciative of the deliberate markers I have set up in my life, precisely because I know how easy it is to live in autopilot mode, or how easy a relationship can go from full-on romance to housemate-mode.
Today is our 55th month together. 55 months of special dates, 55 times of intentional renewal and celebration in our 4 year-ish relationship. It could easily be just 4 times instead, but why choose 4 when we can have 55?
This month especially, I feel like this date we have put aside is not only beneficial for our relationship but for us individually. We are both people who can easily be entrenched in our day to day routines, or develop obsessions we may find it difficult to snap out of. But today, almost like a habit, we are able to put aside everything we are used to doing, in order to spend the day intentionally together. It is an accidental way for me to practice being mindful, to take a day out to recalibrate myself instead of just being autopiloted by my routine and habitual behaviour.
For the past 55 times I have written a reflection of our relationship. It is interesting how an act of deliberate reflection is nurturing to the relationship itself. Reflecting allows me to take stock of where we are, who we were, who we have become. It never fails to amuse and amaze me how not only we are able to last this long, but how synergistic we are to each other.
I am a person who actively pursues freedom in my life. There were many times in our relationship when I felt like we both would have been a lot more free without each other. I don’t like feeling like I am a burden to somebody, and it is very difficult for anyone with existential depression to not be an actual burden. Being alone feels very freeing: I don’t have to worry about darkening anyone’s day with my moods, I can be as depressed as I want to, I don’t have to feel bad navigating my life in a deadened and grouchy manner.
It is very different when we live together with another person. Suddenly our condition has the power to profoundly affect another person. There are perhaps things she would like to do if she didn’t have to consider my feelings or the fact that I need to feel psychologically safe. If I am alone I can be as insecure as I want without it affecting someone else’s decisions. The most annoying thing about being in a long-term relationship is that our partners become walking mirrors to our selves. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have told her tearfully that I, do not like to be reminded of my neuroses.
But still, we are actively making the choice to stay together. I call it an active choice because I’m constantly putting the choice in question. I know this would not work out for other people, but for us — both commitment phobes — the frequent questioning serves as a chance to renew our desire to be together.
Earlier on before we got together she amused me with an idea: that there should be a rental service for partners. She said for her most relationships have a limited life-span, and wouldn’t it make more sense for it to have an agreed-upon termination date?
I have probably never met anyone else as commitment phobic as me, and I have never heard something so musical to my ears. We joked we should have a contract that would renew every year, only if we are still fulfilling the conditions of the contract.
How can something so unromantic sound so romantic to me? That is the secret to our relationship. We are both individuals with really some strange quirks, and somehow those quirks which would have been unacceptable to most other people are like honey to us.
Maybe the yearly contract was a joke, but perhaps in a more subtle manner we are renewing the contract every month instead. Should there be a day when either of us do not look forward to celebrating our relationship anymore, we should let this go.
There is a considerable loss of personal freedom in a relationship, it is an actual cost that has to be taken in consideration. Weighing the cost accurately allows the space for actual romance to take place, instead of letting the cost creep up unaware. However, in exchange for it, if we have the ridiculous luck to meet the right partner, there is another kind of freedom to be found.
Since I’ve been with her I’ve felt more free to grow into myself than ever. She has given me the space and nurturing I could not give myself. Mirrors will reflect back neuroses, but sometimes they might reflect back certain good parts of ourselves we were not able to see. She makes me feel free from me: I get to take a break from the harsh environment of my mind every once in a while. I also feel more free to pursue my obscure interests, because internally I sneer at myself for being too weird, whereas she very concretely loves my quirks.
This 55th month I feel grateful and tremendously lucky to be able to pen my thoughts down in this manner. I am not very good at growing things, except for this relationship which in learning how to grow it as carefully as I can muster (basically not that careful because I’m born a klutz), I am also learning to grow myself, and there is someone who is willing to learn from the inevitable mistakes with me.