You know what’s normal? Having a romantic relationship last a year.
You know what’s NOT normal?
See, Chris and I celebrated our one year anniversary this week. And unlike our 6 month anniversary, I was totally calm leading up to this milestone. I wasn’t even a little bit superstitious, afraid of jinxing it, or even particularly emotional.
See how much progress I’m making?
Yeah, don’t get too excited…
Our anniversary technically fell on a Sunday, which I think we can all agree is the least romantic day of the week, plus I was going to be gone at rehearsal for the show I’m co-directing from 1:30-5:30, so I suggested we deputize Saturday for purposes of celebration. But we didn’t really plan anything specific because it came at the end of a long and stressful week for Chris and so the most appealing option for both of us was just having a quiet weekend together.
Saturday morning we decided we’d take a trip to a brand new gluten free bakery for treats, and as we were leaving the bakery we decided to stop in at a coffee shop, sample our GF confections and do some people watching. It was perfect.
But as we walked back to the car through cold rain we started to rethink our plan of dinner in Old Town, and opted instead for Cheesecake Factory where we had our second date.
Traffic was terrible and it was a stressful drive. We waited for more than an hour to be seated, and…well, all I’m going to say about the actual dining experience was that Cheesecake Factor hates people with gluten allergies.
But returning home to the leftover GF chocolate chip cookie lifted the mood considerably.
Sunday morning we made breakfast together and slow danced in the kitchen to “If It’s Love” by Train while the sausage was browning.
And then I used the sausage to make a frittata. Which I may or may not have burned. (But the burned part stuck to the pan and the part you could actually scoop out was delicious, thank you very much).
Chris made dinner while I was at rehearsal, and we had a relaxed and intimate evening where we ate, watched most of the Super Bowl and ate our dessert of strawberries with cheesecake and whip cream in bed before exchanging sappy cards and going to sleep early, our stomachs bursting from the cheesecake and whip cream. (Ok, the truth is, I was the only one bursting from the whip cream. I kept overfilling my mouth when I sprayed it in).
It was a really, really, great weekend.
That night as I tried to fall asleep, some weird thoughts started poking my brain.
It WAS a great weekend. I love the fact that an afternoon spent in a coffee shop feels special when I do it with Chris.
And while things didn’t go perfectly (bad traffic, bad dinner, burnt Frittata etc.) it didn’t matter, and that is something special. I like that we’re past a point where I need to pretend his driving doesn’t stress me out, and we hardly notice a burnt frittata.
BUT at the same time, it could have been any weekend. Does that mean something?
I mean, there really wasn’t any sparkle in the weekend. You know that little bit of fairy dust that seems to cover all parts of a new relationship, when you go out of your way to surprise and wow each other? That’s sparkle.
At first, I was fine with a sparkle free anniversary weekend, in part because I still find comfortable and familiar to be novel and exciting.
Until I started worrying there would never be sparkle again.
Were we already in a rut? Is that what happens at the one year mark? Because seriously, I have no idea what happens at the one year mark. I’m so far into unfamiliar territory I feel like I should have a passport.
This makes me panicky.
Suddenly I have perfect recall of every episode of shows like According to Jim, ‘Till Death, and Everybody Loves Raymond. Shows where wives are always nagging their husbands to be romantic and the husbands are forever rolling their eyes and reluctantly agreeing while clearly resenting every minute. Shows where the comedy comes from a premise that romance and long term relationships are mutually exclusive.
Is it funny because its true? This is what I’m trying to decide at 2am.
I’m scared that, by no choice or effort of my own I will become one of those sparkle starved nagging women and Chris will become one of those lazy, anti-sparkle guys.
What if that’s as unavoidable a law of nature as the ones that make it so your boobs eventually rest on your belt, reality TV seems disgusting, and driving faster than 30mph always feels excessive?
In the light of day I struggled for perspective.
I tried reminding myself of the facts because I like to believe this will help to quiet the crazy.
Fact. I have hit the jackpot with Chris, of this I am sure, and for the last year every day with him has felt above average and full of sparkle, so it was silly to get worked up because a weekend – which just happened to be one year from the day of our first date – had only the same amount of sparkle that every other day had.
Fact. I’m not the type of girl who needs lots of sparkle. I’m low maintenance. I like the steak more than the sizzle.
Fact. A good bra will always keep the girls in place.
This never works to quiet the crazy. I seriously don’t know why I bother.
Part of the problem is that I’d been focused on the one year milestone for 364 days.
Every milestone I invented between days 1 and 365 were like a relationship advent calendar meant to break up the days and distract me with treats until the big day.
Getting to the one year mark represented achieving normal. It meant not being the girl whose relationship history consisted of crazy stories and responses like “Where do you keep finding those douchebags?”
I told myself that at one year I’d be able to trust that he wasn’t too good to be true and that I’d have figured out how to do the whole functional relationship thing and I could stop worrying I was going to ruin it by saying the wrong thing.
And all of that happened, but it actually happened somewhere around the 10 month mark. At some point I just started to relax, feeling confident I was going to glide over that finish line.
Which I did. And then sailed right past it.
Into…whatever comes after one year.
I had no new goal to focus my anxieties on. No new advent calendar to start to break up the time and distract myself with chocolate.
I felt unmooered.
I felt like I was flying without a net.
Which is why the night after our anniversary was spent with me randomly dissolving into tears.
Each time Chris would calmly wipe away a tear or hug me and ask me what was on my mind. And I would say I didn’t know while crying harder, and he would say “Ok, well, whenever you figure it out I’ll be here to listen.”
Which, to be fair, is a conversation we have about once a month. Sometimes the crazy just builds up to the point where tears are the only way to release the pressure. True story.
Anyway, in the past it could sometimes take many hours before I could talk to him about whatever had fermented the crazy that time.
But on this night, I thought about the New Year’s Resolution that I was given to use my words more than my tears, and I worked really hard to find words sooner than later.
After only about an hour of off and on again crying, I managed something along the lines of “What about the sparkle?” And somehow Chris understood exactly what I meant, and we were able to have a good talk about feelings. And I have to say, words really are SO much more useful than tears. Who knew?
We talked about the appropriate application of sparkle in a relationship that already feels above average.
I agreed to stop pretending I’m low maintenance, and to own the fact that I need a little sparkle now and again.
Chris explained the difference between TV and real life, and how we can decide what kind of couple we are. And also that we’ll always enjoy reality TV together.
I promised to keep working toward being able to have feelings conversations that involved more words than snot.
As I started to feel better I tried to explain a little about my unmoored feeling.
“I’m just not sure what to do on this side of…”
“This side of normal?” Chris asked with a smile.
Yes! Exactly. A relationship that lasts more than a year is normal. Being happy and secure in a mutually rewarding relationship is normal…and that’s where we live now.
I’m so screwed.