Yesterday marked a year since Jordan first asked me to be his girlfriend. I remember the exact moment as we sat in his room planning our upcoming road trip, giggling and kissing. My heart was filled with so much happiness and it has continued to overflow with love even in the most difficult times over the past year. I could write about all of the ways I have come to love Jordan and maybe I will someday soon, but today I’d rather explore what I have come to learn about relationships.
Continuing to understand an individual’s complexity is at the center of maintaining both love and friendship. I think early on when we find someone who “gets us” it is exhilarating and it is exciting and we are look at this new relationship like it is a sunrise with so much opportunity and brightness and hope. Then as months pass by and months turn into a year or two we enter a new season. Though our relationships may still be relatively new we don’t always look at that person as a sunrise anymore. The person we are dating becomes more than a sunrise, they become part of our day to day routine, often times the best part, the person who always knows how to make us laugh the shoulder to cry on when we hurt, our adventure partner and our confidant. Yet, as we become wrapped up in what the other person is to us we sometimes forget to prioritize the complexity of their individuality. You fall in love with someone because of who they are as an individual in that moment not because of what they are in relation to you.
My question now is not how to have a relationship with someone, because that part is relatively straight forward, but rather how to share so much of your life with somebody while still striving to understand their identity and accepting that they will be evolving and growing over time (sometimes at a separate pace than you). Growing together doesn’t always mean growing identically and being in a relationship doesn’t always mean having all of the same goals wanting all of the same things.
Human strife towards growth and purpose is complex and being in a relationship that involves two humans both on these individual journeys together is especially complex. My relationship with Jordan for the past year has definitely been the easiest relationship I’ve ever personally experienced. We are both so weird and silly, we both love fashion and adventures. But we’re still two different people and the older I get and the more relationships I’ve experience the more I’m sure, the tough part about relationships isn’t compatibility.
The difficulty comes when you realize each individual approaches life and problems with a unique perspective, a perspective you’ll never fully understand because you don’t live in that universe and you haven’t experienced that mindset. The more someone becomes your “best friend” the more likely you are to take some sort of ownership over who they are. I might say “Jordan wouldn’t want to go to Thailand” to a friend, “he doesn’t like traveling” because I feel like I know him and maybe that’s true, but it becomes deeper than a simple preference. I might assume his values, his ambitions, even his emotions because we’ve shared so much (which is beautiful) but in such assumptions I’m taking away (unintentionally) a bit of his autonomy. The struggle of a great relationship (in my eyes) is the balance. How do you balance being so close to someone that you share an almost magical intimacy while still respecting the ever changing complexity that makes that person unique? How do you allow your partner to be an individual while you journey through life together? How do you enjoy the intimacy and closeness of a romantic relationship while still appreciating the mystery of another entity?
I say all of this not out of displeasure or uncertainty but rather as a reminder to myself to continue seeing Jordan as the man I fell in love with, not as “my boyfriend” and everything he does for me. What is important about Jordan is that he is a unique soul who is ever changing and evolving, growing and striving, succeeding and failing. Though I love that I can be myself around him, that is not what I love about him, because that is just a projection of myself and my own desires. In this first year we’ve learned a lot about each other, though his crazy driving, love for gummies and affinity for designer shoes is quickly becoming well known “old news”…that doesn’t mean I can stop learning about the man I’ve chosen as my teammate.