I have been in a relationship with Mr. Brain for 10 years to the day. (We count today as our official “we got together” day.) We have been married for 5 and a half of these years, though we’ve lived together for 9 years and 7 months, so I think we’re a fairly seasoned couple. Over these past 10 years, I have gained a much more mature understanding of what a real, committed relationship looks like, and while I’m both grateful and nostalgic for our romanticized, whirlwind of a beginning, I’m much more impressed with our grit. I don’t think true, committed love is really so polite, and without some real tenacity it’s possible I’d be writing a different sort of reflection 10 years later. This is my love letter to the down and dirty.
Occasionally when faced with the news of someone else’s new relationship, I ponder these beginnings, the introductory points at which you consciously/unconsciously present, or even create, the best possible version of yourself. This usually involves various phases of physical and emotional layering, mostly to create the illusion that you’re always a pleasant bouquet of being. No bad moods or twice worn pants. Excretory systems practically shut down. Suddenly you’re lugging around a purse full of mints, gum, emergency deodorant. Even more intimate encounters follow a certain decorum. From there you start to dance around your temperamental differences. Someone gets grumpy over a missed phone call, someone wants to watch a rom com instead of a psychological thriller. You said good night instead of good (!) night, and you have to explain why you’re pulling away. (You’re not, you just tripped over your cat while you were speaking into the phone.)
To be honest, I don’t miss these things about starting a new relationship, nor do I miss them about my relationship with Mr. Brain. For us this period was very short lived (see note about about being together for 10 years and cohabitating for 9.6 years), and we had to tackle some Big Issues very early on, so perhaps it is the simple understanding that caring whether or not he also liked Beat poetry really did nothing to prepare us for this life together. The stuff we’re really made of isn’t found in the intersection of cultural preferences or a shared collection of stories from a past to which we weren’t otherwise privy, though I do appreciate very much an anecdote about sticking small packets of M&M’s in his back pocket so that they’d melt as he bided his time on the swing set. This could actually be my favorite image of him as kid, and perhaps I am short changing this narrative and others like it. Maybe it does speak loudly for what I think is the greatest part about us, a shared appreciation for the smallest of pleasures, pocket-melted chocolates certainly being one of these things. But, I digress.
What am I trying to say? While it’s generally advisable to be polite to your life partner, I’m glad we’re past the point of dancing around things. We can experience various shades of disharmony and trust that we’ll find a way back to each other. We can *accidentally* experience flatulence in each other’s presence, and we don’t have to pretend that we liked the movie. He prefers Rushmore to my Royal Tenanbaums, and yet somehow we’re still kicking. I’m glad we’re real and that our relationship isn’t perfect. I’m glad I can put on a dirty shirt and not care. All those terribly cliche sayings are true, we, like cheese and wine, are better with age. Maturing together has been a slow process, one in which I grossly misunderstood 10 years ago. Our relationship is growing up, and I’m eager to see what our teens will bring. More enlightenment, and less acne, I hope.
Cheers to 10 years and counting, you M&M pioneer, you.