I have been in a relationship since I was seventeen.
As someone who is nearing 22 with each passing day, thinking about that is slightly ridiculous. Before I met my current partner, who happens to be my first and only partner, I was a child. I didn’t even know what college I wanted to go to. I thought I was so grown-up, but I wasn’t. At all. We grew up together. And now here I am, four years later, just as happy as I was when we started dating. Usually.
[bctt tweet=”As much as I wonder about who I am and how I am defined, I am still happy.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Being in a relationship for the bulk of my truly formative years has been an experience that I went through alone. I am the only one of my friends at my college who still has a high school partner. And at home, my relationship is the only couple left from our high school friend group.
It’s just us.
It’s almost like we’ve become a constant in other people’s lives, not just our own. Our names go together, connected by a quick ‘and.’ C and J, J and C.
[bctt tweet=”It’s almost like we’ve become a constant in other people’s lives, not just our own.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I once had a friend of mine tell me that if my partner and I broke up, they might stop believing in love. Tell me that that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on a person! What if we do break up? Then not only would I feel awful because breakups are never fun (so I’ve heard), but I’d have the added weight of knowing that for a long time, people defined me by my partner, and defined good relationships by us, too.
Being defined like that, it was never in a bad way, or in a way that I am opposed to. Clearly, when you’ve been in a relationship for a while – and especially if you had mutual friends before you started dating – your relationship is just another part of their life. I’ve been in one long enough it’s almost as if “in a relationship” is tattooed on my forehead. And when you’ve had a relationship last from high school to college, it isn’t even just your relationship anymore. Other people have a part in it as well. Or at least, that’s what it feels like to me. They care about the both of you, but their image of your relationship, and who you are as a couple can supersede their image of you both as individuals. They’ve known you as a couple longer than they know you separately, at least in my case. In their eyes, you go together.
I’ve always been a big proponent of no matter what anyone else says, the only two opinions that matter in a relationship are yours and your partner’s. But when people are so used to your relationship that they only know who you are in that relationship, you start to wonder. It isn’t like I’m about to split from my partner; I’m going to stay with them because they make me happy, and I am a better person for having known them. And I do know who I am; being in a long-distance relationship helps with the formation of who you are as an independent individual.
But I still have to question, because that’s who I am. I have to think about the contingencies and the could-have-been’s.
Who would I have been if I wasn’t in a relationship? Would I be a radically different person, or would I be pretty much the same? All my instincts are telling me I wouldn’t be too different. But maybe I would have been more outgoing, gone to parties I never felt I belonged at. Or maybe I would have stayed as lonely as I was in high school, a hopeless romantic fixated on an idea of love I can’t quite get a grasp on. But who knows? And who can know? If anyone has goggles to see an alternate timeline, lend them to me. That would be awesome.
[bctt tweet=”If anyone has goggles to see an alternate timeline, lend them to me.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Or don’t. As much as I wonder about who I am and how I am defined and who I could have been, I am happy. I love my partner unconditionally. The way they support me and help me find where I am meant to be going in life is incredible. And I like to think I make them pretty happy, too. Even though I wonder about what could have been, to me, our love is what matters.
To me, that is enough.