communication and gratitude

This is a long post about love, prepare yourself.

In April of last year, I was very much in love with myself for the first time in my life. I'd been taking myself on dates, writing myself love notes, buying myself flowers. I was treating myself better than any man had ever treated me.

I had a close friend in recovery at the time who called me one day and said, "there's a wonderful man I need you to meet."

I wasn't interested. First of all, this particular friend did not always have the best taste in choosing friends (but he was friends with me, so whatever, I still didn't trust it). Second of all, he mentioned that this person he wanted me to meet was new to recovery.

I wasn't interested. Okay, I was kind of interested. Someone called me up and said they have a very handsome man who is perfect for me, how could I not be interested? But, I knew I needed to stay away. For those of you not in recovery, it is super not cool to start romances with people new to recovery – relationships are generally not what they need.

But then my friend brought this guy to a meeting that I went to everyday. It was his first day out of a treatment program. He was cute. I told myself,  "don't make eye contact, don't make eye contact." His name was (is) Jonny. His hair was SO messy. We saw each other almost every day for the next month or so, and we maybe exchanged six words.

Finally, he asked me for my number (over Facebook message) and we started exchanging VERY long text messages. He asked me on a date and when the day came, we rescheduled. It was going to be our first time alone together. I was way too nervous.

I'd spoken to my sponsor and a few friends about my interest in this man and they all said, "proceed with caution." So I did. We went on a date to see The Grand Budapest Hotel (even though I'd already seen it). I told my friend to tell him not to kiss me on the first date, because I didn't want to be nervous the whole time. I was nervous the whole time anyway.

During that date I told him, "I like you so far, and I don't want to invent your personality to fit what I want. I don't want to imagine you're someone you aren't. And I'm not going to change myself to be what you want me to be." He said okay. And that's how we started, and we have both stuck to that.

I think I fell in love with him before we ever had a conversation (our first actual conversation was about our mutual desire to travel to Marfa, Texas- we're finally going there on Sunday). He got a hair cut and one day I told him he was beautiful and that was the only time I spoke to him that week. Maybe that's when I fell in love with him. Or maybe it was the time at the overlook when we talked about what happens when we die and where we were when we saw the most stars we'd ever seen.

I fall in love with him all the time. We had an off week a few months ago. We were going through some tough stuff and I was dealing with some past trauma and we just did not know how to go through something so scary as a couple. We hardly spoke to each other, and then finally we expressed our very differing opinions to each other and then we both left our apartment for three hours because we didn't know what to say to each other. That was a hard week. We had to deal with some scary grown up stuff and it was not fun. But every day I felt our love getting deeper. Because we weren't going to run away, we were going to work through it together. Things get tough, and we hold on tight. And that takes strength, and courage, and humility.

There are things we don't want to talk about, but we need to talk about. So we talk about it, because we know we need to. And we disagree and we both get stubborn and we start making claims like, "I've thought this way forever, sorry that's surprising to you" even though we don't really mean it. And then we pause and we watch Friends or give each other a long hug and pick up the conversation again an hour later.

I've never been in a relationship where arguments did not involve yelling or cussing or threats to leave. I've never had so much fun with a man. I've never farted in front of a boyfriend on purpose and then laughed so hard about it. We have tickle fights and inside jokes and date nights and we surprise each other all the time. We express gratitude for each other. We say "thank you" so often, you might think we're Canadian.

We talk about everything, and we're always grateful. We know that love like this doesn't magically happen. It takes attention, and work, and intentional fun. We also know that we're young. And we have this amazing, rare love. And we are willing to work at it to make it work. I am so glad I have the rest of my life with him.

The last year has been the best beginning to our life together. We have a foundation built on respect, trust, and silliness. I've only imagined a love like this, but I never knew it could really exist.