A few of my fellow contributors’ recent posts on crushes have left me feeling a little bit left out. Unlike Leigh, I’m not currently in the throes of a so-good-it-hurts, dizzyingly ecstatic crush; unlike Laura, I’m not exactly craving one, either.
That’s because I am the thing we’re not supposed to be in our early 20s, that state of being that is supposedly anathema to being free and seeing what’s out there and making our own way in the world and generally being Liberated, Independent Women. Hi, I’m Heather, and I’m in a longterm relationship.
I have been with the same darling man for more than two years, and we’ve lived together for a lot of that time. We spend a lot of time together. We go to the grocery store. We cook dinner. We pay bills. We have a lease on which both of our signatures appear. We have couple friends. We double and triple-date. We go home from stuff early, and together. In other words, we are likely everything you hate about couples.
And you know what? It’s amazing.
And okay, I’ll admit it: I do miss crushes, a little bit. I sort of miss being both out-of-my-mind excited and devastated all the time over things that special someone said or didn’t say, texted or didn’t text, showed up to or didn’t. Just like Leigh and Laura, I love the agony and ecstasy of liking someone so much you might die . But I also remember that crushes felt like perpetual emotional calisthenics, my poor heart burning wildly and uncontrollably and constantly in a way that felt amazing and also hurt a LOT. And, to extend the metaphor just a bit further, if crushes are like energizing and brutal wind sprints, a good relationship is a long, satisfying run. Sure, you feel the burn, but it doesn’t consume you. Instead, it feeds and nourishes. Crushes giveth a great deal, sure, but one false move and crushes taketh away. Big time. A good relationship adds more, much more, than it subtracts, and that’s one of the reasons I’m not ashamed – and in fact, am extremely happy — to be in this place.
And so, as what feels like the staid old grandmother of the conversation on crushes, I have to put a couple of relationship myths to rest. For one thing, while I understand the sentiment being expressed, I have to counter that comfortable is not the same thing as unexciting. Passion doesn’t have to be so hot it burns; it can actually feel just plain good, rather than the see-sawing great/terrible/great/terrible of the best and worst early-stages crush. Just because I feel utterly at ease with my boyfriend doesn’t mean our relationship is dull; after all, the best friendships aren’t boring or old-news just because you’ve known someone forever and can finish her sentences, are they? A good relationship is kind of like that — an old, safe, and loving friendship. Only, you know, with sex.
And believe me, I know from whence I speak. I’ve been in that other kind of relationship — the kind where, a year in, you still can’t say his name without your breath catching a little bit, the kind that burns hot forever, that stays stormy and uncertain and exciting long past the crush phase. And guess what? It’s terrible. You’re never happy; you’re just obsessed. Another person has complete control over how you see the world. You pine and pine for someone who is in the same room as you. And when it ends (and believe me, it inevitably ends) it implodes. And that’s when you end up collapsing on the floor of your dorm and wailing as if your whole family just died. That’s when you stop eating and stop sleeping and look less like a person and more like a wraith who hasn’t seen the sun or a sandwich in decades. That’s when you start hating yourself because it hurts too much to hate him. And that is DEFINITELY when you start writing horrible poetry that your friends have to exclaim over and pretend doesn’t make them want to kill themselves.
So, while crushes are awesome, I simply have to stand up for the more settled, if slightly less exciting, side of the coin. Finding someone you care about and being with that person is great, too. The most important thing is, as with any romantic sojourn, to let it nourish you without letting it define you, and to make sure there’s heat, but not so much that you get burned.