Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had more free time than I think all of the past three years combined. Because I don’t know what to do with myself unless I’m staring down my planner in both shocking terror and wonderful splendor (because how can one person have so many things to do?!?!), I picked up a book by Buzzfeed editor Erin Chack. The book is called “This is Really Happening” and it is a collection of true stories from her life. I am OBSESSED. And I mean, like, I found her Instagram and stalked her for an hour before I realized what I was doing and stopped myself (not without following, of course, because she’s awesome, really), obsessed. As I continued reading I found that the stories that I most related to were the ones about her relationship with her boyfriend. We have both been in a relationship for a long time which is especially rare because of how young we are. She points out that one of the most baffling questions that people ask her are “how have you been with him so long?”. Well Erin, I feel the same way.
I’ve been in a relationship with my fiancé for 5 1/2 years now. Do the math and you’ll realize that we stared dating when I was at the young age of 15. Trust me, this baffles my mind more than it does yours. One thing that I have come to love about my relationship with Tanner is that we have literally grown up together. He was there when I got my driving permit and a year later when I got my license. He agonized with me over which dress to wear to prom and which college I should go to. He was there cheering in the crowd on my sorority bid day and three months later as I thought I might be the first person in history to die from a research paper. For the most crucial and essential milestones in my life, he’s been there.When people hear that we started dating so young they usually have one of two reactions: “OMG that’s so sweet, so when is the wedding?” or “Wow, really? And you aren’t, like, sick of him?”. The former is the most anticipated. It’s cute, yeah we know. It’s the latter response that I don’t understand. People time and time again come to me asking for relationship advice or just wanting to know how we do it. I absolutely hate giving dating advice. My question is why on Earth would you ask me? I’ve dated the same guy for over 5 years which puts my dating experience at nil. If you were learning how to sail a boat would you ask advice from someone who had sailed one boat one time, or go to an experienced sailor who knew their stuff?
Anyway, my story of “how we do it” is simple. People dub us as soulmates and say that we were “meant to be” but, honestly, that’s a load of crap. I don’t believe in soulmates. And lets say I’m wrong and soulmates exist, what are the odds that mine would live in the same town as me and work at my local grocery store in high school? Exactly. More often than not, I look at Tanner and think “Huh, wow, we’re still here doing it”. Not because I’m tired of him but more because its kind of shocking to me that I still like this person a whole lot and he likes me. I believe that if there are soulmates they are here in the sense that they’re made, not fated. Like, you go find this person that you really enjoy and that doesn’t annoy you too much and decide, “yeah, this ones cool I think ill keep it.” That’s how Tanner and I work. We don’t put stock into being made for each other and then just think it’ll all work out. We have worked really hard at becoming good for each other. It’s like your favorite hobby or pastime. I really enjoy drawing so, naturally, I do it a lot and practice a lot and after so many years I’m pretty good at it (which is a lie, I can’t draw a stick person). But, you get the point. After so many years, Tanner and I are really good at being together. We don’t try to be the best couple ever and we don’t agonize over who can be the most romantic. We just be.
One thing that I find really cool about our relationship is the evolution of each other. When you’ve been with someone for a long time and through so many crucial parts of life, you truly see their evolution. Tanner has seen Lexie the Fashion Designer that one summer when I decided that my fashion sense was so awesome that I should just design all the clothes, then learned that I am not, in fact, good at designing clothes. He has seen Lexie the Boss when I just knew that if my club would put me in charge I would end up a high-ranking CEO and solve everyone’s business issues. I even bought a blazer. He has seen Lexie the Naturalist when I thought that I must have been reincarnated from a flower child and it was my calling to live on granola and honey and wear lots of headbands. He has seen me evolve into the person that I am just like I have seen the same from him. The important thing about this evolution that we have both witnessed is the encouragement that we gave each other at every stage. When I was Lexie the Fashion Designer Tanner spent an entire afternoon in my room helping me rearrange my closet and make up the most fashion forward outfits. When I was Lexie the Naturalist he came home carrying grocery bags loaded with fruit, yogurt, all natural chicken, and even some tribal bracelets. He wasn’t delusional of the fact that Lexie the Naturalist would actually be the persona that sticks, but he full-out encouraged it anyways. That is what makes our relationship last. We don’t just go through the motions with each other, we partake in those motions and live in them together.
There was this one time, not too long ago, when Tanner called me on his way home from work. I was in the car with 3 of my friends on our way back to the apartment. We were in a hysterical fit over an impersonation of this awful professor that had a striking resemblance to Minerva McGonagall. So, I answer the phone heaving for breath and hitting speaker so I can wipe the tears from my eyes.
“Hey hey,” I gasped still wheezing.
“Hey babe, whatcha laughing so hard about?”
“OMG I’ll tell you later I literally can’t breathe right now.”
“Okay, so, what do you wanna do for date night tonight?”
“Well, there’s this documentary that I’ve been wanting to watch and I have an assignment to do and I really want Rice Box for dinner.”
“Uh-okay how about you get the food and start your homework, I’ll come over and quiz you then we watch the documentary?”
“Perfect, but if I fall asleep you have to wake me up and also we need to take notes on the documentary so I can use it for a class.”
“I’ll kick you awake and bring my notebook.”
“Haha, funny, but sounds good I love you, bye.”
One of my friends was just baffled over our conversation. She was going on about how this was seriously our date night and why would I make him watch this documentary and on and on until I made her shut up. My response to her was this: “Our date nights aren’t some romantic affair unless its my birthday or one of us unexpectedly came across some money. We’re just, like, best friends. This is the same type of thing I would do with you, right? Why should we try so hard when all a relationship really is is two friends spending a bunch of time together?”
So, that’s my answer to all of you who ask “how do you do it?”. It’s the most simple thing in the world. We aren’t two incredibly lucky individuals who happened to find our soulmates and the rest is history. We made each other our soulmates by just trying really hard. We’ve evolved together instead of thinking that each new phase in our lives requires a new person to share it with. Our relationship isn’t magical and filled with super adventures and tear-jerker moments. It has simple adventures and time spent together, as well as apart. We’re like when you get a pack of Jolly Ranchers and are just dying for a red one, so you see it and reach way down in the bag to get it only to be surprised that there’s a green one stuck to it. You start prying them apart and when you finally do you see that the red one now has some green mixed in and vice versa. They’ve been molded together so long that they’re just a little bit of each other. A good relationship is like those two Jolly Ranchers. Two people who have stuck together and really been through it so that they are a little bit of each other now. He’s my Jolly Rancher and we have simply decided to stick together.