I spent the majority of my twenties avoiding serious relationships. They were, I thought, a hindrance. Like a blood pressure cuff gone out of control, I believed them to be a  source of tension and suffocation, draining the blood from my life until a limb had to be amputated, or at the very least, until a concerned pharmacy technician came rushing over.

And to be fair, most of my early relationships were like that renegade blood pressure cuff.  I felt stifled, like I had lost a part of myself, or perhaps that a part of myself had merely turned into a limp, strangled appendage.

But then I met Jorge, my partner. He’s taught me a number of really important things.

Casual Jorge

Like how to speak Argentinian Spanish, which at first I thought was a joke because like, come on, it’s ven not veni. And an appreciation for good meat, which doesn’t come in even-colored, perfectly round patties like America would have us believe. And, of course, that a relationship doesn’t have to feel like a vise around the throat. It can, as a matter of fact, feel freeing and light. Like a whoosh of spring air on a bare ass; not a frigid blast of snowstorm and you’re locked out of the house.

I’m really thankful for that. With him, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to explore personal depths as well as partnership depths. Two bodies of water that both mingle yet keep definable shapes. I’m not even sure of the physics behind that, but, I’m pretty sure it has something to do with a viscous solid and electron pairings.

But there was something else that came along with my relationship, something that I wasn’t prepared for. If falling in love were to look like a guest list for a dinner party, here’s some of the people I would have invited:

  • Peace of Mind
  • Healthy Boundaries
  • Passion/Lust
  • Physical Attraction (he always shows up looking so good!)
  • Complementary skill sets
  • Willingness (to listen, to work together, etc)

But sometimes parties get crashed, and this time, someone showed up who I didn’t invite.

  • The Annoying Girlfriend.

Among all the pluses and positives of a relationship, I’ve had to suffer the distinct horror of witnessing certain things come out of my mouth that my pre-relationship brain would never authorize.

I catch myself beginning the stupidest stories to my friends. Halfway through, I realize this story is about the shape of his toes, and nobody in the entire world wants to hear it.

I am constantly giggling about him. And I almost can never explain why.

I am so excited about knowing him, and want to share all his details with everyone. Including things he would shoot me if I shared. (I don’t, Jorge, I swear!)

I find myself planning things around the time he gets home, because that intolerable 8 or 9 hour workday has been far too much time apart and I’d like to see him as soon as humanly possible, thankyou.

I think everything he does is the cutest thing ever. And Skyping with friends while he’s in the room is the worst — plenty of times I’ve gotten distracted mid-conversation by a glimpse of him in the video, and started shrieking about how cute he is, OMG, look what he’s doing! When this happens, it’s almost guaranteed he’s casually lying on the bed, looking at his tablet or — in more extreme cases — napping. LOOK HOW CUTE MY BOYFRIEND IS WHILE HE DOES NOTHING!!! *SCREECH*

True Hued Love

Is this what true love looks like? I bet she doesn’t spill picnic secrets.

This affliction appeared swift and silent — I really hadn’t seen it coming. I had been so preoccupied during the early part of our relationship with other mental obstacles — like reminding myself that nothing had changed and that nothing would change — that I didn’t even allow myself to get giddy or gushy. I was focused entirely on finding ways to remind myself that being in a relationship meant that I had not sacrificed some integral part of my being, that I was still who I always had been.

And while it’s true that I’m independent though not single, I’m still myself though with someone else, I can’t pretend like the relationship hasn’t altered me in some ways. Who wants to cling to a former version of themselves, anyway? I realized that if you’re in a relationship and you don’t grow, evolve or adapt, then something might be wrong.

I was never informed of this, though it didn’t traumatize me as much as not being told about facials in advance. Women In Relationships say plenty of things to Women Not In Relationships, those things usually being negative, cautionary, overly romantic or totally dreamy. I was never told that I might arrive to that Annoying Girlfriend post organically. That it would actually seep from me on a cellular level, that I would ever feel inclined to squeal about the fact that my boyfriend just shifted from his left to right side on the bed behind me while I talk to a friend on the phone.

And along this journey of falling in love, of opening up to a relationship and all the silly quirks that it brings, this is one part of the fascinating puzzle that I hope I never misplace.