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1 year/10 years together

May 19, 2011

We are rapidly approaching our 1 year wedding anniversary ( in 1 month– that is just crazy).  And in November, we will celebrate a decade of our relationship (minus our few on-and-off months, but generally, I don’t count them).  And it makes me think about all the things we have been through in the last decade and in the last year.

Our relationship got off to a rocky start our freshman year of college. Not because we weren’t a solid couple in make-people-sick-puppy-dog-love with each other, but because of my constantly-in-crisis-family.  We had been dating for about a month when I got a call from my sister telling me that my mom’s health had rapidly deteriorated, her doctors thought she might not make it (this turned out to be the first of probably a dozen times we were told this over the next 4 years), and that I really needed to come home to help.

I was stunned.  Jerked out of my college world into the horrible reality my sister had been struggling with (and unfairly angry at her for forcing this reality on me).  I was going to have to drop out, move home, get a job, and take care of my mom.

I walked over to D’s Residence Hall and told him that I was going to have to leave school and move home, and that it didn’t make sense for him to be stuck in a relationship with someone who was going to be an hour away with no way for us to see each other.  And he told me I was being ridiculous, and of course we weren’t going to break up because we would make it work somehow.

And really, in that moment, I knew that our relationship was real and that we were going to make it.  We were just two 18 year old kids, but I think we both knew.

And over the next 4 years, the amount of turmoil that we weathered was really kind of insane.  Among other major things that are just too personal to put out there on a blog, he was there for me throughout my Mom’s 4-year illness; he was there for me through my spring semester freshman year, when I was working at home 4 days out of the week rather than dropping out of college; he was there through many of what we now jokingly call “Kelly Flip-outs”, but were, in reality,  huge and (sometimes hilariously inappropriate) explosions of bottled up anger because I refused to talk to anyone about my mom’s illness and the toll that it was taking on me emotionally; through the multiple house/apartment moves and family financial issues (like an 18 year old and a 20 year old taking on the bill paying and check balancing of a now basically income-less household) that my sister and I struggled to manage; and he was there for me when my mom died my senior year.  He was my rock, and I depended on the constancy of our relationship much more than I ever realized during a time in my life when nothing else was constant.

Once we got into our final semester, we hit a rough patch. We weren’t communicating at all– I making plans for us moving in together after graduation, making savings plans and researching apartments, and he was not ready to take that step.  And neither of us talked about it to the other, so we just grew more and more frustrated and confused.  Then we went through a period of breaking up and getting back together, which was awful.

After graduation, I moved to Boston for a job, he stayed in DC.  We both made new friends.  We both failed utterly to communicate effectively in a long-distance relationship for several months.  We broke up again.  I created a “Bad Mood” playlist on iTunes and listened to sad music on a constant loop for about a month and sought out sad musical lyrics to put on my AIM away message (so I could broadcast to the world how sad and tragic my life was?).  But, our breakups were never nasty, and we were still truly friends. When he had a major family crisis, he still called me and I still showed up to be there for him and help him through it.

We both had what I like to call “anti-rebound” relationships (at least for me anyway, I guess I shouldn’t speak for D).  I briefly dated someone and it was just a bad idea all the way around, so instead of being the “rebound” that convinces you that there are other fish in the sea, I just became more convinced that I was never going to find another person I would love and respect other than D.

Then I moved back to Maryland for my new job, and we got back together a few months later and have been going strong ever since.  But, the on-and-off period of our relationship was very impactful.  It took me a while to build back the feeling of implicit trust I had that D was a constant, since we had had such a long period of uncertainty.  But, it was also good for us in a lot of ways. Our time apart allowed us to get a better sense of ourselves, as we had been a couple our entire time in college.  We strengthened our other friendships, which has been invaluable to both of us.  But most importantly, we also learned how we needed to communicate with each other to ensure that we are always on the same page. You can’t get what you need in a relationship if you don’t ask for it or tell your partner that is what you need.  And nothing is accomplished by ignoring a problem and hoping that it will go away or fix itself.

So, our time as a dating couple was not easy.  We paid for every ounce of comfort and love we received from each other with a pound of stress, heartache, and crisis.  But, it was worth every pound.

Up next, our first married year in review.

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