I’m really bad at relationships. Like, really bad. In my life I’ve had 3.5 significant relationships, and all of them have crashed and burned during the 4-5 month range. So as this current one approaches the 5 month mark, I’m getting nervous. In what brilliant way will I manage to mangle this one beyond all recognition rendering it unfit for the gnarliest of salvage yards?
I used to run 800 meter races. The emphasis here is on the “used to.” The thing about an 800 meter race is that it is essentially a controlled sprint. When the gun goes off, the method is to jump off the blocks, sprint into position and then hold yourself right at the threshold of death for a little over two minutes, with your heart trying to pummel its way out of your chest and your legs telling you you should have been finished 700 meters ago.
That is pretty much exactly the way I run relationships. My heart is going so fast it would rather vacation outside my body and looking back I can only think about how I should have ended it several months before I found myself barreling down the track, exhausted and trying to support a brain made of oatmeal with legs made of rubber. With a current record of 5 months for a relationship, this essentially means I should have ended them before they started.
Yet I want to be in a relationship. I want that feeling where my head is in the clouds and my stomach is hovering just below and every swoop and turn and dive makes me weak with joy and excitement. Oh wait—that’s just air sickness and jet lag.
In relationships, I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s only verbally dawned on me that maybe I should take it slow. That maybe the little character flaws I see in her are just called being human. That maybe the little argument isn’t a red flag but just a Tuesday night. That maybe, just maybe a whole future isn’t locked in in a single weekend.
This past weekend my almost-five-month significant other, Akmoor, and I met with our pastor to talk about our relationship and ask for advice. We haven’t gone public with our committed relationship yet (you know, “Facebook official” or in other words the true mark of a serious relationship) and we figured it’d be better to talk about it in person before the “likes” and “huhs?” start raining down on our newsfeeds from actual real life friends. The advice he gave suddenly drew memories of advice I received from others over past relationships: “Get to know each other.”
Get to know each other. What could that possibly mean? I asked for clarification. Our pastor was like, “You know, get to know each other.”
I suppose we could do that. I suppose we could meet each other’s friends and do each other’s hobbies and ask questions and have conversations and share activities and be there for each other just to say hey. But how much time is that going to take? I want that relationship now. I want that unshakable trust, that deepest desire, that blind and assured confidence that sticks up for you, even when they know you’re wrong. And I want it immediately.
No. It’s marathon time. It’s time to slow up. I’m never going to make it at this pace. We’re never going to make it at this pace. I’d rather just finish than go for the personal best and burn out before the first water stand. Because a relationship is not in the sprint. It’s not in the kisses that say “I’ll miss you” as you head to the fridge to bring back a beer. It’s not in trying to figure it all out so that you know she’s the one you want to date. You can only figure that out as you go through it—as you go through it in time.
It’s in the slow Sunday afternoons. It’s holding hands on the bus. It’s the comfortable silence. It’s cooking dinner and picking up the kids and rushing off to work and looking at the same TV. A relationship is made bit by bit, shared experience after shared experience. It’s looking at each other and saying, “Ha. I know what you mean. And remember when…?” Yes, relationships are marathons. That’s what they tell me anyway.