*Please excuse the mediocre quality, my knowledge of sound sits at a solid 0%.
I LOVE YOU, BUT YOU'RE BEING A DICK
An Essay on Companionship
Here’s what I’ve found true for myself: I generally do better in life with a companion. A compatible one, but one nonetheless. This isn’t to say that I don’t do well on my own, I most certainly do. I can poop without wondering if my boyfriend can hear me, I get a lot of work done because I’m not taking sex breaks to compensate for my stress (which usually takes the form of horniness), and I’m routinely more committed to going to the gym because I don’t have that special someone telling me I’m beautiful when I know for a fact that that butt dimple on my right cheek has deepened severely in the last months and accumulated far too many brothers and sisters. There’s a lot to be said for being single. But, and this is what I’ve learned most recently in my short life, there’s a lot more to be said for being with someone who matters.
Now I will never say that relationships are easy (they’re not) or that they don’t take an enormous amount of work (they do), but I will say this: the world is much easier to face when you know you have a source of comfort somewhere in the midst of it. Especially now, when we have an eggplant with a face as a president and every day is an apocalyptic toss up, there’s something immensely reassuring about knowing you have someone to turn to.
Through middle school and high school I was always the relationship girl. In those seven years I think I probably accumulated one-year total of single-dom. Granted, the only bigger joke than a high school relationship is a middle school one, but I sure as hell made out with (one of) my seventh grade boyfriend(s) in the little alcove next to the gym every day after school until our three month escapade ended and I posted about it on Myspace with a lot of sad faces and cried about it with my girlfriends over the landline, so it was a big deal, okay?
In my twenty-three year life I’ve had six big relationships that all lasted somewhere around a year. While there was an older draft of this where I went into detail on who exactly these people were, I’ve decided to bypass it. The short of it is simple: they taught me a lot about who I am and what I want. The last one even taught me what it is to be in love, still now and, despite enormous heartache, I’m grateful for that.
Considering my experience is limited to less than a quarter century of self-discovery I can’t say that my thoughts here will be relatable or of particular use to anyone even half a decade older than myself. But I do think they’re valid, especially for all of us floating around that early twenties range trying to figure out who the hell we are and why it is we’re on this earth overpaying for cocktails at the bar when we know for a fact the ten shots of eight dollar tequila we took at home were plenty (and the Uber driver knows it too now that you’ve thrown up in his car and been charged an extra $120 for the clean up).
Being this age is hard. Being a teenager is hard. Honestly, it’s a lot harder because your hormones are raging and everyone between the age of thirteen and nineteen is a total douche, but being in your early twenties is its own level of difficulty. There are a lot of conflicting emotions; a lot of feeling like the world is your bitch while simultaneously falling into a deep depression because you think you’ll never find your path. As someone with a strong emotional connection to my generic Zoloft prescription, I know the ache of all of this.
So this is my thought. When we’re teenagers, we’re all douches. When we’re in our early twenties, we’re all dicks. “I love you, but you’re being a dick.” I’ve said that countless times to my boyfriends and had it said countless times to me. But here’s what I’ve learned from it. It’s okay that we’re like that. It feels good to be loved at your worst. When a bad day creeps up on you and punches you in the ass, having someone hold you while you restrain yourself from dropkicking a wall is soothing.
And this is why I know I prefer companionship to single-dom. Life is really fucking hard. It’s not a constant, but during those periods when the light and warmth feel like they’re dwindling, having another person allows you to see good in places you might not be so conscious of seeing on your own. This, in no way, means that you should rely on another individual for your happiness. You shouldn’t. Ever. It’s a toxic mindset to get yourself into. But having that person who understands you in a way others don’t can make all the difference when the universe feels like it’s indulged in a giant bowl of asshole cereal that morning.
There are a couple of tricks here, naturally. If you want to be loved at your worst, you have to love others at their worst too. For me, this means not antagonizing my partner when they’re down. For the rest of you it could be something entirely different, but it is a key.
The second trick is compatibility. Companionship is awesome, but if you’re not right for each other then you’re not right for each other. Lust is a great way to form a connection, but it’s a pretty shitty way to keep one. Deep and honest bonds are few and far between so if you get one, hold on to it because it could be a long while before you come across it again.
The third, and most important, is accepting that shit happens. Finding yourself smack dab in the middle of a craphole situation is forever going to be a catastrophic pain in the ass, but disappointment in a relationship, even in a healthy one, is inevitable. After the countless personal appearances I’ve made on either end of a confrontation, I can say honestly that two people are not going to be pleased with each other all the time. That’s not how humans work. I would imagine most are aware of this whether or not they put their sympathy into action. If you don’t, I would recommend it. It pushes you to grow and learn a lot about yourself.
But, and this is where most people take a messy situation and make it worse, learning who you are in times like this doesn’t mean you should box the person you love out. Guarding yourself is vital to mental survival, but it’s also the perfect way to lose someone important to you. Here is what I believe, wholeheartedly: if your partner apologizes and exhibits proactive change, they deserve a little trust. Not only is it remarkable that they’re doing that, it’s hard as shit. Protecting yourself against their best efforts isn't so much a problem solving method as it is a temporary solution and it's not a great one.
All this to say that there really is something thrilling about growing into yourself with the person you love at your side. It’s somebody to witness everything you’re becoming in a way much more personal than you’ll find with family or friends. Somebody who is in no way obligated to be proud of you, but they always are, not just for your work, but for who you are as a person, flaws and all the rest. It’s calming. Okay, it’s not always calming because sometimes it’s a kanipshit (connipshit?) but on the better days it is and I think that’s something too commonly forgotten when relationships hit a low point.
Whether or not you agree with what I’ve written here, I will always be an advocate for embracing that right match. For most of my life I thought I needed to truly know myself before I found someone. But the truth is that I’ll always be learning who I am and I can’t be scared to let somebody else in to learn who I am beside me. It is by no means a flawless technique, it takes a vast amount of practice and patience and deep breathing exercises, but it does add an element of feeling alive that I have yet to discover in other parts of my life. If there’s a person out there crazy enough to grow through those grueling ups and downs with you then, god damn it, don’t let them go because that takes a special type of insanity.
I’ve only once in my life met someone I would do that for. It was a recent realization, brought on by more self-reflection than I thought my brain was capable of, and it hit me like a ton of bricks and a rabid raccoon thrown in my face all at the same time. It was terrifying to admit to myself. I had built a steel wall enforced by eighty-seven other steel walls around my heart after the lowest of low points, but then I began to second-guess that decision. What would I really gain from doing that? Well, I would further push away the person I cared for and while it felt right at the time, I knew all that was waiting for me in the long term was a disappointment in myself for not finding the courage to dig a little deeper. I had to balance my current disposition with what I knew my heart would want in the future. It was a bitch and still now it has taken some serious fucking balls to stick to it, but I’m proud of myself because no matter what happens I won’t look back and regret that I didn’t at least try.
Love is undeniably complicated. It is not full proof and it’s guaranteed to hurt sometimes. But there is a reason that it is so central to basic human stability. We all need it. If you have found it, in its most true and honest form, you’re lucky. True and honest does not mean simple. It does not mean trouble-free or painless. But it does mean it’s special. And special is pretty fucking cool. Right?