Last Friday, Boyfriend left for Minneapolis. Originally he was just going to be gone for the weekend, but he accepted a job with the USDA working with farms affected by the avian flu outbreak, which will be awesome experience and resume building… but it means he’ll be off in Midwestern parts unknown for most of the summer. Is it lame that I already miss him? I’ve gotten used to making dinner together (thank you, Pinterest!), running together, and curling up with Netflix together… right as I got used to our “together” rhythm, we have to find a new, “separate” one!
Before I met Boyfriend, I used to think of relationships as a meeting of two halves. Think about it: how often does someone refer to their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner/etc. as their “other half” or as someone who “completes them”? It’s easy to look at our significant others as someone who fills a void of some kind and makes us whole. Being the romantic that I am, I was always in search of that void-filling person, who would somehow make my fragmented existence into a complete one.
When I was nineteen, I experienced my first (and only) true heartbreak. The kind that actually feels like someone has torn out a piece of your insides, and the kind that leaves you feeling just a little bit emptier than you were previously. It was like part of me was ripped away, and I was left trying to figure out how I was supposed to exist as a complete person again once my pieces were left on their own. It’s hard to articulate how physically taxing losing a half of yourself is… I feel bad for my mother, who had a front row seat to the whole ordeal, which may or may not have involved some screaming. I am an articulate person, but screams were the only way I could find to try and let out the implosion I was experiencing.
With that “half” gone, I had to look toward myself for wholeness rather than away. That was the first time I realized that maybe I wasn’t as incomplete as I thought I was. The gap left behind began to suture with some time, and while it generated some scar tissue, I found myself gradually filled with nothing other than myself. I had to learn how to become whole on my own, because the only other option was to remain unfinished– and for a Type A problem-solver like me, unfinished is rarely an option.
The person I dated before Boyfriend made me feel like that fragmented, incomplete person again, and it took me a while to realize why I felt unfulfilled in the relationship. Eventually, I parted ways with a person who ended up truly teaching me a lot about myself… but it wasn’t the right fit. I wanted to be whole, and it seemed like he wanted me more as a half. Once I filled myself back up after losing the person I thought was my half at nineteen, it became difficult for me to look at my relationships as a joining of halves. I felt like there was something “wrong” with me for being confused and unhappy in what was supposed to be the “right” relationship… I underestimated the effects of trying to fit a whole me with a half partner.
When I met Boyfriend, a new relationship was not on my list of priorities. I was experiencing my wholeness on my own, and I found that I enjoyed the complete person I had become, free of any pressures to fragment that self to fit into a “right” relationship box. Needless to say (but I’ll say anyway), meeting Boyfriend changed my plans a little. We fostered a friendship after our tree-climbing meet cute, and I liked him a lot… but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to relinquish my wholeness and take things any further than sporadic texts and the occasional bonfire at my neighbor’s house.
I remember not publishing a blog one Friday in September. We hadn’t spoken in a couple of weeks, but his name popped up on my Facebook screen: “Katlyn, you didn’t write a blog today, is everything okay?” It was then when I discovered he waited for my blog and read it every Friday. So we talked about my writing, and talked about my interests and his interests and life and everything in between, and I knew Boyfriend was more than a cute vet med student to flirt with. Not long after that, Boyfriend became Boyfriend and almost nine months later he’s still my favorite person. For a while, I couldn’t pinpoint what it was about our relationship that didn’t make me restless around the six or seven month mark, but after some mushy heart-to-hearts with my family and friends, I’ve figured it out.
With Boyfriend, I’m still whole. I’m just a whole person with the support of another whole person. Until Boyfriend became Boyfriend, I wasn’t sure it was an option to stay the complete human I had crafted myself into while still making room for another person… but now I have a partner who can stay by my side rather than a half I need to sew to my side. I don’t have the same kinds of insecurities that I had in my other relationships: I don’t freak out if he doesn’t get back to a message right away, because I know he’s probably in the middle of something and he’ll text me back when he’s free. I don’t feel like I need to like every single thing he likes (case in point: poker, semi-conservative politics, and Jurassic Park), because I know we have enough common ground to stand on and enough uncommon ground to keep things interesting.
I don’t feel the same insecurities that I felt when I feared losing half of who I was. I don’t feel the competition of wanting to be the “better” half or the “bigger” half, because Boyfriend treats me like the whole person I am. I think he’s the first man I’ve been with who has told me he’s proud of me when I achieve something I’ve been working toward. For the first time, I’ve been allowed room to grow both independently and hand-in-hand with another person, without fear that my growth would push him away. Most of all, I don’t feel the need to be the “perfect” partner, because Boyfriend allows me to be a human who’s trying her best. He gives me the support and strength I need when I need it most, and I hope that I’m able to give that to him. Boyfriend is my partner, and he is a partner who constantly and wholeheartedly believes in me… as I do in him.
So yes, if I had the choice between a summer apart and a summer together, I would pick together without hesitating. Being away from Boyfriend is already difficult, but I don’t worry for one second about where we stand. I know we’ll both keep growing, because that’s what humans do, and I’m excited to find out all the new things we’ll learn from each other when we finally see each other again. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us, and how we will grow with each other, play with each other, and just enjoy being with each other. Boyfriend does not complete me, but that’s exactly why he’s worth keeping around.
Photo Courtesy of Meiting Photography. Check out her work here!