When I was little I wasn’t all that into Prince Charming. I didn’t really think much about whether I would eventually find the perfect guy. When I fantasized about the future it was children I saw. I assumed I’d have them with someone I loved but I didn’t think much about what that person might be like. I just really didn’t contemplate marriage all that much.
I didn’t date much in high school or college, and when I say ‘much’ I mean at all. My current partner is my first and only partner; somehow I ended committing to the first man I ever fell in love with. That wasn’t necessarily my intent when I set out in life, but it happened that way.
I am not my husband’s first partner; I feel like I should know the exact number of people he’s been with because I’ve certainly asked him enough times. As someone who has never been with anyone else I find his romantic history fascinating. Looking back into my own amorous past involves only my partner, before him there is just a nebulous void dotted with beloved romantic comedies and the occasional unrequited crush. It’s unfathomable to me that he looks back into his own history and can recall people and emotions that I know nothing about. It’s not that his past relationships bother me, it’s just strange to me that he has them when I do not.
I often speculate whether my lack of relationship-practice puts me at an unintended deficit when it comes to our own relationship. Do I have higher (or lower) expectations than I would if I’d been in relationship before? Do I question the natural growing pains of our relationship more because I don’t recognize them for what they are? Do I worry more if recurrent issues signal the beginning of the end because I’ve never actually witnessed the end of a relationship myself? Do I wonder more if he really is the one, because I’ve never had another? If there even is such a thing as ‘the one’?
I wonder a lot about true love and soul mates. I must admit, I question their existence. There are just so many people out there, I doubt anyone is truly perfect matches for someone else. Of course some couples seem to fit more seamlessly than others but I my guess is everyone has to work at it. Long term relationships are difficult. They require a surprising amount of work. Still I sometimes wonder, does everyone have to work so hard for their relationship to thrive?
For the longest time I didn’t understand what that meant, that marriage was hard work. While I never assumed marriage was easy, certainly it couldn’t really be considered work. Five and half years, and a two year old daughter later, I could write a thesis on the work required to maintain a long term, committed relationship. Like all living things one hopes will grow and thrive, marriages need to be tended. Love is not enough, a relationship must be nurtured and looked after, it requires constant maintenance lest it fall into disrepair. Sometimes it can even feel like a chore. It’s something I never could have understood until living it.
So many things are like that, incomprehensible until experienced ourselves. Just like I will never understand what it’s like to look back on a past infatuation through the lens of my current love–I will always wonder how my lack of relationships affects my current commitment. I will always wonder if a past love would make me more sure about the current one. In the absence of ever glimpsing what it would be like to have loved another, I can only grill my poor partner about his own experience, and glean what little I can from the myriad vapid romantic comedies available. Somehow I doubt either will ever satisfy my curiosity.
Do you believe in true love? Do your past relationships give you confidence in your current relationship?