Long term relationships can suck. Even the great ones have one problem: you have to care about someone else. That’s hard. You can’t just care about them when you feel like it, or when you’re having a good week. You have to do it all the time. Did you have a shitty day at work? Do you just want to veg-out in front of Netflix and ignore the world for a night? Too bad. You can’t do that anymore. The best you can hope for? Talking to your spouse and convincing them to watch your favorite show with you. You’ve got to fake some level of happiness. On the flip side, your spouse might come home pissed off, or just feel tired or worn out for no reason. That’s even worse. You wonder if it has anything to do with you, and you try all night to make them happy. They smile warily and say, “Thanks, honey. I’m just worn out.”
I’ve enjoyed my guy for about two years now. But we’ve reached the point where we reminisce about the single life. Well, at least I do. Look, I know in the end I’m happier in a relationship. Referring to my spouse at work makes me feel like a true adult. I can have sex pretty much anytime I want. I never have to go to the movies alone. On the other hand, sometimes I miss going to the movies alone. Here are some other things I miss about those stretches where I was single, or only casually dating:
- Coming home to an empty apartment. I’m an introvert with Asperger’s. You can imagine the relief that floods over me when that front door shuts, and I’m totally alone. For a long time, I lived in a pretty austere apartment with nothing but a huge desk, plastic file bins, book shelves, and a coffee maker. I had a sparse collection of dishes and silverware. Everything had a semi-lived in, museum quality. I loved it. No mess. My apartment was basically a library with a bed. I could let my guard down. I could sit and play with my phone, or surf the web, or read without fear of ignoring anyone. It was great for writing and studying. Nowadays, I have to push past my boyfriend’s shit to get anywhere. And sharing a kitchen? Sometimes I want to strangle him with the doilies his mom sent us.
- A whole bed to myself. Seriously, my spouse is a restless sleeper. Even when his sleep app tells him he’s doing great, he rolls over and sighs a lot. Breathes heavy. Shuffles the covers. Fucker. I’m a light sleeper. The slightest sound or movement jolts me awake. Most nights, I have to drink a little and take a pre-sleep on the couch, then climb into bed later. It’s almost physically impossible for me to fall asleep next to another human being. Good news? I’m not alone. Studies have found that almost a third of couples sleep separately. Some of my friends joke about how much they love conferences. “I got a king-size bed, just for me!”
- Binge-watching my favorite shows. My spouse and I like a lot of the same stuff. Sometimes, I like a show more than he does and want to keep watching it. I don’t. Why? Because he wants to experience them together. It sucks. If it weren’t for him, I could’ve finished season II of Gotham in five days tops.
- Long walks alone. When you’re single, that seems totally normal. But when you’re in a serious relationship, it looks weird. Long walks used to be a great way to clear my head of baggage and negativity. Now I just stay up too late and blog every night.
- Flirting. Probably the thing I miss the most. I’ll always sort of reminisce over the thrill of meeting a new person and wondering what would happen next. Imagine I’m at a casual dinner and a guy says, “You’ve got such lovely hair. Can I touch it?” He’s a cute guy. I’d love him to touch my hair. But nope. That’s a mistake these days. So how do I steer around that? I have to say, “I’m dating.” He blushes and nods. “Okay,” he says. “Sorry.” Puts his hands in his lap like a scolded child. Such a shame. Another example? Let’s imagine I’m at a conference in Boston, and I go to a pub with a bunch of professors and graduate students. There’s this one guy there that looks like Chris Hemsworth, the kind of guy you wouldn’t expect to see at an academic function. He’s wearing a nice suit, too! He keeps looking at me while I chat with friends. He walks up and introduces himself, chats with our group but directs most of his remarks at me. He asks what time my flight leaves tomorrow. My face starts to warm up. But, alas, I’m dating someone. So I answer his question but casually drop a boyfriend reference. I hate doing that. Was I leading him on? Not really. It’s his fault for being so goddamned charming & attractive.
You might be getting the wrong vibe right now. You might be thinking, “Jesus. This girl must really hate her boyfriend.” Not so. Trust me, if I did then we’d split. I’m just joking about about relationships because people should understand: love isn’t always passionate or rosy. You don’t always feel the silky swirl of love. It’s what you do in those moments that defines your relationship. Temptation still happens. You still sometimes wish you could be alone. Your life doesn’t magically turn perfect when you meet the right guy. Relationships require work. If you want a nice clean romance, you have to do your chores. Those chores can suck, but they pay off in the end.