2009-2014… the current duration of my relationship with my bff/fiance/Marine/dude.
During my freshman year, I had to take a 3 quarter class called DOC (I forget what the “D” and “O” were, but “C” was for “culture”) and my fave teaching assistant for 2 of the quarters was pretty cool. I’ll always remember the one day she came in irritated and depressed. My suitemate and I asked her what was wrong, and she told us her boyfriend of 7 years broke up with her. SEVEN YEARS!
We were stunned when she told us and tried to offer whatever comfort our 19 year old selves could dish up. But what could we say?! She was around my age now, 27-29, and to us, 7 years was basically a decade/eternity.
Two things haunted me:
-How do you invest such a huge chunk of your life and not know who he/she is within the first few years?
-How long does it take to really get to know someone?
Since then I’ve experienced the highs and lows of being in both long-term and super short-term relationships. Before I met the guy I promised to be with until death do us part, I thought I had Relationships 101 figured out. Be honest, acknowledge when you’re wrong, and do what is right for you.
Well, there’s more to it than just a 3-part mantra. 5 years of anything will eventually get you out of your comfort zone and show you there are NEW experiences and emotions to encounter. Unpredictable situations that have no black & white solution.
Our relationship still surprises me after 5 years. I thought we were destined for this exciting if not unpredictable life in the Marine Corps. It took me a year to embrace it, and once I did I was in love with it. In those first 4 years of our relationship, I thought I knew who he was and who I was. The 5th year hit, and things changed.
A lifetime career in the Marine Corps was now off the table, and we were in foreign waters together. My “do what is right for you” rule SO does not apply in this situation. I know it seems incredibly selfish, but when you’ve been doing the same thing for 5 years and you’re told it’s no longer an option, your first instinct is to lash out and try to hold onto it for a little longer or find fault in the messenger. It took me a moment to get out of my selfish bubble and see the same scenario through his eyes. I am ashamed it took me so long, and I would’ve never guessed that would be my response, but it goes back to my first question: how do you invest so much time and not know who he is and who YOU are?
So, how long does it take to get to know someone? Lifetime movies tell us never: “Guess what? Your lover is the Craigslist Killer that’s eluded the FBI for 10 years! Didn’t see that coming when you married him 6 years ago, huh?” For my TA, it took 7 years. What I’m slowly learning is that it’s not about being able to compartmentalize the person you’re with, but figuring out what it means to be with someone. After 5 years, I have a pretty good picture of who he is, but I will never be able to say I know who he is because that part about him will change again in 5 years. As will I.