Exactly How Love Changes Over Time, By The Year, According To My 4-Year Relationship

I met Jesse at a bar in the winter of 2010. I then spent months acting out the cycle I had honed in my years on the post-collegiate dating scene: crushing on him, Facebook stalking him, engineering dumbly transparent excuses to bump into him, and finally, sleeping with him after a raucous night of birthday drinking. Soon after, we started officially dating.

I was crazy about Jesse, crazier than I'd ever felt about anyone, but I still braced for things to play out the same way they had every time I'd dated a guy in my 20s: six months of being totally blissed out; six months of fighting; receiving a "surprise" dumping someplace very inconvenient (birthday party, airplane, cousin's bat mitzvah); and sometimes, going through the whole cycle all over again. I didn't like it, but I thought that was how things worked in my life, and I fully expected to be back on the market, a little bit wiser and warier, within the year.

But instead, we just kept... staying together. Now, four and a half years later, I would say that Jesse is my life partner, the person I trust most in this world, my partner-in-crime, and all the other gross shit that long-term couples are always saying.

But cliché long-term couples are made, not born. All the stuff that adds up to a long-term relationship — the trust, the love, the shocking ease with which you fart in front of each other — builds up through the years. 

Here are all the things that changed as my infatuated one-night stand turned into a serious relationship.

AFTER ONE YEAR OF DATING:

I started FARTing IN FRONT OF him

As someone who took enormous pride in having never slipped a single toot in front of a gentleman caller, this one was hard for me. But at a certain point, we were spending so much time together that running to the bathroom every time I felt gassy started to seem not only absurd, but pointless — he knew what was going on in there as well as I did. 

I had always imagined that farting in front of a boyfriend was the beginning of the end — wouldn't it inevitably be followed by peeing with the door open, and then only having sex once a month? But I slowly realized that holding in your farts literally makes you uptight to be around. Yes, that's right: I did it for us.

I STOPPED BEING OBSESSED WITH LOOKING good AROUND HIM

I never used to let my boyfriends see me when I was really sick. I let them see me when I was "pretty sick," which usually meant I had a light cold, and looked like Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. I also hated to be seen without eyeliner, or in sweatpants, or during the "peeling" phase of a sunburn. I just thought that no man could take a look at unadorned me and possibly want to stay. 

But after a year of dating Jesse, I came down with a stomach virus so foul that all I did for three days was sweat, moan, and vomit. Jesse came over and nursed me through the whole thing, and once I was lucid again, I was horrified over the idea of him having seen me that way — not just physically unattractive, but totally vulnerable. But it didn't put him off. In fact, it made us even closer.

AFTER TWO YEARS OF DATING:

I STOPPED WAITING FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP

Long after Jesse and I told each other that we loved each other, I was still waiting for him to leave me. I'd been in love with guys who'd said they loved me before, and those relationships had still ended with the guy suddenly pulling up stakes and moving on for nebulous reasons. 

But some time into our second year, I stopped being on guard for these secret break-up twitchings. I began to realize that if we broke up now, I would see it coming from a mile away — because it wouldn't be about someone suddenly freaking out and wanting to be free. We were closely bonded enough that a break-up would be the result of ignoring a problem that we were both aware of until it became unfixable.

OUR DISPLAYS OF PUBLIC AFFECTION BECAME LESS INTENSE

You know how you can always spot a new couple by the way they're constantly all over each other, even when they're someplace super inappropriate, like a library, or a tax audit, or an intervention? It's true that those kinds of over-the-top PDA moments become less frequent as your relationship goes on, but it's not because you like each other less, or find each other less sexy. You just get better at keeping it in your pants. And let's be honest: Holding hands for an entire movie is actually really annoying, cuts off your circulation, and interferes with mouth-popcorn interfacing.

AFTER THREE YEARS OF DATING:

WE BECAME COMFORTABLE ASKING EACH OTHER FOR A LITTLE SPACE

When Jesse and I first got together, every second I spent away from him felt like a punch in the face. I was perfectly happy dropping all my friends, hobbies, and regular sleep patterns if it meant more time with him. 

We had fallen into a pattern of spending every free second together, even if we honestly would have preferred to be doing something else with someone else. I was afraid that asking for space or free time to hang with my friends would make Jesse feel like he wasn't a priority. But after three years, it turned out that Jesse wanted space, too, and had been afraid of hurting my feelings. And with that space, our day-to-day lives, and our time together, became way better.

WE REALIZED THAT DOMESTIC BLISS IS A SHAM

When we moved in together shortly after our third anniversary, things hit a crisis point: I felt like I should be "domestic" and spend a lot of time cooking and repainting our ugly-ass dinner table and engaging in other Pinterest-worthy activities. But I was also going nuts trapped in our apartment all weekend, trying to be "domestic," while secretly obsessing over the parties my single friends were hitting without me. 

Things finally clicked once I realized that we were still the same people we'd always been, and that we didn't have to change just because our relationship had changed. I was able to be a much better girlfriend (and roommate) once I accepted that I would always just be someone who liked parties more than ugly-ass dinner tables.

AFTER FOUR YEARS OF DATING:

WE FIGURED OUT THAT ALL OF OUR FIGHTS ARE ABOUT THE SAME THING

After years of periodic arguments about everything from international politics to clashing bathroom towel hanging techniques, we both finally realized that our fights are all actually about our clashing communication styles. That realization hasn't completely eliminated fights in our lives (I am still trying to figure out how to be more chill about bathroom linen protocol), but it has changed the way they make me feel. Now, our fights motivate me to try to become more relaxed and non-judgmental as a communicator. 

WE'RE actually planning for the future

Jesse and I started talking dreamily about long-term plans very early in our relationship, just like a lot of love-struck couples do. But only recently have we actually started making seriously mundane long-term plans together — from saving up money for vacations years in the future, to figuring out joint health insurance. I had always imagined that the very dramatic-seeming long term plans, like buying a house or planning a wedding, were the only ways that partners really committed to a future together. But I'm finding that commitment is actually something you do every day, simply by always picturing your boring, regular, real life with them in it. 

Ewww, cheesy! I know, I know. Please accept my apologies, and this hand-decorated barf bag I made during our Couples Crafternoon.

[Embed]

Images: Gabrielle Moss, Giphy (8), Uproxx 

Must Reads