I’ve been with my partner for longer than I haven’t.
I’m 35 years old. So as quick math will tell you, I married the first person I fell for.
When we met, in high school, I wasn’t pursuing a husband who would smother my kids with kisses and boil orecchiette to al dente perfection—I just wanted to attend prom with a hot dude. He fit into a laundry list of cutie blonde crushes with gelled hair and frosted tips. At my uniformed Catholic high school, you had to brand your personal style through your beauty routine: Mine was M.A.C Lipglass Clear and flat-ironed hair; his was a Caesar haircut and two diamond piercings in his ears. His name was Dave. And he was DREAMY.
But when I started to fall for him, there was a part of me that loved the idea of locking someone in and being with them forever—even back then. I pictured beach holidays, chubby diapered babies and Christmas mornings exchanging velvet boxes. I had one particular fantasy in which we went on a date at the CN Tower and I wore a pastel baby blue spaghetti strap slip dress (the one that got away). While my friends collected boyfriends like key chains (it was a THING in the early aughts), I pined over a six-foot blonde draped in a cherry-red leather varsity jacket who smoked Players behind the math portables.
Once I entered university, we were locked into our relationship. During that time, I never felt the temptation to date around—I also didn’t live on campus. I was in a highly competitive and condensed journalism program, so I placed more emphasis on crushing the competition than banging them. I remember one conversation on campus I had with a close friend whose opinion I highly respected. When I told her about how long I had been with my Dave, I winced a little, bracing myself for her response—but instead of recoiling with judgment, she softened her voice, tilted her head, and told me how sweet she thought it was. It was the validation I didn’t know I needed.
But I’ve certainly felt the sting of a judgmental eye roll, the condescending lilt when someone says, “Squeeeeee, high-school sweethearts!” and been pelted with comments such as “You’re missing out,” “You’ll regret it when you’re older,” etc., etc. On the flip side, when we married, years later, we had been together for 12 years, and many people acted shocked that we had waited “that long”—but we were only 28!
Though none of these interactions were enough to leave enough of a memorable mark for me to remember in detail. And truthfully, the more birthday candles I blow out, the less I care about the opinion of others when it comes to many things, but in particular, this sacred part of my life. What rattled me in my 20s barely enters my consciousness in my 30s.
I don’t particularly feel like I’m missing out, except for when friends are swapping torrid tales of exes (with a moon in Gemini, I’m curious and enthralled with gossip). Our courtship was devoid of nude snaps, so I regret that I won’t have an edited library of risqué pics to share with my granddaughter—le sigh. But alternatively, with the prevalence of our current swipe-right culture, I find myself feeling overcome with gratitude that our relationship wasn’t fractured with awful behaviours like ghosting or being left on read—we were only just learning how to work our black and white Nokia flip phones.
At this point, so many of our holidays, birthdays and memories are threaded together. When I need to source a memory, I just tap his tattooed shoulder, and my human iCloud fills me in. We have some overlap in our friend group, but we are by no means embedded into a central group that has consistent hangouts—we have completely different circles of employment and preferred personal schedules (I love a pre-dawn wake-up; he would live vampiric if he could), so I never feel like my life is entirely attached to his. Despite sharing the intense responsibility of keeping our little humans alive, I will always honour his ability to live his own life, do his own thing and to carve his own time—as he has always done for me.
But of course, being young and in a long-term relationship isn’t always “a bag of rainbows”—a real hilarious zinger that he lauded my way during an argument, referring to my stormy mood. There are zero opportunities to compare this relationship to your last, to get a sense of when you should exit the relationship—because you never left the last one. And it’s not like I never think about those boys I dated in less serious ways, or creep their social media—I have a beating heart, after all. In my case, it just comes down to a level of comfort, satisfaction and warmth—like a perfectly fried egg over crispy rice (something he’s quite good making, actually). And knowing that this is the right relationship for me? It’s definitely led by the gut, but co-signed by the heart.
Much like the memories I have of orchestrating the precise time of day to walk past him by the portables when my lipgloss was fresh and my hair was perfectly pressed, I still seek opportunities to impress him, to delight him, to make him smile. Because the joy he has brought to my life is unmatched to any other feeling. It’s in a league of love, respect and kindness that I’ve been so fortunate to know, despite knowing no real alternative. And maybe one day, we’ll toast to all of it, 553 metres in the sky, from the glorious CN Tower in downtown Toronto, looking back at how far (and high) we’ve come.