"I love hanging with you! It's like you don't even have a husband!"
I've been obsessing about these words lately. They were proclaimed by a good friend, who I don't actually hang out with all that often, due to the whole Pacific Ocean divide, but we "hang" on the phone semi-regularly.
Said friend is single and staunchly so. She dates and flirts and conducts "sex-periments" on the fortunate (or not so fortunate) population of Los Angeles. Though there have been times she's confessed to wanting a man in her life, she's pretty content in her single life and the freedoms it affords.
Now, I know what you may be thinking, "Who cares if one confirmed bachelorette says a kinda dummy thing to you?" You're right, I normally wouldn't care, but this isn't the first time a friend has said this to me. You see, I'm the Relationship Friend.
I guess I'm what you'd call a Serial Monogamist. I don't know why I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but I haven't been single for more than a month in 10 years, and now I'm married. It was never a goal of mine to always have a boyfriend, it just happened. At this point, most of my closest friends have never known me without a Man Mascot.
The thing is, many of my closest friends are single, dating or are in relationships much newer and shinier than my dusty old relationship. They are in a much different place, relationship-wise, than I am, and my fear has always been that I will become unrelatable, a relic, the one excluded from the party.
I fully admit it, it's my own doing, I worked myself into a tizzy 10 years ago, and I'm still obsessing today. But because I'm generally a terrible person, I am going to blame Jeremy* as well.
Jeremy* was the first guy I dated in college. My friends liked him, he was a "good guy," he made me laugh, he was older, he was wiser (?), and I broke up with him because he used the N-word (WTF).
My "boyfriend = lame" neural pathways were forged when we spent our first Halloween together. Alone. In my apartment. With a very tiny TV and "Nightmare on Elm Street."
I love Halloween! I live for dressing up as barnyard animals and sexy inanimate objects! I LOVE Halloween parties! But you see, Jeremy did not. Instead of going to Kelly and Megan's Halloween Blowout Bash, he wanted to sit in my apartment with a bottle of wine and watch a horror movie. Just Jeremy, me, and my three-legged cat, Grace.
At the time, I was so excited to have a boyfriend that I just went along with it and said some lie like, "Oh yeah, totally, those parties are all the same. Who cares?"
I watched my best friends get ready for the Halloween party, putting their costumes together, doing their makeup, buying booze and various fun party-time accoutrements. I felt left out, and when I mentioned it to a friend, she shrugged it off and said, "Whatever, you have boyfriend now, don't worry about it."
With those few offhanded words, my unwitting friend ignited a decade-long obsession with being it all: the best friend (always available, always up for everything, always ready to make my friends the center of my universe) and the best gal (my boyfriend's awesome girlfriend).
For a period of time, I wore the "It's like I don't even have a boyfriend!" badge proudly and loudly. Realizing that now, it seems a little pathetic to me. None of my real friends gave me any indication that they preferred Single Louise, but in my head I had convinced myself that it was only because I had never given them a chance to get to know Relationship Louise.
I think I got really good at compartmentalizing. I had two lives. Single Louise flitted around, essentially behaving as a single girl, minus the dating. I stayed out late for days without my boyfriend, I went on trips with gals and gays, I was a really fun plus one for events. Relationship Louise celebrated anniversaries, went to work parties, visited family and had "couple friends." In retrospect, I don't know how any man tolerated dating me.
The breaking point came when my then-boyfriend, now-husband, moved to Japan for a year to teach English and learn Japanese. Once I got over the intense loneliness and feelings of abandonment (I was so lonely that I read "Twilight"), I went out. Every night for a year. I had no one to be accountable to but myself and my cat.
I made some of the best friends of my life that year. People I still love dearly and who have stood loyally by me through good times and bad. But they met me as Single Louise. Could they ever love me as Relationship Louise?
Whenever we were at a diner at 3 am, recounting the nights events, there was always a niggling fear in the back of my head, that voice whispering, "When he gets back, will this end?"
And when he did get back, I was thrilled. The fact that my boyfriend and I made it through a year apart deepened our relationship and cemented the fact that he should be my husband.
But the transition period sucked.
Basically I wanted to be two people. I wanted to be ready and willing to go out at midnight on a Tuesday, and I wanted to have someone to snuggle up in bed with at night. I didn't want my friends to write me off now that I had a BOYFRIEND. I should have given them more credit. They are still here and so is he. I'm a jerk face.
I'd like to say I've found that perfect balance between wife and best friend. I haven't. However I have gotten a lot better at prioritizing and not being so obsessed with pleasing everyone. It's cliche, but it's true -- in trying to make everybody happy, I made nobody happy. Especially myself.
I still struggle with feeling kind of lame now that I'm a WIFE. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm not the "settling down" type, but because I'm also intensely insecure, I'm terrified that the discovery that I'm married will lead people to believe I'm somehow less adventurous, independent or interested in their lives.
Is anybody else out there like this? Does anybody else find themselves keeping two separate lives? Do you have issues with being a significant other?
*Name has been changed to protect the innocent. But if you want to start an Internet rumor that I dated Jeremy Renner 10 years ago, I'm totally OK with that.