It's up to you if the alliteration in the title is worth how sappy and silly it sounds. I almost resent using the phrase "love of my life" because my life isn't even half over yet, and of course we can never know the future. But what I can say in defense of how sappy I am is that he's my best friend, we just moved in together, and I can poop while he's brushing his teeth and neither of us are uncomfortable.
We met in my second year of college, while we were both dating somebody else. His relationship was noticeably on its last legs, and mine was only noticeable to anyone who looked close enough. He was a freshman that I heard about long before I actually met him.
And when I did meet him, we were both pretending we were vampires.
It was actually only my third or so game at the first LARP I ever attended. I knew almost nothing about what LARP (Live Action Role Play) was except for what I'd heard about from naysayers: It's a bunch of weirdos running around in silly costumes, whacking each other with foam swords to take out their aggression about everyday life.
No, that's not true, I found out. I'd been invited to play a game run by a friend of mine called Vampire: The Requiem. You create your character — a modern supernatural creature — and you interact with everybody else in a social environment. No bruises from foam boffers, no pretending you're casting magic missiles; instead, the emphasis is on social interaction and immersion. Socializing is generally easier to focus on when you're in a cocktail dress instead of in armor made out of milk cartons. Note: Boffer LARPs are still fun and cool, just not for me, a girl with bad anxiety and back pain problems.
But back to the sappy romance part.
So I was playing a cloistered librarian vampire with a knowledge-hoarding obsession, and he played an animalistic vagabond with super strength and a hero complex.
We actually barely interacted at first, and that's just something that happens at LARPs. When we did interact, I was kind of impressed by how dedicated to staying in character he was. Every time we talked, we ended up with some kind of heavy philosophical discussion about our respective sad, complicated character backstories. At one point we talked in character for about an hour while we were waiting for the people running the game to arrange a room, and it was one of those scenes — LARPers will understand this well — where it just feels super real.
The months before we ended up dating were strange looking back on them, considering we hardly interacted outside of game, which met every other Sunday in a well-furnished basement room at one of the campus centers. But in character, we knew each other pretty well. It's pretty surreal to interact with someone dependently in your fictional second life, but know almost nothing about them outside of game. When we did eventually start becoming friends in "the real world," it was somewhat minimal, and we suffered the problem a lot of LARPers have: We were scared to talk about anything other than our in-game life. It was our common ground, after all, and we clung to it at first like it was the only common ground we'd ever have.
It took courage to start talking about other things — our favorite movies, music, video games. We'd backtrack to LARP pretty frequently, particularly when we both made new characters that we were excited about.
His relationship ended, and a few months later mine did too. Neither breakup was anything close to clean. Maybe we gravitated toward each other because our bond wasn't founded in the harsh, unsettling reality that loved ones could be cruel and we were ourselves distressingly flawed. Instead, maybe we first associated each other with a more pleasant reality where all drama was enjoyably fictional, and our mistakes only ever gave us depth of character.
While a lot of readers are going to see this and think "relationship founded in an unhealthy distance from reality," I'll clarify that when we first actually started dating, it was during a summer break when the game didn't meet for four months. Our dependence on talking about it was challenged, and we figured out everything else about the other person's life. Eventually we stopped talking LARP altogether for the duration of the summer. I learned that he was a cook, a swimmer, and a gardener. In the summer he walked around barefoot, and because he was a universal blood type he went to every blood drive he could — kind of ironic, with his second life as a vampire, but also very endearing.
I don't need to clarify that of course for the rest of the years we've been together, it hasn't been all about LARP. No relationship founded entirely in a fictional world can really exist in a healthy way for very long — I've seen it, and so has he, and it frankly scared the hell out of us. The last thing we wanted to be was the couple that obsessed over the game and lost touch with each other outside of it, or that didn't really understand each other in reality.
And every now and then we've gotten close to being "the LARP couple." When you have the option of escapism — frequent escapism, every other week — it sometimes pulls you out of reality. When you're in the middle of an event in character, sometimes it's hard to think, "It's just a game." Any LARPer will know what I'm talking about: a thing called "bleed" where you cross the lines between what's a game and what's not.
We've had a stupid fight or two about in-character nonsense, and it's something we're both ashamed of. But it takes time to master the strange mental task of separating two lives and how that fits in with somebody else doing the same thing with you.
But it really was and still is an important fixture of our relationship. Without it, we wouldn't have met, and we wouldn't have gotten to know each other. And years later, after college and in the real world, we still do it. We've gone to a few different LARPs across New York and settled on a lovely game loosely based off of the original system we played in New Jersey.
We always go together, and we always will, kind of like a glorified buddy system, but we're in love and we're both pretending we're vampires. And, really, I believe it's part of the reason we seem to have a strong bond — strong enough that we can talk about our in-game scheming while I'm pooping with the bathroom door open and he's butt-naked playing video games in the next room. I call it ultimate comfort, not being afraid to show any part of ourselves to each other, and I think it's at least partially because we started off LARPing together.
Because how can you be afraid to be seen as weird or creepy when you both met in costumes pretending to be vampires?
The love of LARPing is the focus point of each of our eccentricities; our fixation with imagination and acting and geeky nerd games is part of what makes us who we are individually, and through constantly doing it together, it's a part that bonds us. It's our way of embracing each other at the strangest, most unconventional part of our respective personalities. And when you build a relationship from there, it's just so much easier to understand, accept, and bond.
So maybe the best relationship advice I can give is: "Go LARPing together." Lose your inhibitions and become someone completely different together. Maybe you'll understand each other better when you're not yourselves at all.