The Hell Butterfly

Changing Perspectives: The Relationship

Having been single for 21 years and 3 months my brain percieved the world in a way that I had grown quite accustomed to. I saw things as a single person would, did things a single person would, but most notably I didn’t know how different those things would be were I in a relationship. That is something I am beginning to discover.

Up until four months ago I ate alone, worked alone, played alone and slept alone. I did things when it was convenient for me and didn’t go anywhere I didn’t want to. I only had to make myself happy and, when something went wrong, I only had myself to blame. There is a cerain mindset you find yourself in when you are single, even if you don’t see it at the time. It took me finding a boyfriend to notice subtle changes in the way I saw the world, from the big things to the insignificantly small. And it has also helped me begin to discover things about myself. I would like to think I know myself well. I know my weaknesses, my flaws, the things that make me cry and the things that make me angry. I know my favourite smell. I know what kind of pain I like. I know how to keep myself calm at night when the wind picks up and my phobia of tornadoes makes it hard to sleep. And yet I was not aware of the many things I had yet to discover when I found a man I wanted to be in a relationship with. The day I stopped being single was the day my world opened. And what treasures I have found.

When I watch a film with a couple in it, so really any film on the planet, before I would notice the words, the meaning, the cheesiness of the cutesy couply moments. Now, when I see those scenes it is different. When I am with my boyfriend and watch a scene in which they hold each other tightly, I reach for him and hold him tighter still, smiling. When I am away from him and see a couple holding hands I miss him, just like the Owl City lyric: “The silence isn’t so bad till I look at my hands and feel sad ‘cos the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly”.

Tonight I watched Titanic. Up until today whenever I watched it I cried in all the places it is socially acceptable to cry at: the heartbreaking violin track; the elderly couple; Rose’s death etc. Tonight, I saw one particular scene in a different way. It was not deliberate, more of a feeling that triggered a secondary image. This scene was this: Jack convinces Rose to get on to the lifeboat. He looks her intensely in the eye as his hold breaks from hers and the boat begins to lower toward the water. Then, as she looks up, she locks his gaze and starts to cry. She doesn’t want to leave him, and he doesn’t want to lose her. It is at this exact moment, looking through the camera into Jack’s anguished stare that I see it. It was now not Jack I was looking at, but my boyfriend. It was no longer their relationship being sacrificed for her safety, but mine. And suddenly, for the first time, I got why she jumped. I would have.

Perhaps I am alone in this, but I have always found it difficut to truly imagine the emotional bond with a partner. Having never experienced the simple joy of lying by my boyfriends side as I played with his fingers and he stroked my hair, or having felt the undeniable urge to smile when he gives me the look he uses only for me, the bodily feeling of a relationship was utterly lost on me. I had learned to live alone, glean comfort from the cuddles of a stuffed animal and I had taught myself how to be happy on my own. Take these two years at university. So I didn’t have any friends, didn’t leave my room and couldn’t see my family. That was okay. I enjoyed being alone. I could watch what I wanted, be as quiet as I liked without the awkwardness of people wanting me to make conversation I simply could not, and I could cry at whatever point it felt necessary. I could draw a blade across my ankle when I was emotionally empty and I could ‘Dad dance’ at 2am to Blondie having gotten a little tipsy drinking by myself. At that point I felt I could be completely myself. Little did I know then, that was only part of the real me, and quite frankly it was often only the darker side of myself.

It took getting a boyfriend to realise that, while I enjoy my time alone, I am still human enough to crave human contact every once in a while. I have learned that I am willing to go out of my way, even if it means going outside, to socialise, even if it is only with him. I have discovered that somebody saying my name during sex is surprisingly creepy. I have learned I like marshmellows in hot chocolate. I have realised it is okay to ask for help on the bad days, but more importantly that it is okay to have bad days.

I have gained a friend, a confidant, a mentor and a great kisser, and he is my boyfriend. Our four-month-iversary is in four days and, while I am not going to be celebrating by sending flowers and chocolate, it is a significant step in both my life and his. It marks a physical achievement in our relationship, and serves to remind me of what I have gained. It is also a reminder that, while I know myself better than maybe other people know themselves, there are still plenty of things I may have left to learn.

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