The last time my boyfriend and I had a big fight, I stormed out of our apartment contemplating The End. As I pushed back tears laced with bitterness, pride, regret, confusion, and anger, I thought long and hard about what moving on would entail—emotionally, psychologically, and even logistically.
I thought about how I would have to collect the pieces of myself and establish an independent existence after more than five years of interlocking my identity with someone else’s. How I would have to change all my passwords and find another, smaller apartment to live in. How I would have to strip my favorite garments and possessions of all the happy couple memories embedded in them, or donate everything to charity. How I would have to start handling all the tiny details essential to getting by as an adult—paying the electric bill, taking out the garbage, figuring out what to eat for dinner—all by myself. How I would have to explain my single status to friends and colleagues, eventually settling on some one- to two- sentence, half true story specifically designed to discourage further questioning.
Since I was dressed in workout clothes when things went wrong that day, I wandered towards the gym, blind to the world outside my mind. As I imagined the ramifications of an impending breakup in more and more painful detail, steeling myself for an entirely different future from the one I’d been envisioning up until then, I ran three miles on the treadmill and at least a million in my head. Afterwards, I stretched out on a mat, but instead of doing sit-ups I stared up at the ceiling, hands resting on stomach, knees bent.
* * *
Fifteen minutes or an hour passed before I spotted his familiar form in the mirrored wall, off to the right by the entrance. His reflection automatically unnerved me. Maybe he’d come to deliver one last biting remark. To let me know that he’d thrown all my stuff out the window and changed the locks. To say goodbye once and for all.
As soon as our eyes met, however, I saw that that wasn’t the case. He was there out of kindness. To say sorry.
That’s when I fell in love with my boyfriend all over again. It didn’t matter how nasty we’d been to each other hours earlier, or who was “right” about anything. It didn’t matter that we could bring out the absolute worst in each other, or that we sometimes pushed each other to the brink of sanity.
Because I remembered.
I remembered how crazy passionate my boyfriend is, and how I admire that about him, even if his fiery energy is sometimes channeled towards attacking me. I remembered that he can be a stubborn prick, but that he’s not any more pigheaded than I am. I remembered that he is diligent and meticulous and charming as hell. That our minds work in completely different ways, which makes understanding each other impossible sometimes, but that our differences are partly to credit for why we’re so good together. I remembered that he is a devoted partner who prioritizes our relationship above all. That I adore the life we’ve built so far.
As my boyfriend made his way over to me, his stride somehow both confident and humbled, his gaze never left mine. We apologized to each other silently until he was at my side.
Squatting, he handed me a note scribbled in Sharpie on a piece of printer paper: “I’m sorry,” it said. “Let’s start over. I love you.”
“I’m sorry, too,” I said.
Then he kissed me.
As he walked away, my heart, mind, and soul bathed in relief. I could finish my workout without churning through unwelcome hypotheticals. My life was back to normal. I felt restored—reassured that I was dating a wonderful man and that we were one of those couples that would actually make it.
* * *
Every single time our relationship is rattled, I somehow end up more in love with my boyfriend than before. During fights, I tend to forget why we’re together. But I always come around to remember. And every single time that I do, I feel more certain about us than ever. It’s happened a bazillion times already, and it will happen again.
Maybe that’s just how true love operates. As two people conquer test after test, choosing forgiveness in the name of staying together, they grow stronger as a unit. I don’t know. All I have is my own experience to share, and my own heart to mine.
I don’t believe in the one, or capital “F” fate. I’m not all that sentimental. But I do believe in love. More than anything, I believe that when you find someone you can fall in love with over and over and over again, that person is worth holding onto. You just have to trust your heart to remind you why.