Often in romantic relationships, we lose our ground. Because, for lack of a fresher formulation, love defies gravity, man. It engulfs you in its brackish waters and even the salt tastes good. And “losing yourself” sounds like passion, doesn’t it? Sure it does. It sounds like the bittersweet but mostly sweet collapse of you into him. Like that thing movies tell you has to happen if the love is right.
Here’s the other thing, though. He’s fucked up too, babe. You’re both fucked up. We’re all fucked up. Just fucked up people trying to find a little happiness. So for all its romantic whimsy, “losing yourself” isn’t all that sugary.
He doesn’t complete you, because no fucked up fish could. No man or woman—no matter how amply they electrify your space—can make you a fuller person. They can make your life fuller, of course. They can charge your world full of fire and experience and all their commodities. But no two people are made to finish each other. We’re each our own person—not a fragment. Not a crumb. Not a seasoning or gift wrap. Not a concept.
When we make it to December, my boyfriend and I will’ve been doing the damn relationship thing for six months. I love that he’s mine, but I still cringe a little every time I say it: boyfriend. See (hilarious) tweet from two summers ago:
At the time, I would’ve done some whacky shit for a man. A year later, I have one—a real live boyfriend with a pulse and a penis and all the rest. That’s why the word embarrasses me. Because I spent twenty full ass years longing to be a guy’s answer. His missing piece. That perfectly jagged something that would finish his someone.
I wanted to be a fragment. A crumb. A concept. Because I’d never experienced anything that resembled love, and I watch a lot of movies; I was under the popular impression that love completes you. Every fucked up, love starved kid wants to believe there’s a person out there who has the tools to fix them.
While the thought warmed me at night, I know this, now: Ain’t nobody got tools that sharp. For real. Not my boyfriend (yikes), and not yours, either. They make us laugh and keep us warmer and we’re happier, hopefully, with them around. But damn, we can’t be full till we love ourselves as much as the notion of them. Till we recognize that we’re both broken people, yes, but we’re beautiful, too. And neither of us can fill out the other’s flaws with our good.
Love doesn’t mean fixing. Or making whole. Or finishing one another’s sentences because you’re the peanut butter to his jelly.
Before I really had my man—back when we were an us without a label—I was secretly convinced that being his girlfriend would validate me. That it would stock my emptiness. It didn’t. The label secured our relationship, of course. Because we live in a time and place where love and togetherness need names, eventually, to take the their fullest forms. Theoretically, sure, the tag shouldn’t matter. We should be able to experience a person—to love a person—without flagging our arrangement with culturally significant names. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Husband. Wife. Partner.
But that’s not how it works. Names are important. They help us make sense of things. They allow us to signify things to other people, and we need that. Becoming his girlfriend cultivated our relationship—it did. We wouldn’t love each other like we do now if he wasn’t my boyfriend, technically. And maybe that’s shitty. Maybe it’s false. But then, there is no real. There’s no truth divorced from performance—and if there is, we don’t have access to that “reality”—we don’t. So labels are just fine.
I like being his girlfriend—shit, I think I might even love it. I’m hungry for his love, which feeds me and gets bigger every day. What it doesn’t do, though, is validate me. It doesn’t complete me. So in the moments that I sense I might be getting lost in him—the moments our love consumes me—I gotta check myself.
Because here’s the thing: life goes on. It did before he came, and if he ever leaves, it will still go on. With or without him, I’m still me. And without me, he’s still him. Neither of us would be ruined without the other. Or emptied. I don’t think about a Tatiana After Him—I don’t. I don’t think about it because I don’t want to and because right now, we’re together. And because I know that, while our relationship has changed my life, it hasn’t changed me.