Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 26, 2020

Giving myself space in a long term relationship

By SANIYA RAMCHANDANI | February 13, 2020

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COURTESY OF SANIYA RAMCHANDANI

Ramchandani and her boyfriend have been together for over two years.  

This is the weirdest possible time to be in a relationship. We’re adults, but not really. Still kids, but not really. Totally independent, but not really. Mature, but not really.

I started college having promised myself that I would not get in to a relationship until at least the end of freshman year. I was in a somewhat serious relationship for almost two years prior to coming here. Until very recently, I didn’t really feel like I had ever been whole on my own. 

Don’t get me wrong; my first boyfriend was the best first boyfriend a girl could ask for. But we were extremely codependent. Even after we broke up, I found myself incapable of doing very basic things, like studying without him. I finally broke out of that unhealthy mindset the summer before college. I was having the time of my life; I was not about to give that up.

Within about a week of the semester starting, I felt myself breaking my own rules. I met a man with the brightest blue eyes who made a foreign city, 20 hours away from Singapore, feel like home. Within a month and a half, we were on our first date. As we picnicked on the beach in the October chill, we were determined to stay there until one of us was brave enough to lean in for the first kiss. This was the first man ever to actually sit me down and ask me out; it felt exactly like I had imagined it would. 

It has been two years and four months, and Garrett is still my prince charming. He is unfathomably kind, unbelievably polite, sensitive yet strong, gorgeous yet rugged and he is my best friend. And, this time, I’m not half of any whole.

That’s not to say that it’s always been sunshine and daisies; we’ve had our ups and downs. When our relationship began, we were completely intertwined. I felt myself slipping back in to bad habits: wanting to merge every aspect of my life with his, overthinking why he didn’t want to spend every second of every day with me. 

The last thing we wanted was space. We skipped a class, and I remember thinking it was romantic. I was praising every unhealthy thing we did for each other as a sign of commitment and “true love.” It was completely unsustainable and yet neither of us broke out of it for fear of hurting the other.

We have grown a lot since then, and now the dynamic between us is like that between a 40-year old couple. I scrapbook and he reads the sports news, and both of us would rather wake up at 6 a.m. to go see the sunrise at the harbor than shotgun beers at 3 a.m. We share digital calendars so we can find times between our busy schedules for each other. We are far more understanding of our personal space and secure in how we care about each other.

We have learned each other’s love languages. We don’t always get it right, but we’ve learnt to articulate how things make us feel in the moment without letting our emotions run wild. Above all, we actively thank each other for our trust and vulnerability. And that brings me to my confusing conclusion: I’m in a serious, long term relationship, but not really.

We each have two toothbrushes, and Garrett knows where everything is in my apartment. Yet we aren’t living together and that line can get extremely blurry sometimes. We cook, clean, grocery shop and plan our lives around each other. There is no point in any given day where one of us doesn’t know exactly where the other is. Yet we have more space than ever, and we are comfortable with leading entirely separate lives. Maybe that’s partially because we’re both extremely realistic about the future.

We always maintained that we are friends first, and everything else is just a fringe benefit. But recently, it’s been harder to say that and mean it, because I truly cannot picture my life without Garrett in it. And so, we’ve changed our definition a little bit. He is my best friend; I care about him more than I could have ever imagined; and the romance that comes along with our relationship is the greatest bonus I could have asked for. We will always be close friends, regardless of what the future holds. But we don’t want things to change, if we can control them. 

For the first time, I’m not worried about a guy. I know that we’ve built this amazing relationship on the foundations of love and respect and that no matter what, I will always feel safe and loved when I’m with Garrett. We aren’t two halves of a whole, we’re more like peanut butter and jelly; great on their own, better together. Now we’re in a long-term serious relationship, but not really.

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