I bring up my ex, Brandon, and how “different” Matt is quite often. My immediate reaction is to apologize.
It’s not fair to compare the two. Brandon was younger. He was less mature. Most importantly, he had less experience with life.
The only heartbreak Brandon had ever known was saying goodbye to his kid sister at the end of a visit. His biggest accomplishment was his high school diploma. His life goal was a steady 9-5 with a desk and a window.
None of this was bad. None of it was wrong, or unacceptable. It just wasn’t good enough for me.
When I was still engaged to Brandon, I had a moment. I realized that there was a language that some couples spoke that I hadn’t learned.
I fluently spoke mediocre-relationship. I was good at passive-aggressively defending my desire for a specific restaurant. I was excellent at coercing him to run with me. I could teach a college course on navigating sub-par conversations and I aced the final in wrapping up one’s self-worth in the happiness of someone else. I’d settled for not feeling wanted. I’d grown great at pretending to be in a healthy, loving, and balanced relationship.
He was content with our static life. It pleased him. It was good enough for him.
The carpet underfoot would crunch with ramen noodles when I came home from a weekend away. It would never cross his mind to vacuum. It wasn’t on his radar.
His laundry would pile up and I would surprise him by washing it and putting it away, only for him to complain that it was on the wrong shelf.
His hand never found its way into mine. We would hold hands when I reached for his, but never a second sooner.
His idea of cooking dinner for me after a long day was unwrapping the plastic on a frozen pizza and pre-heating the oven.
I didn’t realize what I was missing until I saw another couple communicating in a completely different language than the one that I was using.
Once I saw that something else existed, I knew I couldn’t stay any longer. I was tired of us speaking past each other.
When I met Matt, I knew immediately that he and I communicated in a language that I’d never spoken.
When I talk, I know Matt is listening. Not because I’ve asked him a hundred times explicitly, but because I know that he wants to hear what I have to say.
When it started to snow last night and Matt noticed first, he pointed out the window to show me. When I looked back at him, with a big grin on my face, he was looking at me. He was deriving joy from my joy. He looks forward to snow just to see my goofy grin.
When we climb together, there’s no sense of competition. I never felt embarrassed when I couldn’t reach the top. He only showed encouragement and love.
When we’re deciding what’s for dinner, or what movie to watch, or whose family to visit when… It never turns to an argument. We continue a constant discussion: How important is it to you? Neither of us is disappointed to concede to the other.
It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s based on mutual respect.
My comparisons between Brandon and Matt aren’t meant to be malicious. They aren’t meant to highlight anyone’s faults. The language that Brandon and I spoke was the only one I’d ever really known. And as I learn what is to be in a relationship with Matt, I can’t help but think back to how much different my life was and could have been.