When we first got together, Doug and I used to swear that our relationship would exist in a perpetual honeymoon period – no comfortable thaw for us, not ever. There would always be butterflies, and sparks, and chemistry, and countless other romantic clichés. Doug even told me once, in spite of my dislike for wedding talk, that when we got married, his vows to me would be just five words long: “It will never go away.”
And of course, I did everything I could to ensure that it would never go away. I tried to think of the things that had killed the romance in my last relationship, and I set rules. No peeing in front of each other. No baby talk. Above all, no trying to proposition me using baby talk.
And whether separate toilettes and grown-up voices really are the answer to keeping mystery and romance in a relationship, or whether Doug was just a better romantic match for me than my ex-husband in general, it worked. For the first year we spent in each other’s company, we managed to strike a balance between knowing everything about each other and still being able to surprise each other. And so, when I surprised us both with a positive pregnancy test, and we both took the news in a disbelieving, elated sort of stride, it really did seem like it – the x-factor, the je ne sais quoi – was never going away.
And then I lost my pregnancy, and everything changed. And we seemed to lose it, and I struggled with the reality that our relationship had had a temporary honeymoon period after all. We still don’t pee in front of each other, but we do occasionally talk in small voices now; it’s a habit that forms when one person needs so badly to be taken care of that everything, including conversation, starts to wear kid gloves. And it’s a tough habit to break, once you’re in it.
I also believe that, at that time, we lost our edge on knowing everything about each other. Grief turns a partner into a mystery: I became over-emotional, unpredictable, and moody; Doug put up walls and hid most of his emotions, in an effort to protect me. The romantic surprises never stopped, but they did lose some of their glimmer in the shadows of our devastation.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this, as it’s pretty fucking depressing. Well, Doug and I went to Disneyland with some of his relatives yesterday, and I was reminded again of our very first Disneyland trip, almost exactly three years ago now. But this time, I wasn’t just remembering sadly/fondly how wonderful and romantic that first trip had been. Because yesterday, I got glimpses of those same feelings: we stopped to kiss in line; we held hands as we gazed, mesmerized, at the fireworks and the Christmas lights on Sleeping Beauty’s castle; I lamented one of Doug’s cousins having broken up with her boyfriend by saying, “But Kyle really seemed like he belonged in this family!”, as though I myself were part of the family in question.
So I started thinking, maybe it didn’t go away. Maybe it went into hibernation and is starting to wake up. Maybe there is such a thing as an eternally romantic relationship after all, and I’m in one, after all. The prospect delights me.
Then today, Doug got off work five hours before I did. I expected, knowing he read my post about Christmas spirit, that when I got home, there would be carols playing, and maybe lights on the porch. He’d also hung up the wreath he’s been making for our front door. So when I came home and found all those things, I was pleased, gratified, but not particularly surprised – after all, he was only following orders.
What I was not prepared for, however, was this:
He built me a fireplace.
And I am in love.