Being in a relationship at eighteen can be awkward.
Younger kids think your relationship is an ideal, adults think it's foolish. You're old enough to start thinking about things you may want in the distant future (yikes!), but not nearly old enough to know what you want to be doing a year from now. For many people, and often for myself, this makes being in a relationship and being in love (whatever that means) confusing, difficult, and wonderful. All at the same time.
This coming Monday marks my two year anniversary with Nathaniel, and as I try to decide how I want to celebrate, I've been putting a lot of thought into relationships in general. Why we're in them, when we know we're in the right one, and what we're supposed to get out of them. No shortage of tough questions. But as a debater (own up to your own nerdiness, right?), I'm a sucker for tough questions.
In debate there is a silly argument called a kritik that questions the "underlying assumptions" of proposing a policy action. These kritiks (yes, the spelling is ridiculous and German) beg the question of not just whether something is a good idea in execution, but in justification. Think marriage for love v. marriage for money: the action is the same, but the justifications and the reasons behind it shape everything about the action. Kritiks deal with this notion.
When reading a kritik, it is typical to read an "alternative," a counter-proposal that hypothetically could resolve the assumptive issues of the original policy proposal. However, in some debates, when asked what that alternative is, debaters will say that trying to pin it down, identify, and know it is the exact problem. Essentially, we have to embrace a level of insecurity and unknowing in order to fully resolve the original issue of how our knowledge production, our justifications, or our representations of the world may be bad.
While kritiks my be complete nonsense, and the idea that trying to know the outcome of an action is inherently bad may be just be more nonsense, I've recently begun to think that maybe it's not always nonsense. And especially not in relationships.
People ask me all the time what I "want to get out of" my relationship with Nate. I guess this is a fair question: why commit so much time and effort to something like a relationship if you're not going to get something out of it?
I love Nate. I love being around him, and I love the way I feel about myself when we're together. I feel more confident, more valuable, and more capable of achieving my goals when we're together, and he always empowers and encourages me to be my best. He's understanding when I need to be understood, but tough when I need tough love. He doesn't just break and do whatever I want, and he always wants what is best for me.
But these aren't things that I think I "get out of my relationship." They're just daily blessings I am fortunate enough to have that sometimes come at a cost. Nate and I fight, and hate each other, and ignore each other, and are cruel, immature, and ignorant sometimes. But we love each other, and at the end of the day, I just can't imagine having to get through the day without him anymore.
I've been in this relationship for two years, and people have started to ask me what I want in the long term. Two years is (apparently) a very long time, so does that mean that Nate and I are going to be together for a lot longer? Does that mean I want that? Do I want that SOON?
I'm not sure I have to or want to know the answer to all these questions. I'm insecure, and unsure, and uncertain about a lot of things in my relationship. But those insecurities and uncertainties are part of what allow Nate and I to love each other as fully as we do and be as happy as we are.
After two years, all I know is that I'm happy, he's happy, and these have been two of the best years of my life.