"It" Couple Trouble
"Oh God, they’re all looking at me."
This was the only thought I remember having on the football field of my high school, as I turned away from the crowded bleachers to walk up to the stage where my girlfriend and I would be crowned Homecoming Queens.
It wasn’t the first time I had the thought; in fact, this sentence pretty consistently ran through my mind throughout my relationship with my high school girlfriend. This occurred for a few reasons: we were both girls and we ended up dating for almost two years. Both of these things were quite a rarity when it came to our high school’s dating scene. Because of all this, we became sweethearts of the school. We won Homecoming Queens, we were runner-ups for Prom Queens, and we were described as a “power couple” of our grade. In everybody’s eyes we were completely defined by each other, a matching set, an example of what true love really looked like.
Every time someone looked me in the eyes and said, “You guys make me believe in love,” I smiled and laughed automatically, like I was acting out a part in a play I had rehearsed so well. What I really wanted to do was shake them and tell them how I planned on breaking up with her before we went to college and I moved away. I wanted to tell them that I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I wanted to tell them about the breakdowns and fights my girlfriend and I had, and how I was so afraid that she was going to tell me she loved me because I wasn’t sure if I could say it back yet. I wanted to tell them that I didn’t know what love was, or if I was even in it. Instead, the words died before they even got to my throat, overridden by the part of me that insisted, “They’re right, they're right! You guys are perfect! If you don’t think you’re perfect, then something’s wrong with you, not the relationship. You should be grateful.”
I was grateful. We were lucky; as first serious relationships go, ours was generally positive and healthy. But the two of us were blowing up at the seams in our personal lives. We were teenagers growing into ourselves, dealing with the stress of school, friends, family, mental health, and our budding romance with each other. We were a good match sometimes and we supported each other constantly, but no relationship is ever perfect. There are always things that go wrong, parts about the other person that just rub you the wrong way, and problems that arise. It felt like everyone around me—my girlfriend included—wanted to erase the bad parts because they weren’t romantic enough.
It felt like my voice went unheard, lost in a sea of people who were endlessly trying to convince me just how perfect and ideal my relationship really was. It didn’t end up making my relationship perfect. All it ended up doing was make me feel like I had to keep everything inside until it became a pressure building up slowly in my chest, ready to burst. It made me resentful, but most of all, it made me lonely.
By the time we turned eighteen and college was on the horizon, I was exhausted. I watched people cry when I told them we were going to break up. I went to family gatherings and all they ever asked me about was my relationship, telling me how perfect we were, how perfect she was, how lucky we were. I smiled and agreed, automatically. My mother asked me if I wanted to display my Homecoming crown and sash somewhere in my room and I laughed.
A few months ago, I was eating dinner with my friends, one of whom was in a long-term relationship. We were on the topic of love and boyfriends, and across the table, our other friend turned to her and sighed wistfully before she said, “You guys make me believe in love.” I felt my chest burst with pressure in the way it had always done when those words had been directed at me. Then I watched my friend, pause, smile wide, and laugh before she replied, “Aw, thank you!” They broke up a day later.
Remember to be okay when your love isn’t always like a fairytale. Remember that it’s okay to admit when things make you feel uncomfortable. Most of all, talk to your significant other about how you feel, from the great things about the relationship to the worst of the worst. These conversations are hard to have and they might be scary to initiate, but a good relationship is based upon mutual love and trust. Admitting that things are hard or not how you thought they would be should not break these things, and if it does, maybe this relationship isn’t right for either of you at the moment. Remember that’s okay, too.
Photography by: Nick Chambers