If the story of my relationship with Dan was a movie, it would be one of those RomComs starring Sandra Bullock where she and her equally cartoonish male companion spend the entire movie fucking up their relationship and then end up happily ever after. Generally, this is a terrible set up for a successful, long-term relationship but it seems to be working for Sandra, at least through the credits. It’s also apparently worked for me, at least for the past six years.
We met in 2005 and got off to a fairly terrible start. We were both homeless at the time. Not the sorta homeless where you panhandle and sleep on the street, but that privileged homelessness where you rotate through friends’ and fuck buddies’ couches while attempting to locate an apartment not infested by cockroaches in a college town. We began dating – and he broke up with me. Via instant messenger. I use this as my trump card when he attempts to address my shortcomings: “So what if I didn’t recap the milk and it spilled all over the floor? You dumped me over AIM.” I headed off to Ireland to work on a civil society project and he headed off to the Netherlands for an internship. When we returned to the US, we dated for a few months and then thought it would be a great idea to move in together. And adopt a dog.
Needless to say, we had a whole host of issues, not the least of which was me lacking any ability to be monogamous. This can be verified by asking any person I dated before Dan. For me, the relationship and the monogamy had become untenable and I wanted out. Dan countered with an offer to have an “open relationship.” Frankly, I only agreed because we had several months left on our lease and I wanted a way to make those months bearable. This, folks, is not a good reason to open a relationship.
We already lacked the ability to communicate effectively. We set no ground rules. I committed a cardinal sin almost immediately by not telling Dan that I had actually had sex with someone else. When I casually mentioned it a few weeks later, he was rightfully pissed. It occurred to us that perhaps discussing our expectations and desires for our relationship might be a good idea. Dan slept with a girl in our social circle and I promptly lost my goddamn mind. It then occurred to us that we needed to set some rules about what we could do and what was off-limits.
We also realized that we were both having difficulty deciding who to tell about our new “situation” and from whom to keep it. I realized that I cared about this relationship and this person and that I didn’t want it to end. We started talking about our fears, our jealousy and who was responsible for taking out the trash. We developed solid ground rules, which we’ve evaluated and discussed over and over, altering them as needed.
In 2010, Dan accepted a position in the Netherlands. He had fallen in love with the country when he was here before and was ecstatic to have the opportunity to return. Ten suitcases and one dog in tow, we relocated from Washington, DC to Delft, NL. The language and social barriers have forced us back into a closed relationship for the time being. This time, however, our relationship has grown into a much more functional, honest and communicative one. We settled the trash debate and moved on to more important discussions, such as the proper organization of glasses in a cabinet.
Neamhspleachas is a twenty-something American expat living in The Netherlands. She’s been bucking the vanilla lifestyle for a number of years. You can find her putting her multiple degrees to good use by blogging about relationships, economics, politics, and boobs that both are and are not hers at neamhspleachas.com.