I prefer grocery trips over fancy dinners out. I prefer sitting at the dining room table, one empty seat between us, both working on our projects and making eyes at each other every few minutes. I prefer long conversations on the couch about our days, our plans, our hopes. I prefer making the bed together, folding laundry, and putting it away.
Four years of long distance meant that the majority of our time together was a special occasion. When together, I didn’t have to hear about his day from a voice note—we could simply experience it. We showed each other our favorite restaurants, the best hiking trails, stayed up late, and spent all the holidays together. I loved it. But I also knew it wasn’t mirroring real life.
That’s why grocery shopping together is such a privilege — we never got to do that. Exercising together? A joy to push each other. Budgeting and cleaning up the kitchen? An exercise in patience and a regular invitation to serve the other.
We had our first fight on our one year anniversary. “Fight” might be strong. We both said things we didn’t mean, and then I took my hand away when he reached for it to reconcile. I don’t remember the details of that disagreement, but I clearly remember my headspace for that day: I was convinced that this would be the best, most romantic day of all. It was our one year anniversary! How could it not be? We had time together planned, but it didn’t feel like a Hallmark movie. Wasn’t it supposed to feel perfect? Why didn’t my anxiety dissipate? Why couldn’t he read my mind yet? Where was the romantic music that was supposed to follow us everywhere??
I felt disillusioned. Shouldn’t big events mean more than the regular days?
I no longer think so, no. I prefer the long-term, deeply investing, day-in-day-out romance. The one that presses in close when I’m crying inconsolably for no other reason than I’m just feeling sad. The one that messages me and asks how my day is. The one that texts me when he’s on his way home and that he can’t wait to see me.
I prefer the romantic gestures of him cleaning the kitchen after I wreaked havoc on it through meal prep. I prefer the random bringing home of flowers just because. I prefer him encouraging me to buy the chocolate because he saw me eyeing it. I prefer his affirmations when I don’t think I’m smart enough to become a programmer, his healing forehead kisses when I’m stressed, and his invitation to join him for a wedding instead of assuming I will automatically go. I prefer the romance of the mundane over the hallmark-esque-expectations of an anniversary.
Real life happens in between anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day. I love special occasions, but I no longer look forward to them as a beacon of romance and escape. I see them as a way to be thankful for who I have in the other days of the year. Because who I have is absolutely amazing.