Note: the first person tense switches between me and Jeff in this piece. When I say "I," sometimes I mean me, sometimes I mean him. We've struggled at different times through this process, and the oscillation reflects that.
One thing the past month has taught me: I definitely can't predict how nomad life will impact a relationship.
For approximately two and a half weeks, our relationship was really hard. Nearly everything about our lives changed overnight. We suddenly spent exponentially more time together. We were two homebodies surrounded by new people, in public most of the time.
We adjusted at different speeds and in different ways.
But those two and a half weeks of hard strengthened the bond. Don't worry, Dad, everything is legitimately great.
But I won't pretend that getting to great wasn't a lot of work. The RY experience is a different one as a couple. It's perhaps not harder, but it's difficult in different ways.
It's easy to feel isolated.
The majority of our Remote Year group is comprised of singles. You're sometimes left out, however unintentionally, because the group assumes you're doing something couple-y or that you come as a package deal. But we don't, not necessarily, not in every scenario.
I want to do the big things with you, babe. A beach weekend, a trip to Machu Picchu, a reservation at a Michelin-starred restaurant. And a lot of the little things, too. But I want time away from you, too.
How do you make that subtly apparent to your 73 other travel companions? How do you say, "hey gals, I want to join in on those friendship times" without just... blatantly saying that (my preferred method)?
You don't, that's the answer.
You don't get invited to the singles fun sometimes. You invite yourself, and because this group is so welcoming and wonderful, it's great.
But man, that feeling of being just at the edge, belonging but not quite in the inner circle, hurts a little.
And that hurt impacts your relationship. When you feel like you don't quite fit, you lean on your partner. But your partner is trying to fit, too, inviting herself to the get togethers and the dinners and the sunsets. Away from you.
One of you pulls away while the other holds tighter.
You aren't on the same page because everything is different, nothing is familiar. These friendships are new and exciting and the city is confusing and you're tired and hungry and you have a blister and ran out of pesos and can't speak Spanish and could you just let me breathe?
But ouch, because I hurt too and I need to lean on you.
Because we're living in such close quarters and we never get alone time. Because we're both introverts, we both need our space, and we don't have space to take. Because time in public wears us down, but we have no place to recharge.
Because I've snapped at you six times today and felt guilty every time.
Because I'm stressed that I haven't quite nailed the remote working thing, not in this different context. Because something about Uruguay makes me frazzled and distracted and why can't I get through my to-do list?
Because I'm watching friendships strengthen around me and it's freaking me out. Am I behind? Am I supposed to have a Remote Year bestie already? Will everyone group together without me, without us? Will those with Remote Year besties let me hang? If they do, will their bond be overwhelming and isolating?
Because I'm scared that I don't fit in, that I'll have tons of relatively shallow relationships and no deep ones.
Because I love you, but I need friendship love in my life, too. Deep and important friendship love.
Am I missing out from building those friendships because so much of my mental energy goes into us?
But don't we want that mental energy to go into us?
It's hard. These questions are really freaking hard.
They're hard to hear from your person. They hard to think about, because it forces you to evaluate everything. Everything about it is hard. And draining. And puts a strain on your bond.
Don't do this as a couple if you aren't sure about each other.
I'm sure about Jeff. He's sure about me. We're great communicators - which is our biggest strength.
Because when we're feeling off track, when we're frustrated and pissed and drained and just can't give anymore, we talk. And every hard conversation turns into a moment of bonding.
When everything changes, you have to be able to talk through it. We're good on that front. Thank goodness.
But what if we weren't great communicators?
Honestly: we wouldn't make it through this trip.
That's the end of that.