Of The Romantic Variety 💐

My partner and I do not have a dating anniversary. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a beginning. We met as 20-something-year-old servers orbiting one another in the morning chaos of a coffee shop. And again later, underneath the dimmer lights of its dinner service. And even later in that eager (and often blurry) after-hours energy that only youth can generate.

Once the restaurant closed, our friendly group of cooks, baristas, and food runners would reconvene at whatever bar was still open and stay long after we should have. Now out from the under the grip of cleaning duties and customers’ requests, my now-fiancé and I could get more authentically acquainted. We teased, complimented, and danced with each other. Sometime around then, after weeks of flirting, is when he began to jokingly introduce me as his girlfriend to anyone who would listen. And I would shush him with a laugh, eye roll, and exasperated, “I’m really not.”

But we continued to text each other songs and silly memes every day, and eventually ventured out of the restaurant and into the daylight for tacos and trips to the museum. At some point, we committed to watching “House of Cards” together (with the very classic—and very telling—rule withstanding that, no, one could not watch an episode without the other present). We even went to Japan together, just us.

“We’d both committed—without so much as a conversation.”

By the time both of our respective apartment leases were nearing their end, we innately looked for a new home together. We’d both committed—without so much as a conversation. And that was six years ago. (Ish? Six-ish?)

Since then, we’ve celebrated birthdays and holidays with date nights, gifts, and our own traditions. But whenever someone asked about when we started dating, we’d stumble through a barely formed sentence. Eventually, enough outside inquiries inspired us to settle on something. We scrolled through old photos on our phones, and vaguely narrowed it down to Spring 2016. Maybe March. But possibly April? Good enough!

Yet still, every time the season rolled around, neither of us would remember to celebrate ourselves and we’d enter summer with our usual enthusiasm for beach days and weekend getaways. We were our longest running joke and it bothered us none.

But now—*shakes angry fist at getting older*—I think I’m starting to…care? It’s not that I’m looking for another reason to get a gift. After all, my love language is quality time; and we try new restaurants, plan picnics, stare at Airbnbs like eye candy, get coffee in neighborhoods we don’t live in, and surprise each other with little things frequently. (Those ceramic dishes you’ve been eyeing? Yup! A Trader Joe’s snack? Even better!)

“There is something to be said about honoring earned experience.”

However, there is something to be said about honoring earned experience. Those first few years are romantic; a full force, starry-eyed smash of two beings. And it’s easy to celebrate idealism. But in the years that follow, that romanticism takes on new form.

It’s then that couples often share (and are strengthened by) communicative failures, begrudging vulnerability, and old habits dying hard. There are redesigned dreams and personal paths that need support, compromises that deserve gold stars, and big laughs that break tension. It seems that once life begins to grant you more frustrations than just overpriced drinks at one of those aforementioned bars, you learn that continued commitment, in spite of it all, is indeed worth honoring.

“Couples often share (and are strengthened by) communicative failures, begrudging vulnerability, and old habits dying hard.”

Though a new feeling for me, this shift in thinking may not be all that unusual. “I actually think this is a common phenomenon in partnerships, but people rarely talk about it,” says Nicole Arzt, a licensed marriage & family therapist. “I think it’s less a matter of if it’s ‘worth it [to celebrate]’ and more a matter of ‘what am I missing if I don’t celebrate?’ Am I missing an opportunity for connection? For love? For celebrating something meaningful? For creating a positive memory to reflect on in the future? I’m of the belief that life is so fleeting and we need to cultivate positive experiences whenever we can.”

Additionally, how I got to this new frame of mind isn’t that uncommon either. “Early on in a relationship, the effort from both partners is usually at its peak,” say relationship coaches Jocelyn and Aaron Freeman. “Day to day, each partner looks for ways to be affectionate, compliment each other, and show their appreciation. Because of this ‘high effort’…they don’t feel the need to celebrate an anniversary early on.”

“It becomes easier to take your partner’s presence for granted and to forget your ‘commitments’ to each other.”
— Jocelyn & Aaron Freeman

However, according to the Freemans, that effort naturally declines over time—even if unintentional. And “it becomes easier to take your partner’s presence for granted and forget your ‘commitments’ to each other.”

If you and your partner have admittedly experienced this accidental and unforeseen forgetfulness, relieve yourself of the guilt that it can bring. Life often re-prioritizes without permission. We move homes, we have children, we endure the loss of jobs and loved ones. We pursue personal fulfillment while still in a pair and—as “Sex And the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw put it—“Sometimes, there’s not enough time in a night for both your worlds.” That is to say, you’re forgiven if you’ve ever forgotten to put your relationship first. As I can attest, it’s never too late to gain new perspective—and I applaud you if you’ve always made space for deserved celebration.

Answering the innocently curious questions of others is what initially made me feel pressured to pick a date. The right date. One as close to the truth as possible. When, in actuality, the truth is that my partner and I don’t have a traditional one, we never did, and grasping at a hazy memory is likely distracting me from honoring a favored one.

“Grasping at a hazy memory is likely distracting me from honoring a favored one.”

Instead, Arzt has a suggestion. Whether it’s the anniversary of your wedding or of when you discovered your favorite taco stand, “Find a date or occasion that works for you.” It’s as simple as that.

Danielle Cheesman is the Partnerships Lead at The Good Trade. Though born and raised in New Jersey, she’s now based in Los Angeles where you can find her taking pictures, making playlists, or cuddling her pup. Say hi on Instagram!


Featured image includes model Shelly Cochrane wearing shirt by Reformation