Yesterday I was idly reading the comments on one of my posts on The Frisky when a partner link caught my eye: “7 Things You Shouldn’t Tell Your Boyfriend.” Shouldn’t tell your boyfriend? I thought. I always told my boyfriend everything. Like, EVERYTHING. He knew about my bouts with depression. He knew about my brother’s struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism. He knew about how much I owe in student loans. He knew about my spanking fetish. He knew about my desire for dominant/submissive sex. He knew about the May-December romance I had with a 37-year-old man when I was 22. He knew when I farted and burped and had the flu. He knew what I looked like in sweatpants, in no makeup, and in sweatpants and no makeup. During the two years that we dated, he was my best friend Why wouldn’t he know these things?
Then a light went off in my head. I picked up my cell phone and dialed Amelia. “Do you think the reason our relationships didn’t work out is because our partners were our best friends first, instead of our lovers?” I asked. “Do you think we didn’t keep the romance alive?”
Obviously there are many components to romance. There is stimulating someone physically, enticing someone visually, and cooing or whispering the right words in the right tone. The brain is the biggest sex organ, of course, and so much of maintaining a romantic connection is about keeping the other person excited — wishing and hoping and preoccupied — for what’s to come. When you describe it the way that I just did, it sounds like a full time job.
But most of us have full-time jobs. And we have bills to pay, and mothers’ phone calls to return, and laundry to wash, and wedding gifts to buy, and Halloween costumes to decide upon, and belt fans to get replaced. Even if you have the best of intentions, it’s not difficult to feel like you’re falling behind on your responsibilities when you’re preoccupied with the rushes of dopamine to your brain in a new romance. (Example: that friend you haven’t heard from since she started dating her boyfriend.) At some point you just have to pay the phone bill, call your mom back and wash your undies.
And at some point, maybe, you get kinda lazy.
I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but I think I got lazy in my last relationship when it came to romance. I genuinely didn’t mean to let the flames turn to embers; it just happened over time. Mr. Jessica and I moved in together after three months of dating when the sexual attraction was still very intense. But the thing is, we moved in with a roommate who could hear just about everything through the wall and a conservative Muslim family across the hall had three adolescent children, including two boys. Although we never let this hinder our sex life — perhaps rudely so! — it certainly meant that 99.9 percent of our sexual activities happened in our bedroom with the door shut. At the beginning of our relationship, it was spring and summer and I wore cute nightgowns or lingerie to bed. Then it turned to fall and winter and I switched to sweatpants to keep warm at night. And then I started putting on sweatpants the moment I got home.
Now, before you jump on me, I did make an effort sometimes. There were nights I lit candles in the bedroom and surprised him when he walked in the door. I cooked him dinner a few times. Some nights if we went out to dinner, I really dressed up. And for his part, Mr. Jessica made romantic gestures. He bought me flowers once; he wrote me a sweet and romantic card and when we visited Seattle together, he took me on a date to fancy restaurant with a beautiful view of the bay. Many, many nights he lovingly cooked me dinner or rubbed my shoulders or feet.
But those little things we did for each other eventually fizzled out over time. Looking back on it now, I can see how the loving, sweet and romantic gestures occurred less and less frequently, although the love we felt for each other was growing as strong as ever. Instead of looking our best around each other, we prioritized feeling comfortable. Instead of passionate nights of lovemaking, we prioritized cuddling. Instead of exciting each other’s desires in new ways, we stuck with the old ways — and decreased their frequency — while we grew closer as friends. And I loved that part. He really was my best friend — a good, good, good guy who I trusted and deeply cared for.
Don’t misunderstand me: I know that the passion in any relationship grows at least a little bit cooler over time as couples get settled in. I don’t think what happened to Mr. Jessica and I was terribly out of the ordinary. But
I thought he was being pushy about telling me what to wear, especially since dry-cleaning or hand-washing my nicer clothes takes up a lot of time and money. By the time it got to him criticizing this one pair of green Ann Taylor Loft cargo pants that I own, I was just annoyed at him. Maybe I should have listened; maybe I would have heard him indicating — without saying it — “I want you to romantically entice me again.”
I don’t regret the close friendship that Mr. Jessica and I had. I believe I know him better than even he knows himself and he knows me very well, too. Despite our messy breakup, I hope he and I can be good friends in the distant future. But as I slowly start to dip my pinky toe back into the dating world, I have different priorities. I want the deep sealant bond of a friendship, but I want a strong romantic connection prioritized before having a best friend. I have a best friend already; she lives in Germany. Now what I want going forward is a lover with whom my passion won’t soon cool.