Dater X: A Lifetime Full Of Relationship Firsts

He looked terribly handsome as he tossed his shaggy dark hair and laughed just a little too hard at my bad joke. While his posture telegraphed confidence — upright yet leaned back, big smile across his face — the laugh told me, “Whoa. This guy is just a little bit nervous.”

I felt nervous too — a tiny fluttering in my stomach, my palms just a little clammy. First dates have a way of doing that to you.

Only, this wasn’t our first date in the traditional sense. No, this was our first date, err, our first “Preparing for Partnership” session, with the rabbi we want to marry us.

You got to know me years ago on The Frisky as Dater X, the girl who just couldn’t get it right in love, hanging intense excitement on each new guy and feeling mildly to horrifically crushed when it didn’t work out. Dater X, the girl on the hunt for her green zebra—safari jacket on, binoculars at the ready—but only finding red koalas and yellow crocodiles.

Then I met the Young One. We were standing next to each other watching a band — that much we both agree on. But while I fully remember working up the courage to share with him the pun percolating in my brain, he swears that he said the first words to me.

The beginning of our relationship was whirlwindy wonderful, though certainly not perfect. I had a hard time in Relationship Limbo. I had a minor meltdown when, last minute, he cancelled plans for me to meet his sister even though there turned out to be a perfectly reasonable explanation. But things proceeded well. Very well. Finally, two years ago, I signed off for good, urging my fellow green zebra hunters to ask themselves big questions as they dated and only proceed if the answer to each one was a resounding “yes.”

I’m happy to report that the Young One and I are still together. In fact at this point—as controversial as the concept is—I’m ready to just call him The One. After all, I don’t notice the age difference nearly as much as I did in the early days.

The traditional story on long-term relationships in our culture goes something like this: it’s great at first, but eventually the magic fades, the honeymoon period ends and the comfortable ho-hum sets in. And this I have to take issue with, because the “ball and chain” jokes do not match up with what I see in the couples around me and it’s not what I feel in my own relationship. What’s been so thrilling about the past two and a half years is that the glorious firsts haven’t slowed—they’ve just gotten more specific. The first time you cook a holiday dinner with his parents and sisters. The first time he takes care of you when you have the flu. The first time you go to your restaurant and sit at the bar instead of at your usual booth. The first time he lets you down — and your reaction isn’t, “I am so done with this,” because that isn’t an option your brain parses anymore.

I love analogies—I know I’ve used enough of them in this column. So what’s the right analogy for my journey in love? In the end, it isn’t the matching game I imagined three years ago. It’s more profound than the discovery of a match—it’s more like the discovery of your sidekick. It’s like being on a deserted island, desperately setting up bonfires and spelling out messages in coconuts for passing airplanes—only to realize that, the whole time, there’s been another person on the side of the island. And they know how to fish!

Love is staring at one of those optical illusion images they used to sell at the mall and, before your eyes, having life morph from seeming like you-versus-it-all to realizing that you’re one half of a pretty awesome team. The Young One recognizes my pitfalls—my penchant for overanalysis, my intensity, my tendency to take things that have nothing to do with me as personal—and embraces them. He urges me on to be kinder, stronger, more creative and better—because he has full faith that I can be. I feel so, so thankful for this incredible human being. And the incredible part of love is that he thinks he’s the lucky one.

You know that thing people in happy relationships say—that when you meet the right person, you “just know.” That used to drive me nuts, and regularly made me want to take them by the shoulders, shake them and yell, “Will you please be a little more specific.” But looking back on those columns I wrote two years ago, it strikes me that I did have some sort of intuition right at the beginning even though I wasn’t sure we were in it for life until maybe a year ago. Here are some things I said about the Young One at the start:

  • From the first laugh we shared, there was that instant click and that sense of extreme comfort you feel so rarely with another person.”
  • Meeting The Young One is a reminder of what love actually feels like. That being in someone’s presence makes you feel giddy, nervous, and completely comfortable all at the same time. That you feel like you’re vibrating on a slightly higher plane when you think about them. Like someone has kicked a door open in your mind and you remember what it’s like to feel truly adored.”

But now to quote someone else—the rabbi the Young One and I met with a few weeks ago as we start to talk about marriage. Among the expected volley of questions about whether we want kids, our goals for the future and how we picture our families being a part of our lives, he said one unexpected thing that kind of blew my mind: “It’s not just about finding the right partner, it’s about being the right partner.”

Here’s to that.

Read Dater X from the very beginning starting here.