The Captain and I have been together for 1,208 days and—until recently—the longest we’d been apart was ten days, and that was in 2014. We live together, run errands together, and spend a great deal of time together. However, it was beginning to catch up with us as we’d started being described as an “old married couple” from all the bickering and arguing we were doing. It seemed like there was some new issue every few days and it was stressing both of us out.
When I accepted the surprise invitation to New Zealand, I realized that it would coincide in weird ways with The Captain’s new work schedule. We wouldn’t see each other for three weeks—the longest we’d ever been apart. I didn’t know what would happen. Would we miss each other terribly? Would we realize we were better off alone and break up? Would this be the end of our relationship? I decided and told The Captain early on that we should use this time to refresh, recharge, and refocus on what we wanted in our lives together and apart. Then, hopefully, we’d reunite and be ready for anything the world threw at us.
At first, being without The Captain was strange. I didn’t really have someone to share meals with or the minutia of my day. There was a big, empty half of the bed. I stayed up reading books and slept in. I marathoned Bones. While I was in Auckland, I went on adventures and FaceTimed with him when I got home, but for sixteen of our twenty-one days apart we didn’t talk at all. It gave me time to think on things, and I came away with two ideas.
One: I love The Captain no matter what kind of stress or obstacles life throws our way. Even when we argue, even when I’m scared of the uncertainty of future, even when I have trouble believing in him. I know that my anxiety and recent trauma has been stressful for our relationship, but New Zealand gave me a chance to unwind and let go off some of the things that I’d been holding onto. It’s been a new experience to get used to his life after graduation, but I have faith that he’ll find his way with me by his side.
Two: Love is a choice two people make, over and over again, to maintain. As long as I believe in our relationship, myself, and him we’ll be just fine. We’ve survived so many things in just three years—anxiety, job loss, graduation, a car accident, financial trouble, death—and the future is something to look forward to, not dread. I’ve been stressing about how we’ll cope with life if we compromise too much on either of our dreams, but the fact is that as long as our dreams involve each other we’ll be fine.
The Captain and I also learned that three weeks apart isn’t as big of a deal as we’d thought it would be. I was worried I’d be pining over him like some princess in a tower, but I was too busy having fun and doing things I enjoyed to mope around. He was busy working and doing his own things, and didn’t really miss me much at all. I was worried that we were morphing into one being and losing our individuality, but our three weeks apart helped us both rediscover it.
It also helped The Captain realize that he doesn’t care what he does in life so much as it’s with me—so that means the military is off the table. He’s putting faith in the future and stability with me. We’ll just have to wait and see where exactly this leads, but it reassures me that I’m not going to have to give up on my dreams or aspirations to support whatever he wants to do. We can support each other, have adventures, and be our own people at the same time. It’s pretty awesome.
And so, with these realizations and the additional help of one dark chapter of our lives closing, we’ve decided to set a date for our wedding. The timing isn’t absolutely perfect, but it’s ideal and we’re ready to start that new section of our lives. We already act like a married couple, so why not make it official? I had no idea that three weeks apart from The Captain would be so beneficial for both of us, but I’m glad that it happened.
Sometimes you need to step back to appreciate the bigger picture. Sometimes the only place to do that is across an ocean and through forests, but we came out of it stronger, happier, and more grateful for what we have than before. The Captain and I may be getting closer to our ever after, but it’s also just the beginning.