I met my first serious boyfriend in late January of my first year of college. He was the cousin of a friend of mine from back home, so we struck up a conversation via Facebook, then email, and later texting and calling. We met for the first time when I went home for Spring Break in March and spent time together again in April when I went home for Easter. I went home for a day and a half in May after finals, before taking him along to attend Commencement. I remember he slept most of the way there and back. I was home for the summer. I worked a lot and later helped my parents move into a much smaller home. He and I did not see each other much over the summer. He and I did not talk much over the summer. We went to Ocean City for a night with some friends, but that was too chaotic for my then strict planner-personality. My last hurrah of the summer was a local music festival and that was the tipping point for some reason. I remember laying awake at my friend's house thinking about how tired I was from the relationship. I broke up with him a few days later before returning to school. I called, he didn't answer, and I left a message. I emailed him with more specific thoughts. His first reply was in-depth and meaningful. His last reply was one sentence of incoherent nonsense.
I met my fiancé in May during the summer between my second and third (and last) years of college. I worked a lot at the same convenience store job and he was a regular customer. We dated over the summer and became engaged at some point in time. I returned to school in August and he visited probably more than every other weekend. The truth came out over Homecoming weekend in October and it was over.
I met my most recent boyfriend in April of my last year of college. My car's battery had died and AAA recommended getting it fully recharged at Advance Auto Parts. It took him longer than it should have to uninstall my battery and we discovered that we both attended the same college. I later realized that he visited my freshman residence hall frequently to visit his girlfriend at the time. We had our first date three days later. We were exclusive about a month later. In May, I returned home for another summer and I visited him occasionally. He built me a bike. I spent the last weekend in July with him before moving even further away for graduate school. I visited him about once a month and we spent Christmas break together in bed with the most terrible fevers you can imagine. I lived with him the following summer and we both worked too much and exercised too little. We went to Bonnaroo. I returned to graduate school in early August and he visited shortly after, following a huge fight. I reached a tipping point, prompted by the realization that I was happier being back at school than I had been, on average, all summer. We broke up.
I've spent the past two and a half months in a great deal of self-reflection about relationships: my patterns, what I've experienced, what I want, and so on. I have no conclusive answers. One aspect of patterns that I have noticed is that the significant majority of my intimate relationship experience occurred within three different long distance relationships. With my first boyfriend, we started as a LDR and ended up being emotionally further apart when I lived locally. With my fiancé, we started as local and then transitioned to a LDR, which is when the unhealthy enmeshment really started to show its face. And with my most recent boyfriend, we were briefly local and then in a LDR for an entire year before living together for a summer and then going back to a LDR for a short time. Three different timelines, but three relationships that were primarily LD. At this point in time, the only real conclusion I have reached is that I have no idea what I'm doing. What I mean by this is that I have no first-hand archetype or schema for a healthy, local relationship. In fact, I have only bits and pieces of a first-hand archetype for a healthy LDR.
There is only one way to rationalize this panicky feeling of having zero reliable knowledge.
No one knows what they're doing.
There's no archetype. There's no schema. This is a big reason that I am passionately opposed to creating a list of ideal traits to look for in a partner. People don't work that way. People are not simply a list of traits. There is so much more complexity that occurs through the interaction of two or more traits. Even more than that, an objective list of my traits is insufficient in predicting how I may interact with Person A, an introvert, versus Person B, an extrovert. Social interactions are not predictable like those of chemicals. Social interactions are a messy experiment with zero controlled conditions.
That's all for now, kids. I don't have a more uplifting conclusion just yet.