It’s been a year since the start of my rom-com love story

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Last July I wrote about how my life turned into a rom-com cliché and that I was okay with it.

It was a post telling the tale of how I met Adam unexpectedly shortly after moving down to Florida. As you now know, the past year has been especially challenging as I slowly climbed out of the darkest place I’ve ever been to in my life. Meeting him had a lot to do with finding the courage and strength to turn my life around, and I can never give him enough credit for the love and support he has shown me.

This past weekend, we celebrated our one year anniversary by going to the beach in Marco Island, FL, and spending a lovely day together. Doing a little day away was incredibly fun, and I am even more excited for part two of our anniversary celebration this coming weekend. We’re heading to Fort Lauderdale for a mini-vacay weekend, where we will stay in a fancy hotel and see Matilda the musical on tour. It’s a particularly perfect celebration of our two interests — since I’m a huge Broadway fan and he loves the work of Tim Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics.

Since writing my initial post about Adam ten months ago, not much and a lot has changed. For one, we’ve now perfected our little love story. Whenever someone asks, it typically goes something like this:

I left NYC and moved back down to Florida at the end of April. Out of boredom, I turned on all of my dating apps back on a few days later and, exactly a week after the big move, we met for coffee. It was a four hour first date, followed quickly by a two hour second date and a seven hour third date. He was my first date after moving down to Florida, and quickly became my only one. We fell in love when we went away together on long weekend just two and a half weeks into dating. I moved in after a month and a half of being together. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Our incredible little rom-com cliché of a love story is still going strong a year after that first coffee date. In fact, we revisited that coffee shop on our six month anniversary and again this weekend. We shared dessert just as we had that first day and laughed about how my mom interrupted our date at the very end (yes, really!).

Adam still teases me about how I rushed off into the bathroom to compose myself after that, and I still joke that I can’t believe he asked me on that second date despite my mom showing up. But hey, when you know, you know, right?

That’s the mentality that has perpetuated our relationship from the very beginning, and it still holds true today. That’s not to say our relationship is perfect or ideal all of the time. We have our fights and have to get through difficult situations just like any couple. But what I wrote last July, about how I couldn’t have even dreamed of a relationship this great, is still true.

He is still the most incredible, generous, sweet and kind man that I have ever met. His love for me and support of me (and my career) has only continued to grow. In fact, he even gave up drinking shortly after we met because I’m in recovery and he wanted to be there for me. Even this gesture — giving up something he enjoys and has no problem with just because he loves me so incredibly much — has meant the world to me. And to be honest, I feel much stronger in my sobriety because of his constant support there.

The most incredible thing I have felt in this past year, though, is that I truly have a partner in life. I wrote recently that marrying a man doesn’t make me straight (ya know, since I’m bisexual), and he supported my piece. Anything that comes up, even fights and issues within our relationship, we deal with in the best way we can and ultimately come out stronger on the other end.

Now that it’s been a year, I realize that I am happier than ever. A little over a year ago, I didn’t know what it meant to be truly loved and I didn’t know what it meant to be in a relationship where I didn’t have to constantly question that love. But with Adam, love came easily.

I’m still a little surprised at how we found each other… Two people that ultimately don’t belong in Southwest Florida, that don’t fit in here, that shouldn’t even really be here in the long run. But we did. And now that we have, that feeling is incredible.

The feeling of not having to second guess myself or second guess my partner’s feelings for me is pretty incredible too, to be honest. I love actively planning our future with him, and I love that we constantly talk about spending the rest of our lives together.

I know that life doesn’t actually end when you’ve found your “happy ending” relationship, unlike what those rom-coms would have us believe, but I’m glad to see that the right relationship (even after so many wrong ones) does lead to many, many happy times.

And now I have a year of happy times to look back on and, say, roughly 57 more years of happy times to look forward to.

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The lesson I learned about myself on my first Valentine’s Day with a partner

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Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone. 

It’s a very specific, sort-of-made-up holiday that tends to favor those in love and fans of cheesy gestures of affection. 

I have never in my life been one of those people. Sure, I was a self-admitted hopeless romantic but I usually kept my romanticism where it belonged: cheesy boy-meets-girl rom-coms. I’m not someone who has been counting down the days until a cute boy puts a ring on it with a secret wedding planner scrapbook under my bed since I was 16, nor did I want to be. Which is why it might seem fitting to say that Valentine’s Day was just never my holiday. 

I don’t remember getting a single card when I was younger and I honestly couldn’t tell you what my young adult (and very single) self thought of the holiday. 

I didn’t have a boyfriend until just before my 22nd birthday and, as luck would have it, he was a fellow Valentine’s Day hater. Although for him it largely stemmed from the fact that it was also his birthday, I only mildly minded that we didn’t celebrate the occasion during our two years together. My only other serious relationship afterwards didn’t fare much better. Although not a VDay hater, my then-boyfriend was going to be out of the country. Oh well! Although we did have a small celebration beforehand, it seemed that my destiny was clear: Valentine’s Day was just not for me.

I spent the next several years single AF, as I like to say. I dated, sure, but there was never anyone special to call my own for the five years between my last relationship and the man who has now become my life partner. 

I was never sad about it, though.

Deep down I did house some insecurities about my dating prospects and seeming inability to find love, but I brushed it aside to celebrate this holiday in different ways. I hung out with girlfriends, went out dancing, had dinner with cool married friends and even babysat one year. It was NBD, as they say. 

But this year something changed.

The obvious change in my life, of course, is that since my last Valentine’s Day I have met the person that I plan to be with for the rest of my life. I never imagined that my love life would transform into its own mini rom-com, but it did. Since meeting my now-life partner, I have learned a lot about love, relationships and life in general. 

I’ve learned about the importance of generosity in dating. I’ve learned about moving in with someone, how to unite our finances, why fighting is totally normal (and that making up afterwards really IS the best) and a million other little lessons that can only come when you suddenly become part of a couple. 

To my surprise, even my career has benefitted. Not only have I found my #1 fan (who has already done more to support me and my work than I could have previously imagined possible) but I also have a newfound courage to take more chances and seek new heights with my writing. And I know that much of this I couldn’t have done without the encouragement I receive from home. 

The one unexpected thing, however, is how my perception of Valentine’s Day has suddenly changed. 

It’s not that all of a sudden the day had meaning simply because I was in love for the first real time in my life (because, um, gross?) but it’s that out of nowhere I had expectations about this day. 

Whereas before, in my many years in bad relationships and even more years as a single gal, the day knowingly meant very little, now it had some kind of *meaning*. But what, exactly? 

I’m not proud to admit that I spent the better part of the week before Vday worrying that my boyfriend wouldn’t get me flowers, something which is particularly important to people from a culturally Russian background such as myself, and subsequently feeling ridiculously silly for putting such expectations on him. 

We had talked before that I wasn’t that into this fake-ish holiday, and I was relieved to find out he wasn’t either. But as the day approached, deep down that hopeless romantic I always knew I was started to come into my real life. She wanted to be surprised. She wanted to be wooed. And she wanted it NOW. It was hard to keep her at bay as I argued within myself whether or not I actually wanted to bring any of this up with Adam. Do I tell him now that maybe my opinion of Valentine’s Day had changed just a little, or do I keep silent and risk being disappointed when the day actually came? 

Eventually, I chose to open up.

After all, one of the major strengths of our relationship up until this point was our ability to be totally honest with one another. As cheesy as it sounds, we were totally one of those couples who *told each other everything* and quite proud of it, actually. 

But I was still afraid he’d judge me for my change of heart. On the one hand, I was a rational woman who knew that a single day in the year does not make or break how devoted he is to me and that being pressured into showing that devotion simply, well, CAUSE was silly. Yet on the other hand, I wanted to feel *special* in a way I never had before. 

When I actually brought the subject up, however, he pretended to have a mini argument with me about why this was so important. It wasn’t until days later that I realized he had pulled the wool over my eyes in order to actually be able to surprise me with a lovely dinner and the roses I’d always wanted. 

I was thrilled to celebrate the day with him, and a bit early to boot, in a way I had never been able to do in the past. 

In the end, I realized that it’s not that the day itself became more significant because I was now part of a societally acceptable pairing that would be welcome at any restaurant in town. The truth is that stressing about Valentine’s Day plans – and subsequently being surprised anyway – helped me to understand just how much outward opinions of this day had come up to confront me this year. 

And maybe I’m still understanding the bits and pieces that make me who I am, and certainly all of the parts that make me who I am in my relationship. Thankfully, the lessons I learned this year are ones that I can take with me for years to come. 

Sure, those lessons include that I secretly want to do *something* a little more special than usual on this day… but then again, hadn’t I always done something special with people that I cared about? I’m just lucky that now that list of people includes someone who also happens to be the kindest, sweetest, most generous and incredible person I’ve ever met. 

That’s certainly something to celebrate, isn’t it?

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How early is it TOO EARLY to travel in a (fairly new) relationship?

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After dating for just over two months, Adam and I made a pretty monumental decision: we sent in our applications to get our passports renewed.

You see, mine was due to expire and his had already been expired. I can’t quire remember exactly when in our relationship we had initially talked about it, but by the time we got there it seemed like the most natural thing. So one Saturday a couple of weeks ago, we went to the local CVS to take our passport photos. I had already filled out both applications, we signed them and away they went!

I cheered today as I realized that the government had cashed my check – it means that the passports are on their way to being processed and soon we will be able to travel internationally together.

When talking with some friends about it all, I realized that this might be deemed as “too soon” by some people’s standards.

Inevitably, the question comes up: how early is simply TOO EARLY to travel with a significant other?

How long should two people be dating before they can take a trip together? How serious do they need to be before spending a significant amount of time together somewhere new, possibly somewhere that they simply can’t escape from each other?

For Adam and I, it didn’t take very long.

While we’re about to get our passports and are planning an out-of-the-country trip, the truth of the matter is that we took our first mini-vacation about two and a half weeks into our relationship. It was a mid-week trip that was about the equivalent of spending the weekend together. We drove to a new city, rented a hotel and spent a couple days exploring before ultimately going home.

It might sound like an incredible leap of faith to go somewhere new with someone I barely knew, but I had no doubts that I was making the right decision at the time. In fact, it was on that trip that we decided to officially commit to each other (“Are we boyfriend and girlfriend now?”) and it was a HUGE step in us falling in love.

That trip holds a really special place in both of our hearts, but I know that some people said “WHAT?!” in their heads when they heard that I was going away with the boy I was dating less than a month.

I’m sure those same people would also be shocked to know that we’re soon taking a week off with my parents, spending a week in New York City with all of my friends in two months and then another week in Chicago meeting all of his family and friends for Christmas. You know, NBD – NOT!

But the biggest shocker of it all might be that international trip we’re planning at the end of November. A trip that comes in just under 7 months of dating and includes a wedding in an exotic location.

To be honest, I probably would have been one of those people right now, judging my relationship and wondering if it was moving “too fast” and whether committing to travel plans well beyond how long we’ve been together is a bad idea. In fact, I can remember not even a few months ago telling a friend that the general consensus of advice seems to be that you should never plan a trip further ahead than the months you’ve been together.

Yet here I am, not even at the three month mark, and already planning how we’re going to spend our seventh, eighth and maybe tenth month anniversary. In fact, we might even have half-seriously joked about where we’re going on our one year anniversary.

Yes, I know this might sound crazy. But the more and more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s just exactly our kind of crazy.

Ultimately, nobody can tell me what’s right in my relationship except me and my partner.

As they say, nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It may be a cliche, but it’s been said over and over for a reason. And to be honest, I’ve never been a huge believer in normalcy anyway.

While the slightly more rational person in the back of my mind might be cautioning me a little right now, I know that in my relationship, we are far past the “is this too soon?” stage. Every step we have taken has been miles ahead of what someone else might expect. But that doesn’t make it wrong or weird or speedy. It makes it part of what makes me and Adam an “us.”

As I look at the leftover passport photos and giggle about what kind of new bathing suit I’ll be buying for our November trip, I sure as heck know one thing: it’s not too early for us.

In fact, it feels like we’ve been waiting for this for a LONG time.

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My life turned into a rom-com cliché and I’m okay with it

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I have a confession to make.

Just over two months ago, I was single AF.

Like seriously… I haven’t been in a serious relationship since 2011. Not for a lack of trying, necessarily, but it just hasn’t been in the cards for me lately. I’ve dated – a LOT, in fact – but with a few notable exceptions, I haven’t really found anyone that I wanted to spend more than a couple of evenings with.

The guys were always pleasant enough. Unlike most of my fellow single females in New York City, I never had any insane dating stories. I always joked that it was because I had an amazing screening system (mainly my ability get a good sense of people from an online conversation, I guess?) and am the luckiest girl on the planet.

No, seriously. Really, really lucky that I haven’t run into anyone that made me pay on the first date, suggested something totally disgusting or who just was horribly awkward or boring AF. Instead, my dating life was pretty average.

The journalist in me could always keep a first date going for hours. In fact, I half suspect that several of the guys I’ve gone out with in the past were fairly disappointed when I declined their invitation for a second or third date. But I liked learning about people, and always had a pleasant time – perhaps something that ultimately gave some people the wrong impression of my true interest in them.

But anyway. Dating was fine. Nothing special, and frequently frustrating, but ultimately just fine.

And then I moved back to Southwest Florida, where I grew up, at the end of April. It was a little bit of an unexpected move at the time, but something that I needed after 12 years of living in NYC and five years of being single and kinda hating it more every year.

In fact, I had taken a dating hiatus through a large part of 2015 and, after “getting back out there” in October and November, decided to take another one in December. So when I packed my bags into the back of a van and drove the 1,250 miles back home, I didn’t exactly have very high expectations for a social life.

My plan in coming here was to take a year “off” to find myself again, to focus on some personal writing projects and to just figure out exactly what my next steps in life would be. And, because I only have a couple of friends here and no other semblance of the kind of life I was used to leading, I decided to get back out there on the dating scene after my five month break.

I had pretty low expectations, to be honest. Dating in NYC was its own very special kind of crazy, but I was used to it. I was used to the endless texting before setting up a date, I was used to the “let’s get drinks” question and then taking a week to coordinate our schedules, I was used to meeting emotionally unavailable men (my specialty) and I was used to coming out of a date feeling like the guy was “too nice” but just not for me.

It was frustrating, but it was familiar.

And then I met Adam.

When I say that I “went back out there” upon moving back to Florida, I mean that it really didn’t take very long. I officially arrived back on a Friday and, by the next Tuesday, I had reactivated all of my online dating profiles: OKCupid, Tinder and Bumble. After all, how else do young people meet other young people these days?

Adam was one of the first people that I swiped right with on Bumble (cause Tinder sucks, just as it did in NYC, and OKC took too much time). Immediately, I liked him. He was cute, a little nerdy and just my type – even had an adorable photo of his dog as part of his profile. So I started a conversation asking about Moose (what I learned his pup’s name was), and from there it went.

We switched to texting not long after, and on Saturday, I was meeting him for an afternoon coffee. Just a week after moving down here, I was going on my first date in Florida and my first date in months.

The date lasted four hours, followed by just as great of a second date and then a third date that lasted another seven hours and ended (finally!) in a kiss.

I. was. HOOKED.

Flash forward to two months later, and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world more than ever. Adam turned out to be absolutely everything that I had ever been looking for in another human being, in a boyfriend, in a partner-in-crime for life.

He is generous when I don’t feel I deserve it, he is kind when I feel like I am being needy and he is sweet on a daily basis.

The love and support he has shown me in these last couple of months has been far beyond my wildest dreams. Really.

When I dreamed of the kind of relationship that I wanted, I couldn’t have dreamed that it would EVER be this amazingly wonderful. When I saw friends enter into happy unions and wanted the same for myself, I never thought that I would get it in spades and then some. When I thought about what I hoped my future love would have in terms of physical, mental and emotional qualities, I never ever imagined that I would find exactly what I always wanted. And more than that, I could have never planned to meet the literal man of my dreams in freaking SOUTHWEST FLORIDA.

I say that with incredulous shock primarily because neither of us fits in very well down here. First of all, we’re not old or Republicans (hah! quite the opposite, in fact). Secondly, neither of us enjoys the various outdoor (and indoor) activities that are popular down here. And with the exception of him loving the weather down here and me preferring the four seasons, we seem to have more in common than is probably realistically possible.

And that’s how I realized that I ended up in what must be some sort of rom-com cliché movie: the girl that moves back in with her parents to “find herself” only to find the love of her life instead.

But that’s exactly what happened.

So here I am, a mere two months into a relationship, and already planning far ahead into the future. I find myself almost rolling my eyes as I think “you find it when you least expect it” and “when you know, you know.” Yet that’s how my story went, and I couldn’t possibly be happier that it did.

The best part? My new love feels just like I do. For the first time in my entire LIFE, in fact, I don’t have to guess if he cares for me. I don’t have to fight for him to devote time for me over his friends (thank you, boyfriend #1 for that trauma) because he prioritizes the “us” as much as I do. I don’t have to live with the knowledge that he’s going to eventually leave me to move somewhere else or isn’t ready for something long lasting (oh, boyfriend #2, you messed up fool) because we talk about our future all the damn time.

And I mean that. It’s our future. It’s my future, and his future, and what we both want – and what we want together on top of it all.

It feels wonderful.

It’s nice waking up with him and knowing that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully never, if I have any kind of say in it (and I do). It’s nice feeling comforted and loved and supported in everything that I do. In fact, as I write this, he’s just made me tea and given me some breakfast. Now he’s patiently keeping himself busy until I finish my daily writing for the day so that we can get lunch and go on with all the other things we had planned to do today.

Because, for the first time ever, I realize that a great relationship isn’t about second guessing myself or wondering if he loves me as much as I love him. I know that he loves me just as much as I crazy love him. And with his love and support, I feel stronger.

So much for my “finding myself” year, huh?

When I set out to figure out my next steps in life, I never thought that my next steps would involve building a life with the amazing person I was meant to meet in the unlikeliest of places.

But let me tell you… It’s much more fun this way.

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