The Morbid Litmus Test of My Relationship’s Seriousness

Vanessa Torre

I hate that my brain works this way, but it works well. by Ivan via Pexels

My boyfriend and I had our 90-day reviews last night. Not at work. With each other. It’s an odd and possibly rigid concept but I believe in it wholeheartedly.

Three months is a solid time to check-in and have a heart to heart about how you’re doing as a couple. Mind you, I introduced him to this philosophy on our second date. He got a whole schpiel. He was warned in advance.

Most of us take our jobs more seriously than we do our relationships. We get a new job, hit the ground running, and look to nail that first 90 days. We work hard to keep our job, which brings us money. But we don’t work as hard to keep our relationships, which bring us joy.

We can’t buy groceries with love but it sure makes eating them with someone enjoyable.

At this point in my life, like an amazing job opportunity, I’ve realized good relationships are hard to come by. We need to work at them.

We talked about the concerns we had about our relationship and each other. What our needs are, how we’re communicating, and whether we see are issues or red flags. We’re both twice divorced. We’re not making the same mistakes again.

He told me he was concerned I would want more and then there would be pressure. It’s 90 days, dude. You live hundreds of miles away. Give it a minute!

To be honest, I think he painted me with a weird, generalized, gender-based brush. Women want more. Men are late to commit. Women demand more. Men cave in. Everyone lives unhappily ever after.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I don’t need to go there again.

It’s hard and odd, as a woman, to try to explain pressure in a relationship just ain’t your thing. It comes across in an awkward, “OMG, I’m totally not like other women,” kind of way even when you're totally not like other women.

Still, this man has his own past experiences he carries with him and I need to honor that. At the same time, I need to honor my own experiences and convey them to him. It’s not easy.

I tried to tell that seriousness in relationships is a nebulous idea. It doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. We stopped seeing other people early on and that’s enough for me right now. But, the evolution of our relationship doesn’t look like what 26 year old me would have imagined for 46 year old me.

I told him I want a certain level of seriousness but I had a weird and morbid litmus test to determine how seriously someone takes me and our relationship: Who would tell me if he died?

At the current state of our relationship, I realized that if something happened to him, if he died, it would take at least 12 hours for me to know and no one would call me. I’d have to find out on my own.

There are no pictures of us on his social media. I’ve met a handful of friends that wouldn’t be on the short list of people who would be alerted, to begin with.

I’d not hear from him for a day and eventually cave to the idea that I should check in with someone to see if he’s okay. Find a family member that has no idea who I am and send a message I would be afraid would make me sound like a crazy person. Something like, “Hi! You don’t know me but is it possible your brother is in a ditch somewhere?”

It’s morbid. I understand this. But I’ve lost too many friends too suddenly to not let this weird thought creep into the back of my head.

It doesn’t mean he has to call his oldest son tomorrow, give him the details of our relationship and pass along my phone number and tell him what to do in the event of his untimely demise. Not now, but at some point.

We got down in the weeds in a bizarre, depressing, and yet incredibly honest way. He’s from a different state. His whole family is there. If there was a service, it would be there. He asked if I would go.

I said no.

No one would know who I was and I certainly wouldn't want to be in a position at that moment to explain that to anyone. I’d mourn on my own.

Again, I understand it’s a little weird. My brain goes dark places. Oddly, his does too. He said he wanted my daughter to have his number in case of emergency. That way, she could call him and let him know if something happened to me.

We all have our own metrics for how valued we feel. Two decades ago I would have been hung up on a title, a label, or whether or not my boyfriend was ready for some arbitrary next step that I’ve realized is based in hetero-normative societal expectations rather than my own wants and needs.

All of the random relationship metrics I believed in over several decades no longer apply. A ring on one’s finger does not correlate to happiness. A house together does always shelter joy. I know what need and what I want and it’s not tangible. It’s a feeling. It’s an appreciation and consideration. And, it’s just like eating. You don’t you when you’re full until you are.

This is dating in middle age. This is relationship goals. Not a ring. Not a lease with our names on it. Not a dog we picked out. But, a phone call if he died. An invitation to a memorial. Someone there that would greet me and know who I am. I want to be that important to someone. I want to matter.

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Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, she won’t stop taking pictures of her drinks. IG: vanessaltorre Twitter: @vanessaltorre

Phoenix, AZ

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