taylor, 31 & rachel, 31 — married
How long have you been together?
Well it depends whether you count the first time. So we met when we were 18, which was 13 years ago. And then we were friends, and then we dated for 6 months, broke up, were enemies, were friends again, and then got together this new round in 2009 and have been together since then. So it’s been 8 years together and 4 years married.
What was it about the other that drew you to each other?
The first time I met Rachel was at Oberlin College and we were in my buddy Sean’s room, drinking, and just sitting and talking. When I first saw Rachel, I thought she was incredibly beautiful. She was also into a lot of the same music as I was, and wasn’t the stereotypical person who would listen to that music. I found that intriguing. She was very funny, very smart, I really enjoyed hearing what she had to say, and she had a very warm presence about her that was very magnetic.
I have more vague memories of the first time we met. But I remember when I started falling for him and that was when we were friends and we started to engage in this flirting behavior, sending emails back and forth. He would send me funny cat videos and weird email attachments. And I remember I was so excited I would get butterflies when I got an email from him. That was when I was falling for him because I knew he was thinking about me when we weren’t together and that meant something to me.
What has been a challenge for you as a couple?
Rachel: I think his sobriety and that change has been a challenge to adjust to.
Taylor: My relationship to substances in general has been something that has really changed the way we relate to each other. There was a point in time where I was doing drugs and hiding it from her and I wasn’t able to talk to her about it or ask for her help. And then once I did I had already established this pattern of behavior that was unfavorable. I wasn’t trustworthy and that was a really big challenge of our relationship that was ultimately very fruitful in that I learned how to communicate more. I also understood that I would be accepted for whatever was going on, whether it was good or bad and that we could work through it. It changed our communication style around lots of other things. We were drinking 4 or 5 times a week, so our primary form of communicating was over wine and when we got sober, we had to relearn how to talk and how to have sex. It wasn’t like restarting our relationship, but it was having to deal with feelings and having difficult conversations without being lubricated.
I didn’t think we realized how much alcohol had been the lubricant for close intimate conversation. Even if it were just having a conversation over a glass of wine at dinner that was part of the prelude to openness or the prelude to sex. As much as it was for the benefit of the relationship to be sober, transitioning to sobriety was really hard.
What piece of advice about relationships would you give?
Mine would be communicate about everything. I think if you really love somebody, you should feel comfortable to be completely yourself. If you’re feeling shame, fear, or uncertainty, holding onto to those things is going to push you further away and into those zones. Having a conversation, no matter how difficult it may seem at first, is ultimately is going to be the healthiest thing for the relationship even if it isn’t positively contributing to the relationship in the moment.
I also think how you talk is almost more important than what you say. Every couple will argue and it’s not necessary the content of those arguments that’s important, it’s how you maintain peace and respect for one another during those arguments.