The Burn of a sip of whiskey is the perfect metaphor the pain and uncertainty of lasting love.
Debbie and I didn't speak at all that day. We didn't speak the next day either. I gave her the space she needed, realizing she was a step ahead of me this whole time. While I had become too available, too accessible in the delicate opening moments of the romance, she needed to long for me. She was never scared of The Burn – she was yearning for it.
After two days of radio silence, Debbie texted me asking what I was up to. Excited to hear from her, but resolved to embrace the ambiguity of our situation, I reported back positively and self-assuredly, without any subtext. Slowly, over the course of a week, we began communicating naturally again. By embracing the uncertainty, I had somehow embodied a mysterious confidence making me more attractive than ever before. Soon we were spending more time together than we had previously, and were at ease expressing our mutual desire to do so. Do You Have Masculine Energy?
While our anticipation continued to melt into a productive fuel that nourished the relationship, we found that there are additional bittersweet checkpoints beyond the three-month mark. When I finally mustered the courage to express greater feelings for her (gulp: love), it was just as turbulent. Throughout the two weeks it took her to gather the nerve to reciprocate, I felt as if I were skydiving without a parachute, uncertain if my fall would be broken by a fluffy, comfy cloud or a dumpster at the broken needle factory.
By the time we celebrated our first anniversary—an unspoken point of reflection to consider dating for another year or more—we were both better prepared to take a bit more enjoyment from the terrifying act of freefalling together. Our most recent plunge was the decision to move in together, which brought with it a whole new array of anxieties to keep us up at night (e.g., "What if we get sick of each other?" "Are we compatible roommates?" "Whose blender do we keep???") The difference now, however, from previous incarnations of The Burn, is that we are able to talk openly about wanting to continue cultivating the relationship. Knowing your partner isn't interested in leaving makes it easier to take joy from the ache of adjusting to each new phase.
We're not immune to daily conflict. While accustomed drinkers will find that The Burn can become more familiar and easier to tolerate as a whiskey matures, good love maintains a healthy burn volume: an energizing disagreement over weekend plans, an insensitive joke or even control of the TV remote can fire things up and cleanse the buildup of rising tensions.
Nearly a year after turning down her first prospective dive into single barrel whiskey, my girlfriend finally accepted a second offer of the Wild Turkey "Kentucky Spirit" I had once presented to her before. Debbie drinks bourbon now – loves the stuff, in fact. For the sake of full disclosure, she often takes her whiskey in a Manhattan. But, I have nothing but love and respect for that noble cocktail – beneath the sweet vermouth and dashes of aromatic bitters, one can always still detect that sharp, delicious burn.
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