It's a luxury you shouldn't take for granted.
I wish I'd known that the way my guy treats me wasn't just limited to myth or fictionalized accounts of "good guys" years before we met. I wouldn't have wasted a fraction of the time I spent with former boyfriends — who clearly demonstrated they weren't really that interested in keeping me around — if I'd known that there were attractive, available, hetero guys out there who would jump at the chance to treat me differently.
I just didn't know.
He thought for a moment before cautiously asking, "What if you canceled it...and only went on dates with me?" It was bold but sweet, unassuming and respectful. I wasn't used to that.
I glided into his life seamlessly, to my complete bewilderment. There was no compartmentalizing or holding me at arm's length; anywhere he was, I was welcome to join if I wanted to. There was no ceremony or formality when he gave me a key to his place; he just casually mentioned he'd left it on the counter one morning when he left for work: "Just so you can lock up when you leave since my neighbor has been acting shadier than usual recently."
There was no pressure for me to be around him all the time. I split the majority of my time between school, friends and work, and required a lot of alone time to recoup from these things. But with him, the door was always open whenever I wanted to take a load off in his company.
We've lived together for nine years as of this post, and the dynamic hasn't changed. I've never once had to play those stupid games where I'm chasing him down to pay attention to me or pledge his allegiance because of my persistent doubts. I've never felt like he had one foot out the door.
Here's a perfect example: The last time we had a big argument, he left our house to cool off. I gave him about 45 minutes before texting: "Are you okay? I love you. Be careful." I fully expected him to be out having some wings and beer and I wouldn't have blamed him for chatting up a cute waitress for a quick boost — you know, something typical but harmless.
Instead, he opened the back door and said, "Yeah, I'm fine. I just went to Home Depot and then came back to install LEDs in our flood lights."
I laughed — not with relief, but with familiar gratitude. This was the guy I decided was worth signing the paperwork and wearing a wedding band for, and all these years later, he's not making me regret that. His "I'm 100 percent in this" M.O. has allowed me to both step up my game to make it worth his while.
But it's also given me the freedom to live the way I want, knowing he's in my corner no matter what. It's a luxury I don't take for granted.