It’s a glittery, blue composition notebook, devoid of the cheap gold lock of my childhood diary.
And my girlfriend has read every word — but I meant for her to.
My girlfriend and I haven’t always had a healthy, open relationship. We both have mental illnesses. Our anxiety disorders distort our truths into lies, which used to complicate our relationship.
When my girlfriend and I began dating, I began to pepper her with small gifts. In my mind’s eye, those flowers and presents were tokens of my affection for her. To my girlfriend, however, opening those gifts was an opportunity for me to, from her perspective, criticize her if she didn’t react the way I thought she ought to. Unbeknownst to me, when others gave her presents in the past, those gifts had strings attached.
Every time I gave my girlfriend a gift, I felt hurt, thinking that she didn’t appreciate how I showed how much I love her. Surely, I didn’t expect anything in return. However, my therapist later pointed out that I did expect a reaction, which in and of itself is a string. I unconsciously repeated the patterns in my girlfriend’s past relationships. I longed for compliments and words of affirmation that showed her love for me. But I ignored her love, which made me more and more unhappy.
Consequently, we had severe, ugly arguments. We each knew the best way to cut the other down, so we’d strike with total precision.
Pettiness, jealousy, bitterness, and the inability to let go of our pasts kept us apart. During an especially daunting fight right after Christmas, I convinced myself that I was done with the relationship. As much as I loved her, I knew that the dynamic between the two of us was unhealthy. So I gave her an ultimatum: Get into therapy or lose me.
The mere idea of losing my girlfriend was like a knife to my soul. I couldn’t lose her without a fight, but this time, I’d fight fair. I’d lovingly disagree. I’d respectfully voice my alternate opinions.
And thankfully, she chose therapy.
In a session with my own therapist, my girlfriend was blunt, stating that my own issues played a role in sabotaging our relationship. So I worked on myself, and my girlfriend worked on herself, too. Eventually, we began to own our issues. And over time, something amazing happened. We got to know each other again.
With the gaudy, glittery notebook that I call a diary.
To this day, my girlfriend and I write to each other. We journal about how we feel and read what the other writes. Long gone are our angry outbursts, replaced by carefully handwritten words.
And every day, we ask and answer one simple question: “Why do you love me today?”
We take time to reflect on our days together and find one special reason we’re in love that day. Sometimes it’s doing chores for each other, sharing a compliment, sending each other songs, or being there for each other during our anxiety attacks.
My girlfriend and I have a long way to go, but I know that we’re on the right track with how we communicate. Every day, I can’t wait to see what she writes in our diary, and I hope we keep filling glittery journals with our thoughts as a couple for a long time.