When the going gets tough

| Scene Romance Columnist

I will never forget what it felt like to wake up after I fainted on the kitchen floor. After I came back from that fuzzy place where all sound is muffled and everything turns to an interesting shade of whitish black; shapes started to come into focus, and I heard my panicked boyfriend distantly shouting my name. Instead of wondering whether I was OK, or what exactly caused that little spell, I thought with perfect clarity: “This cannot get any worse.”

At this point, I’d had mononucleosis for two weeks and had been dating my boyfriend for about two months. Before my diagnosis, we were still in the honeymoon stage—always spending time together, gushing over how great the other was, blah blah blah. And then I got a sore throat, which quickly turned into coma-like naps and me sounding like a deaf muppet whenever I tried to speak. As I struggled to make it through my finals without falling asleep, he dutifully drove me to get lung x-rays and brought me soup or ice cream (the only things I could swallow) almost every night.

It was bad enough that I could barely stand up long enough in the shower to shave my legs, but, worse of all, we couldn’t even kiss, something we’d been pretty good about doing every day since we’d started dating. And when I fainted, I half expected him (as any sensible person would do) to cut his losses and stop hanging out with my ridiculously sick self. The self that had blow-dried my hair and spent 40 minutes choosing an outfit for our first date would have been horrified by my makeup-less appearance and constant need to blow my nose.

When the going gets tough, how are we supposed to react? If your relationship is still in its budding stage, the first rough patch is terrifying. You don’t want to seem like a burden, and you’re scared of losing the idealized version of yourself that you’ve cultivated for others to see. No one wants to be seen un-showered and half-articulate, especially by a person one is attracted to. It is terrifying to let someone get that close; no one wants to fall off that pedestal.

As scary as it is though, these inglorious moments are perhaps the most important and defining parts of your relationship. Why? Because if that person is still around at the end of the day, holding a box of Kleenex and a can of chicken noodle soup, it means that they’re in it for more than the put-together you that the rest of the world sees. It means that they’re cool with the totally unglamorous, unembellished and real you.

When I finally came around to full consciousness, my mildly terrified boyfriend spent the rest of the day making sure I drank absurd amounts of water and didn’t get out of bed. And while the fainting incident, as well as my whole mono experience, has now turned into something we joke about, there is a certain comfort behind the laughter in knowing that he was there to catch me. Because when the going gets tough, the tough don’t always get going—sometimes the best ones actually stick around.