I’ve a confession that may or may not surprise you: I am two months shy of 24 and I got together with my boyfriend at the tender age of 14, during the extremely heady days of peak emo. Now we are poor creative types; he’s an animator and I’m a writer, so we spend our time figuring out how we’re going to eat. Back in 2007 we were best friends and I had another boyfriend (scandal) who is, incidentally, the only other person I know to have been in a relationship for a similar length of time. When I started seeing my now-boyfriend I liked him a ton but I was a cynical lil' kid, keen not to start proclaiming lifelong love on my MSN name after two days. I opted to take it day by day, never expecting anything – not another week, another month, a – gulp – decade. We just took it easy. And it worked. I am not super romantic or soppy – I have always just wanted friendship, love and sex without flowers or fauxmance, even as a teenager. We knew each other really well and had the same group of friends, which made it easy to hang out and integrate our new relationship with our actual life. Ultimately I cannot imagine sleeping with someone who couldn’t get on with my friends, and even new people I meet adore him. (Your pals are a great barometer for whether or not someone is a tool.) I’m not even sure who they would choose in the divorce, and that’s ok. I expected to break up. I wasn’t particularly pessimistic, I was just aware of the shelf life that these things often have. When we left school after four years together we went to university in our city, moving into a house with friends and the dog that I adopted at 17 (I am clearly very into commitment). This brought fresh challenges and fights; suddenly we were essentially children, navigating new realms and bumbling about doing very adult things in young bodies with no experience. But we coped, and we still live together now, 150 miles away from home. It’s hard trying to survive as a broke young graduate, and it’s pretty nice having someone else with whom to suffer.
I know that a long-term relationship may not seem that special but, in reality, it’s hard enough staying together as fully formed adults, let alone sticking it out through some of the most formative years of your life. We have somehow managed to survive school, university, moving away, friends, crushes, clubbing, all of the things that make it hard to smash parts with the same person for any length of time. One of the toughest things to deal with when you’re young and locked down is other people. Different classes, jobs and courses meant that we separately came across a lot of people who didn’t know the other one existed. We’ve had to break a lot of hearts, and boys never get less pushy, regardless of how many years you have under your belt. Crushes on other people also happen; they are healthy and unavoidable, especially when you’re young and cute. We’ve just managed to avoid ruining something really good for the sake of some fun, and we're always honest.
When people find out how long we’ve been together, they are usually either sweet or condescending. I have had legitimate recommendations from people who aren’t even trying to fuck me, telling me just to dump him so I can “live”. Living is travelling and working and hanging out and doing dumb stuff and then learning from it. We have done all of that and we still do it, both together and separately: I travelled around Europe with a friend three months ago. It would be very irresponsible and erratic of me to pack in something really healthy and solid just to see who else is out there. I could, of course, live without him. I just don’t really want to. It is very hard to be alive and it is also hard to find another person you want to be around for more than a couple of days, let alone through some of the most tumultuous years of your life. I am happy that I found someone I liked when I was 14. We have a lot of fun. Most importantly, we like each other as people, not just for what we give each other romantically. We are ridiculously lucky and it hasn’t always been easy – we still fight, we still disagree, we still sometimes think that maybe it isn’t 100% the best thing. I am still a bit of a cynic and take it day by day. I fully accept that, yeah, we might not be together when we are 35, but we can keep on growing and trying to make it work. Life is hard. Keep hold of anything that makes it slightly less shit and lonely.