Turning Right off Honeymoon Avenue
Written By Zennie Trieu
A week’s worth of hometown dates during our spring break solidified the beginning of the end of the honeymoon phase for my boyfriend, Evan, and me. At the time, I was freaking out. Looking back now, the inevitable shift in our relationship was not only necessary, but was also the starting point of a much more stable, honest, and loving chapter in the story of us. It is my suspicion that this change is integral for all intimate relationships—romantic, familial, and platonic—to be both individually gratifying and mutually fulfilling, particularly for a post-grad in the weeks and months that follow commencement.
One early afternoon in mid-March of this year, I found myself alone in my boyfriend’s room in his childhood home in Williston, Vermont, a town not too far from Burlington. During my stay there, I met no one—from strangers to Evan’s family—who was in a bad mood. Not even during the second most intense snowstorm the state had ever seen. Everyone was chill, kind, and happy to meet me.
Which made my anxiety attack all the more out of place. Consider it horrendous timing since I was already descending into the worry-filled spiral that college seniors often find themselves in, and at the exact time that I was traveling with Evan also meeting his parents, brother, two dogs, two cats, and lifelong friends for the first time.
I was already nervous for this trip and wanted to make a fantastic impression with the people Evan cares so much about, but I suddenly felt like a deer in the headlights when certain questions came up.
“What’s your plan for after NYU?” “Do you know what you want to do yet?” “Oh, you’re majoring in acting! So, what kind of jobs are you looking for?”
Of course, all of these questions were more than fair game, and they were asked with genuine curiosity and sans judgment, but I still felt woefully unprepared to answer any of them.
My responses? “I don’t usually plan for the long run. I focus a lot more for the short term.”
“I’ll figure it out when the time comes, but I just don’t want to spend the last part of my college experience stressed about what comes after.” “I know this may sound really idealistic, but I honestly don’t feel like life will be so black-and-white after I graduate. It’s not like a switch will be turned off. The universe and the people in my life will still take care of me, as long as I put in the work and effort and continue to do what I’ve always done so well: enjoy my life and express the gratitude.”
All were genuine answers, and all have been said before—but only to Evan. When I said these things out loud to people who weren’t my boyfriend, I became alarmingly self-conscious. A feeling that was only amplified when Evan spelled out his carefully considered plans to anyone who asked. I then self-deprecatingly wondered to myself:
1. Am I a shitty girlfriend, and is our relationship going to be okay?
2. Am I a shitty person, and am I going to be okay?
I was beginning to understand quite consequentially that, after spending eighteen years of my human existence in the education bubble, I would no longer be a student. And I was in a serious relationship, without a plan.
Things were going to be different. We’d both be working towards full-time careers. If Evan couldn’t afford rent in the city, he wouldn’t be able to stay in New York. What would that mean for us if he had to move back to Vermont? What if we both went to grad school in different cities? What about adjusting to adult life in ways that neither of us could accurately anticipate? I dreaded these questions and, immaturely and irrationally, longed for days filled with less brooding, literally saying out loud to Evan lyrics from the opening track of Ariana Grande’s debut album:
“Let's just go back to the way it was / When we were on Honeymoon Avenue / Honeymoon Avenue, baby"
A year into our relationship, the honeymoon phase was ending just as I could no longer avoid putting off some serious thought into figuring things out and getting my life together. This transition in relationship stages is difficult for anyone to go through, but at the end of the day, instead of passive aggressively ignoring the change, discussing it with one another throughout has really helped me weather it.
We were fearful of the less glamorous, the less easy, and the less effortless. Instead of last summer’s dates on boats and rooftop bars (I’m a cliché, I know), we’d have to spend a lot of our days inside writing cover letters and scrolling through career listings. Despite days of upset (him) or bouts of severe depression (me), it was necessary for us to keep ourselves fit, healthy, and open with each other and our friends and families. We’d have to get used to rejection e-mails or, more often than not, a total lack of response from HR, casting directors, and potential collaborators. You just get so used to it for so long. But you reasonably lower your grand expectations anyway, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a partner who’ll be willing to express to you their highest joys and deepest letdowns alike.
But you should also allow yourself to wholeheartedly fall apart in front of people with whom you share these long-term, trustful relationships. And Evan let me freak the fuck out in Vermont during our spring break, and has let me do so countless times since then, especially after graduation. And I’ve done the same for him. It’s not unchallenging or fabulous, but it will always feel better, healthier, and happier in the long run. And that’s coming from someone who up until recently did not really seriously consider things for the long term.
Problems that Evan and I shared with each other used to be deadlines for papers or exams or toxic friendships. Issues that have come up recently are larger, more daunting, and cannot be solved with a single conversation behind closed doors: finding a satisfying career, feeling inept or uncertain, attempting to plan out the near and far-off futures. And yet, no matter how awful or debilitating it can be to talk through these situations, there’s something quite special about having someone who can give me an open ear, and offer up advice that can be difficult—but important—to hear.
I hardly know anyone who gets stoked for the unavoidable end of a honeymoon stage of a relationship, but there’s nothing that beats coming home to a welcoming loved one and just dropping all your shit at the front door, getting to be yourself in a place where you feel free, and knowing that no amount of short-term issues can ever compare to the sustainability, comforts, commitment, and warmth of a relationship with someone—parent, best friend, soul mate—that’s in it for the long haul with you. And, for all these relationships, I know I’m a lucky girl.