“You Don’t Act Married. You Like Each Other Too Much.”

a photo of La Jolla beach in San Diego at sunset
Image by John Uhrig / CC BY

“You guys aren’t married, are you?” our cab driver asks us.

“Actually we are,” I say.

“Newlyweds?” he asks.

“We’ve been together eight years,” I answer.

“Wow,” he says. “You don’t act married.”

“What do you mean?”

Our car driver tells us that we seem to get along too well, chat too freely. That we like each other too much to have been married for any length of time.

I figure he’s just being silly and chatty to pass the time on the ride. Make us laugh. Give us a bit of an experience. He’s a retiree. A  disconcertingly terrible driver but a devoted entertainer.

It isn’t a one and done joke either. He keeps remarking on how odd it is, that my husband and I have such a natural rapport. Over and over. I figure he’s just launching into one of those “safe” stand-up routines. Married Life Is Agony is a regular fixture in mediocre comedy (“take my wife, please”). Along with Dating Is Hard, and I’m a Mess. And Men and Women Might As Well Be From Different Planets, Amirite (i.e., gender essentialism).

So my first thought is that this line of conversation is just a joke. Whatever the case, he keeps on it for a lot longer than one would expect him to, given our lack of response to it.

After a while, I concur that I’m in a suspiciously good relationship. “Mmm,” I say earnestly. “We’re freaks.”

My husband Justin laughs beside me, passes me a quick knowing glance. A subtle one you’d likely miss if you didn’t know to look for it.

And the line gets a belly laugh out of our cab driver. Once I’ve said it, he finally switches gears, asks about our vacation plans while we’re in San Diego the next few days. That fills up the rest of the drive.  He drops us off at the La Jolla Cove after giving us the thumbs up to our itinerary.

After the driver drops us off at the cove, Justin and I laugh a little about it. We both agree he was a bit of a character. And an awful driver.

“That’s a funny thing,” I say, “When your cab driver thinks you like each other too much to be married.”

“Well,” Justin says. “I think he was joking.”

“Oh probably,” I say. “He did go on for a while about it though.”

Justin nods.

He Holds My Hand as We Walk Through the Tide Pools, Especially When It Gets Slippery

It’s a decently busy day at the cove, even though we tried our best to plan around crowds, by coming out here on a Thursday afternoon, hardly peak beach hours. But there’s a healthy smattering of people hanging out. So I suspect it’s always fairly busy down here.

The beach is dominated by sea lions and seals. Everywhere there are signs informing you that it’s a crime to harass them and instructing you to maintain some distance from them. But the posted warnings don’t stop a few shameless individuals from getting irresponsibly close to the animals, trying to take the perfect selfie.

I roll my eyes at this ill-advised behavior but mind my own business. We enjoy watching the pinnipeds laze about and sunbathe. The sea lions are barking loudly at one another, engaged in some kind of tussle over prime marine real estate. They move in this astoundingly derpy way, as if they were abruptly dropped off in their large ungainly bodies and still don’t know quite how to operate them. They’re huge, so there’s a lot of power with each movement, but they waddle in the most peculiar way and are easily rendered off kilter by the slightest physical resistance. So when they spar, it’s almost like watching two possessed punching bags fight.

Justin and I move through the tide pools. It’s low tide, so much has been revealed that was covered only hours before. Tiny crabs spontaneously skitter out from slats in the rocks. Thick braids of washed up algae dot the landscape. We look at shells, interesting erosion patterns.

I take a video of the waves crashing on the shore because it’s so relaxing that I know I’ll want to remember it later — and still photos won’t do it justice.

We move slowly through the tide pools as things are still rather wet and treacherous. Justin keeps holding my hand, helping me get more sure footing, especially as I have to contend with slippery rocks.

People Keep Asking Us If We’re Newlyweds

The cab driver thing seemed like it was probably a fluke when it happened.

But over the next week and a half that we’re traveling (moving to Mexico after a few days in San Diego), we hear the same thing over and over again. From drivers, waiters, tour guides. Basically anyone who interacts with us for more than a minute at a time.

They always think we’re newlyweds. That we’re on our honeymoon. And they keep pointing out that we don’t act like people who have been together for more than a year or two.

“Okay,” I say to Justin one night over dinner, after the sixth or seventh incident. “This is getting a little silly.”

He agrees.

An NRE/ORE Mashup?

Don’t get me wrong; I adore Justin. He’s a great lover, a great friend. I feel really happy to even know him, let alone be married to him. He’s just a good person. One I’m proud to be associated with in any way.

And I love our relationship. We have a lot of exciting moments together still, even now.

But are we in that honeymoon phase? No. I remember that time, the first year or two when we were together. It was nonstop New Relationship Energy. It was ridiculous, frankly, biochemically more like a prolonged drug binge than every other relationship I’d had.

But with time, that intensity faded. Well, kinda. There are still moments even now, when I spend time with him and our relationship manages to feel both comfortable and familiar and yet new. It’s something we’ve cultivated, by making an active effort to keep things new and exciting — nurturing our preexisting friendship, continuing to go on dates with one another, focusing more on the good in one another than the bad, each letting the other have some space, seeking out new activities, cultivating compersion, and enjoying positive polyamorous spillover effects when they happen.

All of these measures employed together are pretty effective, coalesces into a strange kind of hybrid relationship energy. One that’s technically Old Relationship Energy but doesn’t read that way to strangers.

We know we’re not on our honeymoon. The way I feel about Justin is different than NRE. But then again, it feels different than any other ORE I’d felt before.

And I love it.

*

Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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