“You’re so lucky to have found each other.”
In a matter of weeks, my boyfriend and I will have been together for a decade, and I get told how lucky I am, or how lucky he is, or some combination of those ideas … a lot. Really, whenever the longevity of our relationship pops up in conversation, or when people meet him and then comment to me about what a lovely guy he is, they’re quick to note that it’s luck that’s brought us together—luck that caused this kind, smart man to waltz into my life, to become my boyfriend, and to wind our lives together into the partnership we now enjoy. The problem is, luck wasn’t involved at all. And when people say that, it pisses me off.
Celebs fall victim to the “lucky” thing too—even Adele, whom I adore. But when, at the Brit Awards earlier this year, she said in her acceptance speech, “I also want to give a massive thank you to my boyfriend. I am so lucky to have you love me the way that you do,” I cringed a little. Surely she knows that it’s not merely luck that’s allowed her to maintain a loving relationship, and to successfully co-parent, all while she tours the world? That takes coordination! Work! Energy! Certainly not luck. I get that same twinge of annoyance when I see celebs like Jessica Alba tweet at their spouses about how “lucky” they are to count them as their “partner in crime,” or even when my beloved Taylor Swift sings about how, in her ideal relationship, “People will say, ‘They’re the lucky ones.’” People may say it, sure. But it’s not true.
And it’s not just pop culture that‘s guilty of putting luck on a romantic pedestal. It’s all over my social feeds—and probably yours too. Instagram posts documenting last night’s engagement come with captions discussing how “lucky I am to get to spend my life with this guy!” And forget about Valentine’s Day. Come February 14th, everyone with a romantic partner is “lucky.”
The thing is, I used to be one of these people. Every so often, I would turn to my boyfriend, Zach, and tell him how lucky I was to be spending my life with him. Then I thought about it.
When Zach and I met, we were in college, and let me assure you that I put a tour de force effort into becoming a couple. I tried my very best to charm him with what I hoped was an impossibly sparkling personality. Luck was not involved—really, persistence played the most major part. My dedication worked, and once we started seeing each other, I threw that same effort into making things official. Since then, we’ve spent three of our 10 years in a long-distance relationship, which included grueling biweekly train rides from New York to Washington. Now that he’s back in New York, we both continue to put a ton of work into our relationship, whether it’s to resolve conflicts, or just negotiate a restaurant choice.
For years, we debated the content of our weekends: Whether we should spend the majority of our time going out or exploring new neighborhoods (Zach’s preference), or seeing friends and staying local (mine).
Neither of us was ever quite satisfied when we did too much of one or too little of the other. We split our time evenly now, but our current balance is the result of plenty of discussions about how we each wanted to spend our free time together, and how best to get both of us what we want. Exhausting? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. Not at all lucky.
Relationships of all kinds—particularly functional ones—take work. That’s the non-romantic secret of couples everywhere. Luck is the least of it, and saying that Zach and I, or any couple, are lucky to be where we are is to absolve us of any of that effort, as though a loving, fulfilling relationship were merely a lottery number that we happened to pluck, rather than a precious world we’ve systematically built (and continue to build, in fits and starts) and nurture all the time. I wonder, too, why so many more women than men seem to talk about their good luck. As women, we bring an enormous amount of general awesomeness to the relationship table—and calling ourselves “lucky” to be with a guy who recognizes that plays down how much we have to offer.
These days, even meeting a partner can necessitate a considerable effort. You have to find the person on an app, message back and forth, put yourself through the hassle of agreeing on a place/date/time, and push through the occasionally awkward experience of conversing with strangers. Should you two click, you’ll embark on the same grand effort of forming a full-blown relationship—and if you don’t, you’ll have to start the whole exhausting process anew.
So why call it luck? The beauty of love and partnership is that you try really hard. You’re engaged all the time in the project of creating a union with this other person where you’re both satisfied and excited, and success at that project isn’t prompted by luck. It’s prompted by love.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.