Go back 18 months and I was hella-social - out pretty much every evening, always meeting up with people to do something, gaming two days a week, badminton on a third, writers group on a fourth, and usually booked for at least two others. If you even could find a girlfriend who would slot into that remaining day, would it be much of a relationship?
As it was, I feel that I deliberately started the relationship slowly. I've had a tendency to leap headfirst into relationships in the past, not really thinking about where they were going, not managing them, just letting them flow around me. But after a few...problematic situations, I was taking this one carefully - not wanting to make any of the mistakes I'd made before. And so we deliberately kept some of our own space. We kept some time to ourselves. We didn't move in with each other in the first six months.
But slowly we realised we wanted more time together than we were getting - the writing group went first, and then the Amber game. I stopped booking myself in to see people as much, so that I wasn't spending more than one evening in a row away from Julie. I developed...an attachment. Which is pretty damned natural, as without that, why would you want to be in a relationship at all?
And part of this is that we're still doing a lot of stuff - even the minimal level of friends/family maintenance meant that I spent Friday and Saturday last weekend at people's birthday parties, the weekend before we dropped in on a friend getting engaged, saw friends in the park with bikes, and got to see Star Trek. Last night I was helping her pack and getting an early night so she can fly to Belfast to visit her grandparents at short notice. Next weekend we're both visiting my parents. The weekend after that we might even get both days to ourselves. Maybe.
Plus, of course, Julie is doing a PhD - which eats up most of her brain/life, and stresses her the hell out. This will continue, no doubt, for the next year. I've seen relationships torn apart by PhDs before, and I went into this with my eyes open, determined that we'd make it through this one. But it does mean being there to be supportive, and not leaving Julie feeling like she's worked 6 long days in the week and I wasn't there on the last one. It means being there so she can read things to me, and get grammar/structure feedback. It means keeping her company last night while she writes an abstract for a conference so that it can be sent off before she flies to Belfast. It's not always easy/fun - and sometimes the stress gets to me. But I remind myself that I'm not dealing with someone who's naturally crazy - that pretty much everyone who does a PhD orbits the Nervous Breakdown singularity, and then things get better again. And in the long run it will be worth it. Soooo worth it. I get to be in love with _Dr_ Julie.
So you're not likely to see me much. And it doesn't mean I like you people any less. It just means my focus is elsewhere. Which is something I do find intermittently difficult - I miss seeing people, I sometimes feel left out of the tide of gossip, drama and emotion that would swirl around me. But when it comes to making the choice between that and being here for Julie, of making the time for her, of spending the time _with_ her, it really isn't a difficult choice.