October will mark Rob and my 24th Anniversary together as a couple. As time goes on, we find others who seek our guidance or suggestion on how to find a partner, be in a partnership, and ultimately keep a partnership.
These are difficult questions to be sure. We all are so different, we want different things. We have different values and place greater importance on some values over others. Thus, we are left with no quid pro quo, no ‘formula’ for finding your soul-mate and no guarantee step-by-step to keeping it once you’ve found it.
I can tell you several things that have helped me along the way. Maybe some of these may help you.
Don’t be convinced that you must outline what you’re looking for, before you find it.
Ok. Certainly some values are non-negotiable. Honesty, Integrity, Fidelity. But when one gets into the nitty-gritty such as… I like surfing… so he has to like surfing too. It begins a slippery slope. A slope wherein what I’m saying unconsciously is I want “me”. Other attributes too such as he must be taller than me, or have blue eyes – are just missing the point of finding a good and honest human being qualified of being a good partner.
Finding someone precisely like me who I can share my interests with is nice, yes – but, I consider that a bonus, rather than a must-have. The truth is, Rob and I had very little in common when we met. So much so, that with my limited vision, I could not see compatibility. He liked visiting art museums (ugh). I liked car shows. He was trying to perfect his water color brush strokes, I was trying to perfect the timing on breaking down my rifle and qualifying as a marksman. He was a democrat, I was not. Truth was at each turn of our conversation we found we could discuss little with regards to mutual interest. But, here’s what I found exciting. When he talked about museum art pieces, his passion exuded in his voice and eyes. He was excited about life and art. You could see he really loved art, and that passion was somewhat contagious. Today I will accompany him to a museum, because it makes him happy – and I get to see him enjoying life. And, he will even go to the occasional car show with me. His special job is to rate the cup-holders J
Once you do find him – don’t freak out.
There is an invisible line. It’s different for everyone. 6-months, 9-months, someday – you wake up and realize. Holy shit! – I’m in a relationship! Panic ensues and all manner of irritability comes forth. That’s sort of our natural defenses warning of us of ‘intruder alert’ – someone getting close to the heart. These may flare up several times during the course of the first year and maybe even into the second year.
For us, it was a microwave. We bought one together because we were living together and well… we needed one. But this singular purchase represented a milestone. Because it was no longer your stuff and my stuff. OMG – if we break up, WHO GET’S THE MICROWAVE? This subversive mentality is constantly running in the back of my mind, because I want the other person to be as committed as I am. And, how do you really know? You can ask them, but if they say ‘yes’, isn’t that what person who wants you to think they are committed – but isn’t really, would say?
On that day, after an argument ensued, the best suggestion Rob received from his close spiritual advisor was “Do you love him today?” – “Yes, but…” “NO BUTS. Stop. Enjoy the day with the one you love today. Wake up tomorrow – ask yourself the same question. On the day your inquiry comes back with a question mark, seek counseling. The morning your question comes back “no”, then there’s a problem – until then – no problem. Let go, let God. Trying to run my own life, even in the areas of relationships has always had disastrous consequences. Here, more than anywhere else I need a spiritual advisor and a friend who will have coffee with me at a moment’s notice and just listen.
Commitment = Departure is not an option.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Gays not being able to be married is that it’s so easy to break up. There’s no formality in our coming together, and the departure can be just as informal. You can see why we are already inherently insecure about committing to a relationship where there’s no obligation really on either of our parts to stick with it.
Thus I had to approach this like my sobriety. This, is to say, drinking is not an option. No matter how bad my day is, or what tragedy may befall me, lost jobs, lost cars, and lost finances. No reason at all. Truth is there are a million excuses to drink and not one good reason. Applying this thinking to my marriage was key to providing me the security to become the person my potential promised. So, leaving the relationship is not an option. Now granted, there are some instances where this rule would not work. Such as an abusive relationship, etc.
But, I am a delicate creature. One who has had a history of taking anything, or furthermore EVERTYHING personally. So, keeping in mind that my previous experience with relationships was just to resort to the FYIDNY nuclear option (Fuck You I Don’t Need You) and leave – this relationship would be have to be handled differently. Rob and I are committed to discussing each and every disagreement we have. In 24 years, there have been many. Some small – but others we each walked away from our discussion shaking our heads wondering how we’d get through this one. But you do. If you remember that departure is just not an option. Commitment for a lifetime means just that. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re frustrated. Even when you don’t want to be in the same room with the one you love. It all blows over.
Once I read in a blue book “we have in inability to form a true partnership with another human being”. I took that as a condemning sentence that I’d never have a relationship. What it really spoke to is because of my inherent and consuming selfishness and self-centeredness it is not likely I’d be able to realize that true partnership that comes from putting another first. I practice this as often as I can in my relationship with Rob. Sometimes I fall short. I’m now glad he tells me when I’m falling short rather than holding resentment over it. It allows me to correct my course. He “IS” the primary relationship in my life. This means if other relationships are creeping in before him, I have to reassess my priorities. That’s part of my commitment to keeping my relationship happy and healthy.
None of us do this perfect. I certainly do not.
We sat the other day reminiscing about something or other from back in the early 90s and it occurred to us that each of us has spent nearly half our lives with each other. If you’d asked us in the beginning what was one of our greatest fears it likely would have been – growing old. Doing that with each other has turned out to be the biggest gifts I never saw coming.