And I Love Him For That
Some days, Paul and I are on each other's last nerve. It doesn't help that we are both at an age where we forget things … like entire conversations we had just the day before, or the names of, well, everything.
A typical conversation might go something like this:
Me: We should watch that movie again, the one we liked so much. Remember?
Paul: Which one? Who was in it?
Me: *arms flailing* You know, that woman, blonde, married to that guy, the one with the five kids, she played opposite that other woman? The redhead? She was in that TV show with that comedian ...
We have a running joke about the list we keep in our heads of all the things we are going to look up on Google when we get home only to be completely forgotten five minutes later. As in - "Oh look, that house is for sale. We should find out what they're asking for it. Let's look it up when we get home." Mentally add it to list. Five minutes later, "What were we going to look up?"
Forgetfulness is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Paul and I keep telling and hearing the same stories which is irritating in its own special way but, if we're lucky, we've forgotten that we've already heard this particular anecdote, only a faint shadow of distant memory hovers, so that we're happy to hear it again from the beginning to end. Much like when Paul finds a book of interest and then realizes, halfway through the first chapter, that he's read it before but hangs in till the end anyway because it’s mostly new again.
It's hard to live with someone day in and day out. Navigating mood swings, clutter and the myriad peccadilloes with which we each come is challenging. Paul is a pack rat; I’m forever getting bored with stuff and clearing it out. Paul has a propensity for theatricality where my tendency is toward a low-key, slow-moving whatever. Paul is the master of small talk, filling conversational space with stories; I prefer comfortable silence. My attitude is that rules are made to be broken; Paul prefers it when we don't do that.
So, yeah, we don’t always agree or get along. Sometimes the way Paul hums to himself drives me mad and sometimes I pile too many things on his To-Do plate. Sometimes he forgets what I’ve told him. Sometimes I forget to be kind.
But what I never, ever forget is how much I love him or how much he loves me.
When you've written into your marriage vows that you will love, honour and respect each other through the good, the bad, AND the ugly, you've up-levelled your relationship to new, crazy heights. A tall enough order but Paul and I also promised that I would laugh at all his dad jokes (of which there are many … the pain is real, my friends), and that he would deep-six all spiders that come too close to my person. This way we both get to feel valiant and validated.
Because the big themes of life can and will journey through all relationships (or, more than we like, blow through with the dizzying force of a hurricane), it is important to remember why we are even together, especially when those reasons are not crystal clear. That’s where the seemingly little things come in handy. Making him a cup of tea just the way he likes it, spending time on the couch being potatoes together, holding hands when you are out walking, giving her the space to rant about work, cheering him on when he meets his running goals. These are the dabs of Crazy Glue that bond us to each other when the relationship feels like it’s losing ground to all the stresses and other priorities we have to manage.
By now, I’ve pretty much learned that the key to a solid relationship is individuality. Yes, I said that. There’s you and there’s the other person (or, if you’re polyamorous, there’s a bunch of other people but the general principle still applies; it’s probably just more complex). Two distinct people each with their own equally weird, obnoxious and engaging ways of doing things, coming together to form this other entity called a relationship also with its own weird and wonderful qualities. The fun part is that, together, you get to create the relationship from the ground up. It is a melding of all your best and worst attributes. Through experimentation, communication and a sizeable dose of humour, you figure out what you will keep, what you will modify, and what you will promise to only ever do when you are alone or with your friends.
Relationships are not about losing or subjugating your uniqueness for the benefit of the other or, god help us, to “keep the peace.” They are about maintaining each person’s individuality while, at the same time, keeping the distinct needs of the relationship in mind. In this way, all three aspects can feel understood, loved, and cared for. It’s a juggling act, to be sure, and requires a very solid foundation on which to toss and catch. Not a three-legged stool but a four. It’s all very well to assert our own needs and wants (it's healthy, in fact) but the third element, the relationship, has equal say and equal needs which require equal thoughtfulness.
Asking, “What is best for the relationship while honouring our own selves?” is key. If after a considerable amount of time has passed with the other person and this is still not a question you ask yourself, then you might want to revisit your reasons for being there. Just sayin'.
So, when Paul and I forget what we had for dinner last night, or when I find myself asking, “Have I told you this already?” before launching into yet another heroic journey story about how I was such a cool rebel as a teenager (and Paul is kind enough to be interested), it prompts me to remember that this is something we built together. We made this what it is; it is uniquely ours. And I love him for that.