Our anniversary is coming up and I was thinking of gifts to commemorate our time together. I thought about getting him a gift that would let him know that I would wait for him to be ready. Ready for what? For everything that social norms has been suggesting we do: settle down, get married, have kids, etc. Social norms (in a heteronormative world) also imply that women are much more likely to be “ready” for these next steps than men and more often than not, we women are “waiting” around for the men to “get their act together” to move into these next steps with us.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I hated the idea of waiting. It’s not that I don’t want to wait and think I should find someone who won’t make me wait – it’s that I hate the connotation that “waiting” implies. That somehow I have the upper hand in the relationship, that there is a timeline to be met and someone is not meeting that timeline. In other contexts, sure – waiting is appropriate. In a relationship? There shouldn’t be a “waiting” in the sense that you want someone to “catch up” to you.
People ask us the very common, “When are you getting married?” At first, I would joke: “Well, that’s up to him. *nudge nudge*” After a few of those, I hated it because that meant I would put him on the spot, that I was placing pressure on him to do something he may or may not be ready to do. That didn’t sit well with me and I shouldn’t be throwing him under the bus when those questions arise. If anybody is doing any kind of “waiting” around, it should be the both of us, together. Both of us need to be ready, together, to move into whatever steps we want to move into. It shouldn’t be that one of us gets there first – we aren’t hiking. He isn’t 20 steps ahead while I huff and puff my way up the incline. That isn’t a relationship. That’s playing a game of “Who will get there first with me that I can tolerate?”
So I’m back to square one for gifts. Maybe we don’t need gifts. I know I don’t need one. Just like all the times I make comments about coworkers getting flowers delivered to them at the office. Sure, it would be nice to have, but in no way, shape or form, does his sending flowers to me make, break, or change our relationship. It’s nice to have, but I don’t need it. I need him and I would trade a million roses in the world if that meant I could get him next to me instead. But gifts are another topic for another day.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn in the past few years is how to be of support to someone I love, to someone I care about. We have automatic tendencies to give advice, to say something of use to another person, but sometimes, that’s just not what the person wants or needs to hear.
I remember hearing of a poem and since then, I have kept it in my mind ever since. It is hard for me, for us, to just listen. To be able to sit in the other person’s pain and not want to remedy or alleviate. But it’s important to sit, to share in, to feel what that person is going through.
This was evident during the summer and following up to last night. Partner was struggling, consumed with anxiety and fear and it was so hard for me to resist comfort. While I failed here and there, I had to learn how to say different things. Instead of trying to reassure and tell him that he would do fine, I had to say that I would be there for him despite whatever outcomes may have arisen. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all, maybe I should have.
A few weeks ago, a friend shared difficulties with her partner, about what he was going through and how difficult it was for her to be witness to that. I remember suggesting to her that she check in with the therapist he was going to see, to ask the therapist how she could be of support to him. I have remembered that since because it reminded me of how I should react and also what I need to suggest to my clients. Granted, in that latter position, I actually get to provide the suggestions, but it’s a reminder to the kids and the families I work with that yes, while the kid is the one coming to therapy, in reality, it’s all of them. All key players are a part of that child’s life and how can we all be a team and learn to support what that kid’s needs are?
It’s hard. It’s hard to just listen, to do nothing more than listen. I am still struggling with it. It’s a fine line to cross – at which point is someone asking for advice and at which point is someone not? Is the question implied? Or is a disclaimer needed? What I do know is that I need to be more mindful of when that occurs and truly strive to be as supportive as I can.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes people last, what makes people compatible with one another. What is the secret ingredient to long-lasting love and a half-century of happiness together?
My parents split up a few years ago, yet they carry on as if nothing really changed. Daddy comes home for dinner and they both sit on the couch to watch Vietnamese dramas. Next week, they’re going on a cruise together. While I have gotten over the shock of their split, I wonder why they did it in the first place if they are still doing things together, still seeing each other, still acting like companions with one another. Their relationship confuses me; divorce should mean that while they can still be friendly and civil with one another, in a sense, they should be apart. They should spend less time with each other and considering I’m the only child left in the house and I already know about the split, it’s not as if they need to keep up the pretense.
I was trying to think about the type of relationship that you need to have with your partner in order to make it work. How vulnerable can you be? Should this other person be someone with whom you can be your most vulnerable and still feel supported? Can there really be a “no secrets” relationship? Can this person still love me despite the darkest moments of my life? Is this person willing to do the same? To share their inner darknesses with me, to be vulnerable with me, to allow me to nurture their pain?
Is it bigger than vulnerability? Is it trust? Love? Compatibility? Companionship? All of the above and more? Does the relationship work because you make each other happy? Or because you are two individuals who have found another outlet of support and really enjoy each other’s support? Is it a “needs” relationship – I need you; you need me? Or is it – I don’t need you to function and survive in life, but I really, really, really, really like that you are in my life?
What do I want? What am I looking for? What are the qualities of a relationship that I am willing and not willing to negotiate? What is important to me? And are my needs compatible with his?