As I’ve written before, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, never have in our 16 years together. I’m not exactly sure why. For one, it’s hard to ignore the Halmark prescribe romance… we’d rather make our own cards and make a big deal of anniversaries; Lupricalia is just too public. Secondly, we’ve no babysitters we trust on such days, but even when childless we weren’t into it… Truth be told, it’s probably greatly because this holiday, when we were coming to terms with being gay, kind of felt like someone else’s holiday, like Chinese New Year, but for heterosexuals :-). So tonight we’ll do what we want and have a nice home-cooked meal and probably play a board game with the kids, before we put them to bed and watch the Battle Star Galactica waiting on the Tevo; he in my arms or me in his, as humans and cylons work out their cylon/human issues.
Clearly, I’m no Casanova.
As I was joking Rob about our tame plans for tonight, though, he said what I already know: romance comes in different, more subtle but potent ways in long-lived love. A squeeze while I’m unloading the dishwasher, a call home during work just to hear his voice, a little note on my computer, and so on; all that works better than a dozen roses. Sure, that getting-to-know-you phase is great fun, but it doesn’t match up to the I-know-you better-than-myself epoch :-). Not many couples get to feel that sort of stable, strong center in their family, and, while it would not make for interesting drama--cylons or no--that’s more than enough romance for us.
But this is a day for love, and, if I do say so myself, I’ve done pretty well in that department. As part of my continual attempt to spread the gay lifestyle, I’d like to share some long-term relationship discoveries. My credentials? Well I am a doctor (still waiting for my doctor of love diploma, but still), add to that the 16 years of happy monogamy, and the fact we have never fought and that’s pretty good, right? So here’s what I’ve found in trying to figure out why we get along smoothly:
Touch him. We’ve never fought but we do, of course, disagree sometimes. I know there have been times when my feelings have been hurt and I’m sure it’s gone both ways. I’d say we have a significant disagreement about every other year, but they never escalate past the day they're realized. When most people feel at odds with their spouse it seems to me their tendency is to pull back. This is a terrible instinct to follow here. If you feel hurt, get closer, touch him and see what happens. In me, just a hand on the shoulder can change perspective immediately for you both, as though it was a discharge of a shock. Funny that that works, but it really does.
Always keep a white flag ready. I think a lot of couples get in trouble for their constituent’s tenacity. If there is anyone to whom you should never honestly care about beating or saving face in front of it’s your spouse. Everyone can be wrong or a jerk sometimes, but that isn’t important if you keep from spending energy looking for ways to better justify it. So, unlike in other areas of life, when in doubt, give up; roll over; surrender easily. Just say “you’re right; I’m wrong” and be done with it. Of course this means often you’ll both end up surrendering and arguing the value of the other’s position, but what better way to find the right position? Your loss is his win is your win; like a team, the only points that count are awarded to the family on whole.
Recent discoveries in neuroscience seem to show our decision making and moral reasoning is the result of different areas of the brain duking it out, but we have the sensation of being one whole personality, only cognizant of the result of their arguments. I think a healthy relationship should feel that cohesive, like a healthy mind does when compiling the results of disparate interests of the brain.
Never Wave the White Flag. I think a lot of couples get in trouble for their lack of tenacity :-). You, the individual can and often should give up, but the family you're a part of can't. I'm of the school that you never go more than a day without addressing an issue, and I'll not go to sleep unless I know we're on the same page. Given the above techniques, I've never had to stay up past 11 :-).
Date. Each other, that is. Sure, tonight we’ll be home, but we try to get out alone at least once a month. I blogged about how important I found this, a long while ago, here. Yes, it’s all about the kids and they need a lot of attention, but the kids rely on you two being a solid team and so some alone time to pair bond and gaze at each other over desert in a fancy restaurant is more than permissible. It’s as healthy as exercise, and more fun.
Framing. I’ve seen several couples, now divorced, seem to look at each other as more like roommates with benefits, even when they have kids. It’s the “You complete me” problem. The other person is seen as someone who fits into your life, makes you whole, when it is more robust to look at the two of you as making something larger whole. As a husband you are half of something bigger than the sum of its parts, and the relationship is not meant to complete or fix you, the individual. To me, that perspective alone goes most of the way to making the rest a happy cakewalk.
Eh, or maybe we're both just easy going guys benefiting by luck... Whatever, I'm just glad for the romantic holiday evening I have ahead of me :-).