As is often the case, Charlie and I had a long discussion last night about relationships. I suppose one of the reasons it comes up so often is that we're both observers. We frequently find ourselves watching people and how they interact with each other. This is especially true of couples. If you're breathing, you pretty much see it everywhere, whether it's in actual 3D life, or provided as a means of entertainment for the sake of Nielsen ratings. The way television works these days, one only has to surf through the channels to find one example after another of programs specifically designed as relationship trainwrecks under the guise of "reality" television. That, however, is a topic for another time.
So, we were sitting in our living room and I asked the question I often ask when I am perplexed as to how people handle relationship ups and downs; "Why are we still here?" Not to sound trite, or like I have all the answers, but when it comes to the man I share my life with and myself, I DO know the answer. For us, it comes down to ONE principal truth; No game-playing.
Believe me, we are far from perfect. Yes, we do get pissed at each other sometimes. Yes, I want to scream when after three decades together, he STILL doesn't put a new roll of toilet paper on the empty spindle, and I am sure he feels he told me something (when he didn't) that I should have known, or done. Yeah, I have gotten to the point of red-faced spitting mad when I feel he's been a dumbass and said something untoward. BUT, we have agreed from the get-go that our "stuff" is our "stuff" and we will always discuss it calmly, and when the time is right. Like adults.
I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that we really don't fight. There are no pissing matches. We've both been amused when people tell us that it isn't healthy if you don't have "some" arguments. It's apparently great for "make-up sex". WTF? If you need an excuse to get to the naked merriment, then your problems are bigger than even YOU know. We've had people try to instigate arguments between us, but we're both pretty savvy when it comes to seeing manipulation at work, and again, it doesn't work on us. We aren't easily baited into bullshit.
I will never forget a very, very long conversation we had when we first started dating. Twenty-two year old Charlie told me flat out;
"I'm really tired of the high school antics. I don't want to play the jealousy game. I don't want to manipulate or be manipulated. I hate mindgames and psychological warfare. Passive-agressive bs doesn't work on me. People have tried, believe me. They just get pissed-off because I don't react. I just walk. I don't have time for that anymore. I just want to have an honest, mature relationship. I want to be free to be me and know that that's okay and I want the woman I spend my life with to know, without a doubt, that I am her biggest fan, just the way she is and that she doesn't have to act a certain way, or be anything than what she is. This is me. My cards are all on the table."
I nodded naively, as if I held all the relationship cards in my 19 year-old hands.
When we told our friends, after knowing each other for a mere 17 days that we'd found our "ONE", eyes rolled, opinions were thrown, scoffing was audible. "Babies", they called us. "Naive", they said. But the honest truth is that as young as we were, we both had already been through more than our share of pain. If there is a hell, we'd both already been there, and if we had to go back in this lifetime (which we have more times than I care to reflect on), then we wanted to have each other to lean on. The world was already going to throw shit at us, we didn't need to throw it at each other. And so, we united our frontline. I'd say after 33 years, it's a pretty formidable fortress. Proven unpenetrable. Sure, there are dings, some dings have melded together and formed craters. I will be the first to admit that, for the most part, I'm the one that put those dings there. My partner has put up with some heavy stuff, but that shield holds strong. Why? Because Charlie has been true to his word from the very start. He has not been part and party to any game-playing. Nor have I with him. We just don't do it.
I always laugh when people still use that "Ball & Chain" reference when it comes to marriage. When, after 17 days, he sincerely asked me to share his life with him, I felt the shackles of life that I was already carrying around like Jacob Marley begin to lose their hold. Yes, some of those took time to completely remove for both of us. But I think the point is that Charlie has never added to them. If anything, he brought me freedom. I have felt that freedom for my entire marriage. So the other night, when again, we found ourselves in the middle of this conversation, and I asked him; "Why are we still here?" He smiled and said; "Because we both put our cards on the table and we both walked away winners." It's easy to say, but I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We've been eating pretty good for 33 years.
End of games.