Monday, March 11, 2013


A conversation with V the other day enunciated what I think is the core of our relationship, and how we function. When we were at a friend's wedding a few weeks back, both the bride-to-be and another, married friend were talking at the rehearsal dinner about things they won't let their fiances/husbands do.

The bride-to-be told her fiance, who was sitting next to her, that he was absolutely not going to go out and get drunk that night; he was going to get a decent amount of sleep because his wedding was the next day. The other girl chimed in with the prohibitions she'd put on her now-husband before their ceremony, and - with an eye roll - recounted how he hadn't listened.

V and I were both blown away. At the core of our relationship, though I think it's actually been unstated until recently, is the simple idea that I do not control her, and she does not control me. We have exactly no right to tell each other what to do.

I didn't realize how revolutionary this was, until listening to these girls talk. V is technically my only relationship; I don't have a background for how other relationships go. I just know what makes sense for us, and what we've made work. And it comes down to the idea of autonomy. Just because I've promised to be with her forever doesn't mean I've promised to give up my independence.

What our arrangement (implicit as it was) comes down to is this: I cannot tell V that she can or cannot do something. I can, however, tell her how it makes me feel when she does/doesn't, and trust that her care for me will cause her to act in a way that results in my happiness.

I wouldn't tell her, "You can't go out to dinner with her tonight!"; I would say, "I know she invited you to dinner, but I've felt really lonely all day, and I'd love it if we could have some us time," or, "Could you maybe just go out for coffee and be back in an hour? I miss you and feel like I haven't seen you much lately." Yes, this runs the risk of my feelings and desires being disregarded; I hope to always have the trust in her that I do, though, which tells me she will not idly discount those emotions.

I want to make it clear that I'm not holding us up as some sort of paragon. This takes gut honesty, courage, and being very, very real, and it's far from easy - though it certainly gets easier with practice. But I think it's a more healthy way to be together, because the motivation for doing or not doing something is your desire for your partner's happiness, not a restriction placed on you.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Do you find yourself or those you interact with tending toward dictating their partner's lives? Are there horror stories of arbitrary mandates that you can turn my stomach with?

1 comment:

  1. My partner and I definitely have a similar approach to this topic as you and V. It can get tricky, though, because sometimes expressing our emotions to each other can feel manipulative. A sort of "make whatever decision you want, but if you make the one I don't want you to make I will feel SO SAD and you will feel SO GUILTY" thing. Most of the time we work it out, but it can be tough, for sure, to not be able to just... forbid things. We do have one specific area where I have absolute veto power, but it's a very particular case and the veto policy was actually something HB wanted to do, so it meets both of our needs pretty well.