1: Our Relationship is equally shared, present, and showcased with constant growth toward a unified goal.
(Our Values Statement, Distilled after this first conversation).
I come to this conversation pretty confident about how it will go.
We’ve had less direct versions of it before- and I believe I already know what most of his answers will be… and wow, was I wrong.
First of all- I should know better than to come to a conversation with expectations.
It sucks to come to a conversation already thinking you know what the other person will say. It usually results in one or two scenarios: 1) you only listen to find evidence to support your masterful predictions, and/or 2) you enter into the dialogue with a total preoccupation with your own thoughts, patiently waiting for your turn to vamp, and completely missing what your partner has to say.
I am jarred out of my comfortable I-know-my-partner-well-enough-to-know-this-crap mentality when we land on question 2: ‘Is there a contract? If so, what are the terms?’
Obviously, we’re getting married. There IS a contract. And I freaking LOVE the clarity, transparency, and organization of a well-written agreement- I’m definitely pro-con(tract).
Connor, on the other hand, is vehemently opposed.
To him, contracts are used maliciously to point fingers underlining the agreed-upon subpoints and yell, “SEE!? Ya promised. It’s signed RIGHT HERE. SOOO, stop failing. Thanks A-hole.”
I’m stunned. My snarky inner-bitch retorts: “Then don’t violate your agreements. It’s pretty simple…”
This exchange leaves me a little miffed- I wrote the Partnership Agreements as a collection of conversations that would ideally end in some sort of written and SIGNED agreement. Something about having it in writing makes it so much more real and helps me feel safe. Also- there’s less room to forget. (Or so I thought).
I bring up these solid objections, with a gentle reminder about the contract we signed when we started dating.
Our dating contract came about like this: I was freshly healing from a nasty divorce and felt like a relationship with Connor was TOTALLY what I wanted but also a really tough choice- I needed an intense amount of self-focus, therapy, and space. So, we created a contract stating that I’m going to do what I need to do to heal, whatever that is, and he would do what’s best for him too. It released me from the ‘expectations’ of what I was ‘supposed’ to do in relationships (all fake, and probably a result of some old programming), and helped remind my codependent tendencies that he’d take care of himself. It was basically, a ‘you do you, bro.’ And, umm, ‘I’ll do me.’
Much to my chagrin, he reminds me that this contract that helped me so much throughout the relationship had totally escaped his mind- he had no recollection of even signing it.
(I make a metal note- does one of our conversations need to be about memory or his gnat-like attention to detail)? Harsh. I’ll make it nicer than that…. We agree to disagree about contracts (for now).
The next betrayal of my confident perception of our relationship comes from me.
When we near the end of the conversation, I ask, ‘What do each of us provide to the partnership?’ Connor lists off his various contributions, and gives a very beautiful list of mine. When it’s my turn to answer the question, I’m able to list many examples for him, and when I’m tasked to list my own relationship provisions, I choke. WOW, this is bad. The only things tumbling around in my brain are domestic-housewifey tasks (which I passionately resist)-
I’M MORE THAN A ‘FlOOR-SWEEPING, SANDWICH MAKING, DOTING ON THE MAN’ WOMAN.
So WHY can’t I come up with something I offer? My eyes fill up with tears.
I know who I am in my work- I’m a service-provider at heart and I’m great at taking care of people, customer service, and basically, helping. BUT- in a relationship, the work-skills are helpful- but they don’t really matter. There’s a new and different skill set, apart from my well-honed caretaker and service provider mentalities. Perhaps it isn’t really even a skill set at all…
Why do people enter into relationships?
Is it because of what the other person ‘does’ for them? Am I in the partnership because of Connor’s actions?
I don’t think so.
It’s not in the doing that the love-connection exists. It’s in his essence- in who he is. So then, by extension, he loves me because I’m me. What are the awesome things about me that make this relationship great?
This reminds me of a bible verse from my organized religion days: “For by Grace are ye saved by faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast”. Ephesians 2:8-9
I’m going to take it out of the God context and simplify it a bit to it’s essence: we’re all awesome and worthy and worthwhile because we’re made that way. NOT because of the things we DO.
I remember in my marriage I wanted to be able to say I did everything. I wanted the evidence and I wore it like a badge of honor. SEE!? I’m doing it all. I’m awesome. And you’re- well, you don’t do much- but I still think you’re occasionally awesome. And, it isn’t because of what you do for me. I appreciate(d) you for the light in you.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
So, where’s my light? What does it provide to the partnership?
This conversation is such an unexpected smack in the face and an essential reframing of the relationship- each side needs to show up and shine. And a huge part of that relies on each of us showing up in our real, sparkly, full essence- just being ourselves!
Well, wow. I know I wrote this activity- but there went my predictions- right out the frickin’ window.
What else will we uncover?