Howdy Partner/Becoming Partners
The comedian Flip Wilson famously played a character, Geraldine on his comedy show. In one of the sketches that I saw when I was a teenager, Geraldine said, “love is a feeling that you feel when you’re about to feel a feeling you ain’t never felt before.” This line and Flip’s (as Geraldine) delivery of it, have stuck in my mind for many years. I thought of love as a feeling and followed that feeling where it led. Sometimes it led to good places.
Other times it led to bad places. It was often ephemeral.
It took time but I learned that love is not the same as partnership. Being a partner to and with your loved one is different from just being in love with them. Partnership – at least in my case – had to be learned and earned.
I didn’t grow up understanding true partnership even though virtually every adult around me was married or coupled. They lived together. Most had and raised kids together. I picked up things from observing these couples. I learned that standing side-by-side with love was disdain, anger and disappointment. Some couples flitted back and forth between these emotions.
I learned that the wives had practices to circumvent their husbands. “Don’t tell your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” “Always have your own money set aside somewhere.” “Don’t expect anyone to take care of you.” “Men are dogs.” These admonitions were the result of the circumstances that most of the women around me grew up in. The legacies of coming from an enslaved people and consistent, aggressive racism and discrimination, meant that families were fractured, trust was fragile, and the ability to nurture, love, and pull-together was fraught with assaults from many angles.
My husband and I were both fully-formed and way-grown when we met each other, got married and began our journey. We each had notions of what we wanted from the marriage, but we didn’t articulate them or discuss them. We didn’t think we had to. We were in love. We were each good people. Of course we knew how to be married. We each made assumptions about:
- Budgeting and finance
- Candor and privacy
- Being independent and being interdependent
- Making decisions together
- Conversation and dialogue
These things weren’t problematic in the honey-moon phase when we were hungry for each other and so happy that we’d found someone in our middle-age to love who loved us back. Then challenges came.
- We realized we’d made assumptions of each other and what “us” would mean.
- We realized we had “way-different” communication styles
- We realized we didn’t argue/disagree/fight in the same way.
Neither of us was completely right nor absolutely wrong. Our love had to grow to be more than a marriage – we had to become partners – each pulling together for joint goals. The two of us had to become more than we were separately and morph into a greater entity/force.
Communication without fear of retaliation, alienation and being misunderstood had to be worked on. I carried fears based on other relationships especially a bad first marriage. Assuming trustworthiness and honesty on the part of the partner we had, meant ignoring the ghosts of partners/former spouses whose trails were strewn throughout our daily lives – popping up regularly like small shards of a broken glass that turn-up much further than you thought they would be when you’ve sworn you’ve found and eliminated every shard.
It is hard work to become a partner and to act as partner. I’ve, especially, had to learn to think of we instead of just me. I’ve had to stop proving that I can do whatever it is by myself without consultation or input with my partner. I’ve had to lean and trust that he is there for me. I’ve had to practice sharing things with my partner that I might have only shared with a friend. Working it out with a friend is not the same as communicating with your partner when the issue involves and will impact them.
I regret the wasted years before we strengthened our relationship especially now that we’re facing a big test. I feel like, I’ve only just learned how to be married/partnered, Please oh please let us have more time.
Howdy partner. I love you. We”re pulling through this together.
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