Over the years, I've given greeting cards to Chris on every occasion I can (someone should come out with a line of non-pornographic greeting cards for gay men): Valentine's Day, our anniversary (taken from the day we met), his birthday (November 6), and Christmas--each one an opportunity to remind him that I love him dearly.
Some time ago, we met another gay couple for coffee, at which they introduced us to Michael (an ex-colleague of one of them), who laughingly lamented that he was in his forties and still single. When Michael asked us a few questions about our relationship, I told him Chris is an absolute blessing in my life; that I'm not the easiest person to live with; and that he has the patience of a saint, which probably accounts for why we're still together. When I have the opportunity to share how I feel about Chris, I do it. I'm not ashamed of my feelings for him or to make other people aware of them.
The fact that I'm fortunate enough to have such a special person in my life is utterly incredible to me. Incredible, because I recall feeling, seemingly not so long ago, that I would spend the rest of my life alone. I had come to terms that that, even though I wasn't happy about it. And incredible, because Chris and I have fared better in our relationship than most straight people we know. I'm sure more than a few of our relatives wonder how it is that Chris and I have been together for almost eighteen years, and that we're still happy as hell, when they're long divorced or still single. It all surprises me too. I can't believe it.
But I think about it often because I don't want to take what I have for granted. People change. Circumstances between people change. One day, one wants to go out on his own, pursue career opportunities or interests elsewhere, spend time with different people, and the other is left to wonder what happened, where things went wrong, what he could have done differently to keep the relationship going. Sometimes, no one is at fault. That's just the way it works out.
In other words, I can't afford to be complacent. I have to live in each minute and treasure all of the time I have together with Chris. Everything ends sooner or later. That's the nature of life on earth. I don't want a single regret that I didn't take full advantage of the limited time we had together, even if that time is measured in decades.
Sometimes, I look at this young man I share my life with, and I wonder how it's possible that he and I are together. Beyond the fact that I believe I deserve to be in a good relationship--there are lots of people who deserve to be in good relationships, but, for one reason or another, they aren't--I think it's nothing short of a miracle that two people with completely different backgrounds and experiences come into each other's lives.
How did it happen that we were at the same place, on the same night, at the same time, and that his trajectory crossed mine, bringing us together, and forever changing our lives as individuals? Coincidence? I don't believe in coincidences. The miracle of our relationship confirms for me more than ever that there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything happens exactly as it's intended. Of that we can be certain.
But even after we met, anything could have prevented us from staying together. He could have had a change of heart about me, which has certainly happened before with other men I met. For whatever reason, they thought the better about staying with me and working on a life together. Not what they were looking for. Too high maintenance. Too sexually inhibited. Too nelly, as one fellow I saw once say (understandably, I was happy to see him go). Just not right in some undefinable way. Endless reasons exist for why one person is not right for another, take your pick, some more arbitrary than others.
Not only is it a miracle that two people ever meet, but also it's a miracle that they ever stay together, given all of the influences around them. And gay men are particularly bad at this, often thinking with their dicks and not with their heads--and their hearts. Strangely, for many, it's far easier to give of themselves physically, stripping in front of total stranger and engaging in intimate acts of sex, than emotionally risking the possibility of getting hurt. Love is not without its risks, that's for sure, but I can't think of any better reason to take a risk.
When we first met, I worried that Chris was too young, that he hadn't experienced enough of life yet, sexually and otherwise, to know what he wanted, and what he didn't want. That he would find the uphill battle to keep our relationship going, especially in the beginning, too daunting, and decide that he needed more time on his own as a single man, to mature into himself, to find out who he was, before he became defined by a relationship. In other words, I worried that I'd lose Chris before he was ever mine.
But that's what was so beautiful about him. Because of his youth, relative to me, and his lack of experience, he was open to me and to the possibility of us. He wasn't jaded, or cynical, or filled with unreasonable expectations, based on being with many other gay men before me. He was fresh, and innocent, almost childlike, even though he was very much a young man in charge of himself.
We took things one day at a time. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and our relationship persisted through many challenges, large and small. Both of us must have found in each other something worth hanging on to. We gave each other a fair chance, we didn't bail when circumstances became tough, and we remained committed to what we had together.
Today, I can honestly say that I know love--real, meaningful, true, spectacular, multidimensional, unconditional love--because of Chris. What did I do to deserve him, to deserve us? Sometimes I ask, why him? And why me?
I could have ended up with someone very different from Chris. I look back at some of my brief affairs over the years, and I wonder what my life would be like today if one of them had lasted longer than just a few days or weeks. Would we still be together today? I doubt it. Some of the fellows I was with had great qualities, but most of them were lost, looking for something that doesn't exist, thinking a real relationship is built on the superficial. They'd never given themselves the chance to see how much more exists below the surface.
No, I ended up with exactly the right one for me, and, to this day, our relationship is an utter mystery. That's the only way to look at it. Who am I to question how it happened, or to worry that it may not have at all? All I need to be now is grateful that it did (which I am beyond measure), to recognize how truly blessed I am every single day, and to know that miracles really do happen.