Monday, May 17, 2010

The Secret to Our Longevity

I was so wrong.

A little over a week ago, when I described some of the daily realities of the relationship I share with Chris, I wrote the following:  "...I've found the only way a relationship works is if one person is dominant, and the other is submissive (and I'm not talking about in bed).  If the two people in a relationship are both dominant, they'll be at each other constantly and never get along.  If the two people in a relationship are both submissive, you'll never get anything done."

I admit there's more than an element of truth in this, particularly in terms of what a relationship would look like if both people were dominant or submissive, but I know I got the terminology all wrong.  In fact, the terminology I used not only does a disservice to Chris, it insults him, and I didn't realize it until I read something last week.

Honestly, I don't remember where I read it--perhaps in one of those daily rags that Chris brings home at the end of every work day, either "24H" or "Metro"--but it was about a well-known male celebrity admitting that he's difficult to be with in a relationship.  And that for a relationship with him to be successful, the woman he's with needs to have not only the patience of a saint, but also a total lack of ego.

Bingo!  The light went on.  That describes Chris perfectly.  That's what I really meant to say about him.  It's not that he's submissive, has no backbone, or no get-up-and-go.  It's that he has no ego.  He always defers to me.  He always puts me first.  He always looks after my best interests.  In that sense, I would concede that he's selfless.  

Imagine what it takes to be selfless.  It doesn't take a weak person, it takes an incredibly strong and secure person.  Someone who doesn't have to impose himself on anyone else to feel better.  Someone who doesn't need to have the final word.  Someone who doesn't need to have his way.  Someone who doesn't have to dominate someone else to feel good about himself, to know that he's important and matters.

I don't know where that comes from.  Perhaps it's in the way Chris was raised.  I knew from the first few days we were together that his parents had raised him well.  He was a good person, a solid person, a moral person.  But the mysteries around just how well he was raised, and the results of that, continue to reveal themselves to me, even after being a couple for almost eighteen years.

Who is the stronger of the two of us?  By far, Chris is.  I impose myself on him.  I am insecure and need to be heard.  Not only do I need to be heard, I need to be followed.  I need to set the course we take.  I need to be in control.  (What can I say--I'm a needy control freak, and I know it.)  

Chris lets me take control, of most things, but he's no pushover.  If he truly objects to something, he lets me know, and we go with it.  And, because he doesn't always yammer on about anything and everything, as I do, I know that when he says something, it's legitimately important to him.  Not because he's insecure.  Not because he needs to make a point.  Not because he needs to feel better about himself.  But because he genuinely feels it's the best course of action, not for him, but for both of us.  

It's no coincidence that fate paired us.  I have so much to learn from someone like Chris, who approaches life not from the perspective of scarcity but from abundance, not from the need to satisfy his own ego but from the goal to bring out my strength.  There are nearly ten years between us in age, with Chris the younger, but he is by far the most mature and the most wise when it comes to the circumstances we encounter together as a couple.  In that sense, he really is a rock to me, the relaxed and steady and certain security in the center of my craziness and volatility.  

You want to know what the real secret to the longevity of my relationship with Chris is?  It's surely not because, as I wrote earlier, he's submissive, or a marshmallow, or a pushover.  It's because he exhibits the patience and the selflessness of a saint (he'd be so embarrassed to read this).

I'm the impatient, high maintenance, uptight, insecure, and ego-driven half of our relationship, and the only way what I share with Chris could survive is if I was paired with the exact opposite--with someone who doesn't feel less about himself because he helps someone feel more about himself.  In fact, I think his helping me to feel more about myself allows him to continue feeling good about himself.

Whatever he has, he has naturally.  Whatever I have comes from outside myself, and, I believe, often at the detriment of someone who isn't already strong and secure.        


  1. Wow Chris sounds exactly like the perfect man. But don't sell yourself short - you may be all those things you say - uptight, control freak, insecure - but I'm sure Chris fell in love with you for a good reason. Through reading your blog I can also tell that you are big hearted, introspective, generous, supportive, humble, trustworthy - willing to compromise, able to empathise. I think you contribute a lot to your relationship!

  2. Great to hear from you again, Melanie.

    You are right--Chris is a pretty special man. And I'm blessed beyond words that he's chosen to spend his life with me. He continues to teach me what it means to be patient and gracious and understanding (among other things), all lessons I need to learn from time to time.

    You are very sweet and kind with the words you've chosen to describe me. If I wrote perceptive too, well, I'd come across as egotistical, but you've captured some of the qualities I'm sure Chris appreciates in me. Let's just say, in comparison to him, I'm all too aware of my shortcomings. But I'm working on improving them.

    There are only two other people I'm aware of who have read as many of my blog posts as you have, and both of them are good friends from different phases of my life. To have someone who doesn't know me in person to take to my words in the way you have is both surprising and humbling.

    Thanks for your ongoing interest in my blog. I look forward to reading any other comments you have to share.

  3. Rick, I started writing here but it's getting too long so I'll send you an email. I'd love to explain why I have such an interest in your blog! Should be coming in the next day or two.

  4. Sounds great, Melanie. I look forward to it.