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.