My frustrating, deep, loving, pushy, perfectly imperfect relationship
I met Chris after my marital separation and divorce in 2011. I wasn’t looking for a new man. I had just gotten rid of the old man.
Chris had an infectious smile, a cute little ass, and other characteristics I found simply adorable. And God, could he make me laugh… I don’t know how many nights I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks. He was so crazy.
A year after meeting him, I took him home one night and never looked back. We’ve been together ever since.
It hasn’t been easy.
From the very beginning, Chris was a dichotomy of frustration and delight. We’d have an incredible day, then he’d end it by criticizing my [arguably homely] apartment and secondhand furniture. I’d get angry and push him out the front door. Financially, I was barely holding it together, but I provided for my kids the best I could. How dare he criticize what I had worked so hard to pull together?
When it comes to men, I’ve learned to be a bit of a hard ass. I don’t like liars or people who make me feel bad about myself. Men who pushed the boundaries of my comfort could expect to receive their walking papers with the first infraction. I have no time for man-child bullshit.
With Chris, it was impossible to follow these rules. He was persistent. He was loyal. He begged me to be next to him, even after we’d had an enormous fight. He would say, “Relationships are like this… you can’t just give up.” And I’d stay, because deep down I knew he was right.
We’d fight like lions. We broke up a few times. Despite feeling justified in my anger during these breaks, I missed him terribly. I had always been so resilient when it came to dealing with men, and I found myself wondering, What the hell is wrong with me?
The answer is in our differences.
Chris sees things in black and white. He had been raised in a strict military household. Until we got together, he had been a bachelor, living on his own in a well-ordered household. He thrives on routine and order. He is constantly seeking perfection.
I am the opposite. I was raised by two hippies-turned-artists who taught me to improvise, be spontaneous and kind, and give back to my community. I’m a reader, a writer, and an artist. I am a woman. I’m emotional. I love all kinds of music — hip-hop, pop, indie, rock and roll, bluegrass — and like it all LOUD. I am constantly seeking beauty in the imperfect and ordinary.
It took me a long time to realize that Chris is used to building and fixing and managing the most difficult aspects of business, and he wanted to make things better for us. He simply wasn’t tactful about his intentions.
So over and over, I took him back. And he took me back. And we resumed our bizarre relationship.
The truth is that we complement each other. Where he lacks, I make up for it. He has talents in mechanics, carpentry, finances, and home maintenance. I have different skills in dealing with people, creating art, writing, and feeling things. We are both aggressive and in different ways, we push each other to be better human beings.
The benefits to sticking together have been well worth the effort.
We discovered that we travel together very well. Chris put together incredible itineraries and surprised me with his ability to navigate cities as if he’d always been there. We went to New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. We explored parts of Canada and did weekend trips to some of the cities near our home in Delaware.
We also share a mutual love of cooking. We explored gourmet food stores and taught ourselves how to shop for quality food without overspending. I learned to grill like a champ, and two years ago he surprised me with a Traeger smoker, which changed my life forever.
We love exotic birds, too. Two years ago, we took the plunge into pet ownership and purchased two parrots: a Caique and a Senegal. Keeping parrots requires hard work and commitment to both the birds and to each other. Both of our parrots may live up to 40 years — this was not a decision we made easily.
In very real ways, we depend on each other for survival. Chris doesn’t take very good care of himself, and I still can’t manage money to save my life. I force-feed him vegetables and he rails at me to quit spending so much money on Amazon. When a customer service phone call is in order, I patiently make calls to resolve a problem, and he fixes our appliances when they leak or creak or die.
Because of our conflicts, each of us knows where the other one stands, but it can sometimes be disturbing for others. When a store clerk raises an eyebrow while we’re bickering at the checkout counter, I say, “Don’t worry, it’s how we communicate.”
Six years with Chris has taught me that in life and relationships, persistence and determination pay off. I hope I have taught him that patience, kindness, and generosity are equally as important.
Neither of us are perfect, but both of us are consistently improved by being around each other.
I guess that’s the whole point.
Esther Hofknecht Curtis, MSM-HCA is a writer living in Dover, Delaware. Follow her on Facebook — go to https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977/