Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Have you ever heard the saying, "Happy Wife, Happy Life."? It's this idea that some men-- generally older-- will relate that a man's happiness, being a simple thing, largely hinges on his wife's happiness, which is much more complicated. What they will tell you is that the sooner you learn to just say "Yes, Dear", the better your marriage, and overall, your life, will be.

While I don't think Zack actively subscribed to this theory, much of the time, he essentially lived it. Zack was a very unselfish person, due to low self-esteem. He didn't seem to believe that he deserved anything, and so he spent very little time wanting for anything. Because of this, he largely let me have what I wanted, whether it was the decision as to what restaurant we were going to eat at, or how things would be arranged in the kitchen, or something I wanted to buy.

Zack and I had a lot of problems-- a lot, a lot. But I do sort of think it was this principle that was a big part of why our marriage lasted as long as it did.

Many men-- and women-- find the "Happy Wife, Happy Life" concept to be downright insulting. That a man who learns to defer will always feel resentful and controlled.

I'm not saying it works for everyone. I'm not even saying it works for anyone, all of the time. But what I'll say is this: I'm reasonably sure that it's what I want, in the long run.

Dan does not subscribe to this philosophy. He has a very strong distaste for authority and craves an egalitarianism in our relationship that, I don't know. It's not up my ally. I suspect-- more than suspect, really-- that he thinks it's morally wrong that I don't want to be on exactly equal footing.

What I would say to him-- or to anyone who found this whole concept to be offensive-- is that it's fairly well accepted that some people lend themselves more to a follower role in life, and some people lend themselves more to a leader role. As someone who generally thinks of themselves as a leader-- and I understand that most people do, even though the natural state would be that there would have to be more followers-- I find it fairly frustrating to be in a relationship with another leader.

I'm not at all sure if my relationship with Dan would have been appealing at all if we hadn't first met in this very clear leader-follower dynamic: I was literally his boss at his first job. That only accounted for the first six months of our friendship, but for a long time, things sort of adhered to that. He was younger than me, and often asking for my advice about things. He admired me writing and, often, my knowledge. When things first started to get romantic between us, he very much stayed in this follower role that, I think, was a big part of why things worked. I feel very confident in the leader role, and I felt very happy asking for what I wanted, or walking away when I wanted to.

I think it's Dan's perception that I'm the one whose done all the changing in our relationship, which is why we haven't been able to maintain the happiness we felt when we were first together. For the most part, that's probably true: I have changed more than he has. Or at least, I have shifted from one side of my personality to another more than he has.

But a lot of that has been in response to his more or less sudden demands to be treated as an equal partner. I get it-- it's one thing to have a fling where you play a subordinate. It's another thing to live like that forever.

Never the less, his "leader" side is coming out. And anyone will tell you, two leaders is a recipe for disaster.

I work now in marketing at a Retirement Community. There's this man there who has this girlfriend that lives there-- I don't know how long ago they met or how long they've been dating. Their apartments were down the hall from one another. They live in assisted living, so neither of them is a completely independent person, physically.

I've spoken, a few times, to the girlfriend, but he is a very quiet man. Basically the only words I've ever heard come out of his mouth are asking about her, saying he's waiting for her, telling me where she is. I don't honestly think he's completely all there anymore, but it's like what's left of his mind focused on her as his only concern.

He's very smiley. He's quiet and smiley and he follows her around quietly and smiles because he's with her. Tries to buy her lunch even thought the staff is supposed to make sure they keep their money very separate.

Since Dan and I started getting back, I came to this place, emotionally, where I couldn't really stand the idea of love. People in love are frustrating to me. Movies about it are a waste of time. Love songs are just lies.

This man and this's the only relationship I've seen in a long time that has made me think, "That's what I want."

She had a stroke last week. She's had several, so at first it seemed she would be coming back from the hospice facility she'd been moved to. Now, it's clear she isn't. The rumor circulating today is that she may have already died.

The only thing I really know about this man is how much he loves her. That might be the only thing left to know about him, unless you'd known him from earlier in his life. And now, she is gone.

I haven't worked at this place very long-- three and a half months now-- but there have been a half dozen deaths. This is the first one to hit me really hard. This is the first one leaving something behind, this way.

Something understated. Something special. Something I wanted to have one day.

Day 17. On with it.