Friday, December 9, 2011


Deb: Over the last couple of months, my husband has been to me a friend, an ear, an errand boy, and caregiver, not just to my parents, but to me. And he has done it with grace. Not a roll of the eyes or a hint of resentment has shown on his face or in his demeanor. 

And it got me thinking about partners. The people in our lives that are the yin to our yang, the mirror we look into every day, the person that keeps us honest while sharing in our deceit. But whatever their role, they are the people we spend our lives with. They can be our lovers, friends, children, business partners. They are life partners that we may have one or dozens of in a lifetime.

Recently I have had a bird’s-eye view of two partnerships at opposite ends of the spectrum. One relationship is a gorgeous example of one partner swooping in to help when their partner is felled, without question or hesitation. The other relationship, while under a very similar circumstance, is fraught with negative behavior and is depressing to view.

And the thing is ... much to my shock I find that one isn’t more powerful than the other. And even though I would not have the miserable relationship for the world, I have to respect it. Because the partners are doing the best that they can. And because this is their relationship—and as snarky as they can be with one another—this works for them. And I know for a fact that it works for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is their deep committed love. Whether I agree with how it presents itself doesn’t matter.  A great partnership does not have to be a warm relationship, or even a kind relationship, to be great.

I would die if I had even a fraction of the combative partnership I see in these two people. But does that mean that my partnership is better? When we love, honour and respect our partner, it certainly makes it the more desirable love affair, but does it make it the better partnership? I can’t with honesty say that it does. Because a good partnership contains so many elements including chemistry, destiny, symmetry, history and an undeniable pull towards another creature. No one ever said a partnership had to be peaceful or, even to a degree, respectful. Many great partnerships in life are none of these things. Many famous and successful partnerships throughout history were unhealthy, depressing displays.

I am sure if I asked my sparring couple if they thought they were good partners, they would look at me miffed at the question, and respond that of course they are. So they are, for them. Maybe we all are, for us.

But if I have my pick as partnerships go, I will take what I have in my husband.  The person who catches my glass before it shatters on the floor and hands me a tea before the thought crosses my mind. And he will receive same.

Barbara: As you predicted, Deb, this did throw me for a loop. Deb has had an intensely busy time and knew she would get this post to me late. So she gave me the heads-up that we would be talking partnerships in today’s blog so I could be prepared ahead of time with a short response. Funnily, I did have a whole (very long) running metaphor about cogs and wheels and how those don’t always run smoothly in even a great partnership, etc, etc, but you did stop me here with this, Deb. And I’m glad you did.

Because I can think of several partnerships that are fractious and challenging (a kind of partnership I wouldn’t want for myself if I had the choice) and yet I know, deep in my bones, that these relationships also work very well for the people involved.

Interestingly, we don’t seem to question this kind of challenge in work-related partnerships. Usually if people hear that business partners "don't get along", we assume that one temperament balances the other for success. We rarely assume the same when it comes to love relationships.

I think it finally depends on temperament. Some temperaments thrive on friction and challenge, some on support and nurturing. I too fall squarely into the latter group—so I would just like to thank both my husband and you, Deb, my work partner, for challenging and pushing me, but for mostly nurturing. I wouldn’t be the same without you.


  1. So funny you should write about his Deb as I just had a chance to observe one of these couples. I've been mulling it over for days as for the life of me, I couldn't conceive being partner in such a graceless duet. And yet, courtesy of your observation, I shall concede, I was scoring their dance by my I'm the expert on smooth moves or something. I've only ever known the kind of fundamental support that you illustrated herein so it's my conceit that is the kind that is best...but really, who, beyond the couple in question, is to say? You have to move to your own beat I guess...That it wouldn't be mine is absolutely of no consequence.

  2. Annette it's weird really because these are new thoughts for me. When I am around it, I find the relationship so sad, so scary that I automatically judge it. Finally I stopped and thought "well, this seems to be working for them, so who am I to judge?". Clearly you have come to the same conclusion. Weird that we were both thinking the same thing. Not the first time is it?

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  4. I'd rather be alone than in one of those harsh, abrasive relationships.

    But, loneliness is a crushing pain of its own.

  5. Won't be the last either Deb...I was tense and nervous just being exposed to the kind of interplay that was discussed here but to your point, to hear one of the partners gush re the relationship in question, it was clear to me that their union was every bit as fulfilling to them as mine is to me...Though from where I was sitting, they were opposite sides of the spectrum. I think because of the negativity proximity engenders for us, it's less about judging and more about trying to make sense of what we would find unacceptable. The realization that we don't have to glean meaning as the framework is sound for them is what's important. Glad it's not my way though...if I may slip in a hint o' judgment in closing...I'm with Rigel on this one.

  6. If a relationship makes me so uncomfortable I usually back off seeing the couple because I can't stand the bickering (in the case of one couple) and the constant correction of the husband to the wife. It makes me crazy and I think sometimes settling isn't worth the price of admission. I would rather be by myself. The drama and the dance are too much for me to take. They can dance at another person's party.

  7. Rigel I hear you. I was concerned when I did this post that people who don't have someone right now, would be upset by it. But I stress that it is all kinds of relationship partners, not just romantic. But I do know what you mean and I agree. And yes oh yes, I would rather be alone than have that kind of relationship.But alone can be crushing of course it can. My darling friend who lost her husband last January, just wept on my shoulder two days ago, on what would have been her 25th wedding anniversary. Madge I have done that too. Avoided like the plague those couples. Sometimes however, as in my case here, they cannot be avoided. So believe me, this revelation I have had is for my preservation alone! :-) Doesn't always help, but it can't hoit! But to your point, if I can avoid these couples, I will.

  8. Deb - thanks for this beautiful written, enlightening post. I now see my parents' marriage in a whole new light!

  9. Anon, I so hear you!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. The idea of a combative relationship doesn’t seem very appealing to me. I would choose the relationship I have with my husband every time. I do realize however that whatever shortcomings or issues I seem to see in couples of this ilk that they too are making the choice of what type of relationship to have. I suppose if it was bad for them they would choose something else.

  11. As far as I'm concerned there's the fractious relationships where one person is always pushed down (=not good) and the ones where both give as good as they get (not always at the same time), but who also share an abiding love and sense of purpose. The latter is the relationship that I would personally try hard not to judge. The former, uh....not so easy!

  12. Your post made me cry so much...I'm sorry, I just couldn't help it.

    I don't even know if I should write that...but I'd always had the feeling that I can be totally honest here...
    I often feel very lonely, not only because I don't have a partner, but because I don't have many friends.

    Sometimes I think I'm not important to anyone. I know that this is not true. And I know I'm a complicated person, and I'm very grateful for the people, who accept me the way I am.
    I'm somteimes surprised that they want to be my friends.

    But still...

    Maybe I do expect too much from other people. I don't know. I'm always thinking about my decisions, my words, my thoughts. I tend to explain myself 100 times, because I'm afraid I said/did something wrong, or people misunderstood me. I need people to show me that I'm important, that I'm needed, that I can help. Maybe I don't have faith in them that they do love me no matter what?

    So my friendships are challenges for me. Every day. And I can't say I'm happy with that, but maybe I have to accept that. I have to accept that I can't hug my best friend whenever I want to. I have to accept that I can't speak to my friends every day. I have to accept that people won't answer me asap, because they have other things on their minds.

    Sometimes, I'm really sad and depressed, but the few happy moments I can share with my friends make it easier to endure the pain I'm feeling. And it's worth it, because I don't want to miss them. I always try to stay in contact and fight for them...

    I always believed in true love, but certain things that happened in my life have destroyed that. And now I'm all insecure and unsure.

    But if you pull through the downs in a relationship it must be something like true love. Otherwise, you would just give up, I guess.

    When my mom had her "accident", my dad was really caring. Before that, they had been constantly arguing over everything. I couldn't believe they were still together.
    But he showed me that he really cared. He does whatever he can (and whatever she needs), but they started to fight again.
    I don't know if they're happy, but they kind of must be...otherwise they would be broken.

  13. Though I do not have a "special someone" right now, this post in no way upset me. In fact, it helped me think about what I want in a potential life partner. Then I think about my parents.

    Their 30th wedding anniversary is on the 22nd of this month, which is amazing in of itself. Out of the group of my close friends, Holly and I are the only ones whose parents are still together. Though awesome for us, it makes me think about the rest of my friends. What happened to their parents? What could their parents not withstand that my parents have been able to?

    The statistics speak for themselves: 50% of marriages end in divorce. These chances increase the more times one marries. I really do believe that love does exist :]

    Deb, I know you are thankful for Colin. He really is great :D

  14. Being a teenager this post had a slightly different appeal to me. I immediately thought of siblings. We all know about sibling rivalry yet once mature those same siblings would give anything for their brother or sister. Reading this post made all the siblings I know and their relationships pop into my head. There are the younger siblings who are close in age and are constantly coming up with things to bicker about. Then I think of the older pair who now live on opposite coasts but would give anything to be young and back under one roof bickering about who would push the elevator buttons or be the first to the dinner table every night. What may look like an unhealthy relationship on the outside may in turn be a cherished and loving relationship on the inside.
    -Kelly form NJ-

  15. Becki, my heart goes out to you in your pain. I don't remember how old you are, but I think you're still relatively young. And so I want to reassure you that relationships do settle and mature the older you get. No, no one can really be guaranteed to be there perfectly through the years; yes, friends do get busy and might forget or not be able to touch base even though they care about you. I think it's important to try and reach out to a wide group of people (and TMA counts!) so you have more of a net when you're down. It sounds like you are appreciated, if not always when you need it. And of course, you're nurturing the most important relationship (as corny as it sounds): the one with yourself. Keep seeing the world around you, and don't give up on anything lovely and beautiful. We all know life can turn on a dime at any moment. xoxoxo

    Kelly, it's good to know what you ideally want in a relationship -- although that can often change as you do!

    And NJ Kelly, what a great turn of the partnership idea: siblings! This is a perfect example of an often imperfect relationship that can bear great rewards through friction.

  16. Erin, good point. If it were bad for them they might choose something else. Food for thought.
    Yes Barb I totally agree. They are two different beasts aren't they? Becki you can always speak your heart here. Please know that we are paying attention and listening to you. I am sorry that you struggle with these things but it also sounds as if you have been able to separate the fact that your friends care for you from their inability to contact you right back due to their busy lives. Believe me, I have been so busy of late that I did not even have a chance to contact friends who were offering to help. As far as love goes, I know what it feels like to be burned, to be really brokenhearted. But I never gave up on love. Please don't. If you are open to it, it will come to you.

  17. And Becki, it was so interesting what you said about your parents. I guess they found their way to each other through adversity. Kelly it sounds like your parents know what love is. That it is through thick and thin. Some people cannot withstand the thin. Happy Anniversary to them! Kelly very wise words and I love the sibling example. We live the life we want to live sometimes no matter what it looks like on the outside.

  18. I'm not married yet, but soon hope to be, but I do have my amazing boyfriend that I have been with for so long and I love him so much . He has stood by me through the good times and bad. He never says anything when I am mad or upset or stressed which is most of the time all he does is puts his arms around me to comfort me, which means the world me.. . He is amazing and I can't imagine my self with out him. Love this post Deb its amazing. He is just an amazing guy. He never goes a day where he does not tell me he loves me and I do the same as well. .

    When I was talking with my grandmother about my other. Half, she told me that her and my grandfather just celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary But she Said that they still loves him the and so much more then when they first met .

    I hope that very much like my grandparents that me an my boyfriend can stay partners and make it 49 years and them some .

  19. Such an interesting post. My husband and I have been married 15 years. What we have is working for us.

    I have a bro and sis-in law that have such a loving relationship, but one that I could never live in. She is completely dependant on her husband. He has never held a 9 to 5 kind of job because she can't stand to have him away from her for so long. On the flip side, my hubby spent 4 years in the Army. I knew a lot of women who loved it when their husbands were deployed. For them, it just made life easier. Neither way works for me. I'm thankful I'm independant enough that I don't need my husband with me all the time, and I'm fine when he is off on business (or moving, like he is now). I can take care of myself, the kids, and the house. But, I still love him and need him and want him in my life. (I joke with him that I only keep him around to smash bugs.) We do have our quirks, though. Everyone does, I guess. We stick to each other through the quirks and have a life of love to look forward to. That's my 2 cents on it, anyway.

  20. Oh Lyndsie I so hope it for you! Sounds like you and your Grandmother know a good thing when you see it. Lovely Molly, sounds like the perfect balance for you guys. And yes I agree there are squabbles in every relationship including mine. I always think that the measure of it is in the "how" you argue.

  21. My daughter's best friend, 17, is on again/off again with her boyfriend and it's all very dramatic. My daughter is tired of all the drama, and she was able to tell her friend that, while she still loves her and values their friendship, she doesn't want to be involved in all of it. I'm so proud of her for being able to speak her mind and is able to get that message across in a respectful way.

    I've had friends who've married people that I thought they'd be better off without. They didn't listen, of course, and somehow the relationships have worked out. I now think, "Well, as long as they're happy." I've reconciled it in my head, and I'm not bugging the crap out of them.

    I've had the occasion over the past couple of weeks to meet people who are or were in unhealthy relationships. All said the same thing, as did I: You couldn't have told me a THING, I was going to go through with anyway.

    Unless you see signs of a physically abusive relationship, (and mine was NOT), there's not much you can say. Happiness means different things to different people. It's up to you do decide whether you are happy being around them.

  22. @Barbara
    I'm 28 (turning 29 this year).
    It's just so weird in complicated (at least in my brain - maybe it isn't? I can't tell...and that confuses me so much).

    When I was in school, I thought friends were forever. But after school I nearly lost all of them...not that I don't like them anymore, but we don't have much/any contact anymore. I hid myself away, because I felt so lost and overwhelmed...I couldn't go on with my life, and I watched my friends grow up...I know now that this was wrong, but I just couldn't talk to them about my problems. I was afraid they'd judge me. It's difficult to explain...

    I didn't find any new friends (except for some friends in the internet with whom I still do have contact - and they are my friends, even if they live in other countries and I might never see them).

    I hardly spoke to anyone in the real world, because I always felt like the loser. I was so ashamed. Most of the time I was ok being alone. This sounds weird, too, but my family never really shows love. So I wasn't used to be hugged...or cuddled...or told nice things. So I didn't really missed that.

    I found my best friend a few years ago (I don't think he sees me as his best friend - but he is my soulmate), and he's always busy with family and work. I know that. I accept that. Of course I wished that he would have more time for me...but I know that he misses me and loves me the way I am. And that's fine. But sometimes sharing experiences, thoughts or just normal things like going shopping or to the cinema...would be nice, too.

    I'm not an outgoing person, because I was disappointed so many times. Like when I opened up, people walked away from me.

    I'm soooo glad I found you. It gives me home and a place to rest and gather energy.

    *huuuuuugs everybody*

    P.S. I'm not in the best relationship with myself, either. ;)

  23. @Deb
    I don't want to give up on love. It's the most precious thing in life.

    I don't know about my parents. I'm glad that they're still together, and maybe they could gather strength and new love through the misery...

    I someimtes wonder, if people stay together out of habit. Maybe they're just getting used to be together, so they don't want to change it? Maybe it's easier to walk right through the problems than make a cut and start anew?

  24. I too do not have a special "someone", and I have to sadly admit that whenever I see couples on campus holding hands, or someone ELSE I know getting engaged/married, I feel a slight twinge of "Ok...when's my turn? Where's MY Prince Charming?" But I also believe that God's timing is impeccable and that my knight in tin foil will sweep me off my feet when I least expect it! :)

    Like my lovely sister said, my parents are celebrating their 30th at the endish of the month. They've had some rough spots, especially when the nest became empty, but it's inspiring to see them still together, considering many of my friends at school come from either single parents or divorced parents.

  25. I meant to say that "sometimes" whenever I see couples on's not all the time! :)

  26. Becki,


    Feel safe. I care. WE care.

  27. Dawn I know that so well. No one can be told if they don't want to listen. I have been on both sides of that. Becki you may not be in a great relationship with yourself now, but clearly you are working on it by getting things expressed, being honest and pouring your heart out. They are a fast track to loving yourself. And I also think you are right. Some couples stay together out of habit. Some habits are hard to break. Holly with the example of your parents I think you will settle for nothing less than a darn good shot at forever. People were betting at our wedding that it would not last. And here we sit.

  28. Hi Deb, thanks for another great post. It's so refreshing to hear/read of marriages that are actually doing more than just surviving, but thriving, and I couldn't be more happy for you. You definitely mentioned a number of the keys to a great marriage/partnership, which are love, honesty, loyalty, respect and commitment. These seem like 'no brainers, but it's amazing how many couples still don't 'get it'! I would add that communication should also be at the top of the list, of course, and may have already been mentioned in previous posts. If you don't have honesty, trust and faithfulness, you can't have true intimacy at any level. What you spelled out in your partner was true commitment to you - and the kind of sacrificial love and devotion that we should all seek to emulate towards one another.

    I was married for almost 25 years, and have been on my own now for the past 10. Where do the years go??!! I find it quite shocking that people would be so cruel as to say such things to you on your wedding day that your marriage would not last. Good for you for proving them all wrong!

    Anyhow, re 'yeah, yeah, yeah' - let's do it! :) I would love to! I'm on FB under last name 'Brown' in Miss., not T.O., or email sbwaterlilly@hotmail.

    Sharon Rogers

  29. Holly, I love the "knight in tin foil" bit!

    Just a thought...I think we have to kind of stop looking for "the one" to find "the one." I mean, while looking, we might overlook "the one" by accident and not realize it. I think the same applies to friends. I tend to find the people I consider friends by accident (including here). I don't know...

    Personally, I have a few close friends that I see not exactly everyday or even every week but they are the friends that I can talk to when I need to or ask a favor of without being scared of refusal. There are also the friends that are really just people I can chit-chat with and not really anything else. I am family-oriented and my best friend is a member of my family.

    Relationships are so complex that I think everyone has a different definition of what a successful relationship is, so how can anyone not in that particular relationship really understand how and why it works?

    Well, that's all, folks! ;)

  30. Okay, one more thing...
    Becki, don't worry about people, including friends, judging you! Who cares what they think! What you think of you is all that matters, so get to know yourself more!

    Don't be afraid or upset about going to see a movie alone or shopping alone (hey, you don't have to listen to someone else complain about the movie because THEY didn't like it!) I am a shy person by nature and it takes a lot of nerve for me to start a conversation with someone new and break through that "awkward, I don't know you, but if we don't talk to each other, this is going to be more awkward" moment. If the conversation flows and works, then great; if it sinks faster than the Titanic, then oh well, on to the next person!

    Okay, that's really all folks! :)

  31. I will never get tired -- nor will Deb, I'm sure -- of wondering aloud here how amazing you all are. Ready to jump into the fray and lay open your hearts, tell your truth and support us and each other. Becki's observation that "It gives me home and a place to rest and gather energy." is what I'm talking about. "a place to gather energy." Yes! And Becki, you're almost 29 (Happy birthday!!), just at the beginning of a time that can bring you ever more meaningful relationships and love. You are doing what you should: exploring many things that you enjoy, like sports and geocaching (this sounds like SO much fun). This is how you meet ever more people, where the possibilities blossom of someone or other being just the right fit for you.

    Sharon, thanks for sharing your relationship with us!

    And Steph, thanks so much for weighing in!! You never need to worry about going on too long or often here. And I agree wholeheartedly with your advice about friends and meeting people. It is like a long elaborate dance; you really never know for a long time which of your many partners are going to be worth cleaning up with afterward.

  32. Oh, and yes -- "knight in tin foil"?! A new classic, I say!

  33. You are so awesome! I love you! :)
    *holds tight*

    I'm trying to find my way back into life. And I try to love myself. I alread started doing that by doing the things I like.

    And it's good to "talk" about my feelings. It helps me a lot!

    And I will remind my friends that I'm still there and think about them by sending them christmas cards. Feels good, too!

    Steph, I feel awkward, but I often do that...(well, I haven't been to the movies for ages) Because if I want to do something, I do it. :)

    I know what you mean. I'm a very shy person, too, and I crawl back into my cave, when people ignore me. But with some people I can talk, and laugh, and don't think about what I'm saying...

    Oh...and I had never problems meeting internet friends, because they knew me, and I could be myself.

    Thanks again! You made my day.

  34. Got this in my facebook inbox today apropos of this post: "It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages."
    — Friedrich Nietzsche

  35. What a wonderful post Deb.... Its true.... so true... i have the
    "fight all day....yet I love you !" relationship with my MOM.... :P... it is frustrating but She still is my Best friend !
    I am not married....:D but the way you talk about Colin....I can so FEEL the true love you guys share......and it warms my heart every time..I read about you guys!!! I hope to find it too... when i decide to get married !!! :D

    And Barbara....Loved your facebook quote.... It is true !!!!!

  36. Wow, just got back to it this morning. What a lively conversation. and yes, Knight in tin foil, love it. Does that make the girl a polywrap princess? Sorry, had to do it. Shalaka I think it's smart that you see that the fighting does not hurt the love. Especially with your Mom, as it is unlikely that she will change which puts you in the position of having to make the best of it, which clearly you are. Becki tap into that part of you that can laugh and chat with certain people and try to replicate it all the time. But I know, I am shy with certain people too, believe it or not! Steph you are so right. We have to try don't we? We must. And if it's no go, on to the next. Sharon in fairness to our friends, they were not actually saying this to our faces but there was a vibe that they were "taking bets" in theory. Turned out we were right. Nobody believed it would work. Ha. Ha. They were wrong. Sharon. I will!

  37. Hello to everyone,

    Have wanted for the longest time to post on this blog, but I'm such a busy bee. I'm a frequent reader of it (ok, I read it everyday :-D!) because as a young woman who also happens to not have that special someone in my life, I love to read and learn from other relationships, and I have learned and realized many things here.

    This particular post struck a chord with me indeed. Why? Because I see this in my parents. I love my parents, but they have that kind of relationship where they are always bickering, but never insulting each other. They can turn something so small and insignificant into a big argument. But also, one minute they can be bickering to the point where they both will walk from each other because they're too mad, and the next my mom will be asking my dad if she wants her to make him breakfast or what he wants for lunch, and all will be alright with the world once again. I'm perplexed everytime that happens, and it has always been like that. They both have VERY bad tempers, so I guess that plays a big role in how they talk to each other. But I tell ya, it works for them. I attribute this to one thing, and one thing only: Love. They truly love each other. And they are not ashamed to scream it out to the four winds either. I realized this just last July, as it was their 35th anniversary. We had a special ceremony at our church for them, and apart from the fact that they looked so cute (my Dad with a tie and all, and he NEVER wears them, actually dispises them), they looked so in love, looking into each other's eyes. My Dad looked like a teenager of how excited and nervous he was, like it was the first time around, and my Mom looked so gorgeous and happy. Again, I realized that even though their relationship is like that, those two cannot imagine a day without each other. They are also the type that will act like little kids, like throw pillows at each other and run after each other when they do. Again, it works for them.

    So here's the thing, even though I wouldn't want that kind of relationship where the couple is always bickering, I have come to realize that relationships are not perfect and that what works for one couple may not work for the other. I see it everyday. And whenever my special someone comes around, we will find our special formula, even if in the eyes of everyone that formula wouldn't work for them.

    Ok, sorry for my first long post, but I just wanted to post on this particular one since it is oh so true. I have wanted to congratulate you both for this blog for the longest time, please keep them coming. I really enjoy it. Again, I learn so much from you all.

    Many blessings to you all from Puerto Rico. Take care.


  38. Sheyla as we have said to others, never say sorry for a long comment. That's what we are all here for, to trade ideas and listen. Wow, your parents sound like the poster couple for this post. They are an example of how tempers and bad habits can present to the outside world as a negative, futile relationship. You are so wise to see the truth of it. It's what makes them work. Negative circle for sure, but

  39. Sheyla, I like that comparison to a formula. I guess, there is no right or wrong in a relationship, because it's based on feelings.

    As long as it works out for both of them, why not act strange/quirky.

    A friend posted this on facebook today:
    "Happiness is love, nothing else. Who loves is happy."

    You need love to be happy, and you're happy, when you can love - in what way so ever.

  40. Knight in tin foil! Thank you, I'm here all night! :D


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