Twelve years and two weeks ago I met this woman during an after-church GLBT group meeting. I was impressed with the kind and thoughtful way that she disagreed with someone else in the group. And it didn’t hurt that she was awfully cute! She suggested we walk out to our cars together and, when I mentioned that I didn’t have a car, she offered me a ride home. I’m told that I blushed when I accepted, which she found encouraging. She introduced me to her car, Gertrude (named after Ms. Stein), who was a gray station wagon covered in bumper stickers that looked remarkably like the gray bumper-sticker-covered station wagon that I had driven in high school. This cute woman drove me home through the snow flurries and we talked about our jobs and our families and the fact that my dad calls the tight pants that people wear when they exercise “slinky-pants.” When she dropped me off we exchanged phone numbers and I explained that I would be away the next weekend, but planned to be back at church the Sunday after that.
Twelve years ago today I went to church hoping to see this cute young woman again. I sat in a pew near the back, peering behind me every few minutes, hoping she’d be there and nervous about what I’d do if she was. Just before the service started she came in and we smiled at each other but sat separately. I have to admit that I didn’t get much out of the service, since I was entirely focused on my anxiety about what I would say if/when I got to talk to that cute young woman again. At coffee hour, I was prepared to ask her out to lunch–but she asked me first! We went to a coffee shop, and we giggled about how offended her grandmother would be at her dunking bread into her soup.
In the intervening 12 years we’ve had many moments when our relationship was easy, and many that required hard work. We have gotten married, loved our nieces and nephew, spent cozy nights at home and the occasional night out on the town, and had so many joyful moments as a family of three. We have also been through moves, crazy jobs, wonderful jobs, grad school for both of us, the birth of a kid, struggles to conceive a second kid, illnesses large and small, and the deaths of three of our grandparents. Early in our relationship we spent a difficult summer apart when I was a camp counselor in Vermont. A few years later we moved in together; for two stubbornly independent women, the first year of living together was a tough one, full of negotiation and adjustment. And of course the transition to parenthood (especially with an infant who had reflux and couldn’t figure out how to breastfeed) was a challenging time.
We are lucky to have met each other, and our lives together are full of many kinds of good fortune, but I don’t want to portray our relationship as some sort of perfect, happily-ever-after story. We squabble and get grumpy and fight about all of the typical things that couples fight about (and some that I’m sure are unique to us!) . But we also work hard to keep our relationship strong. We try to do all of those things that “relationship experts” say you should do but that turn out to be pretty difficult in real life: communicate, forgive, give more than 50%, really listen to the other person, “fight fair” even when you’re really angry, get help when you are stuck. We don’t always succeed, but I’m proud of how hard we try. One of my very favorite books is The Serpent’s Gift by Helen Elaine Lee [You should totally read it!]. Lee describes a long-term relationship between two female characters saying, “both sensitive, both easy to bruise, they worked hard at loving each other well.” That line almost found its way into our wedding ceremony, and I think of it often. I like that it portrays a good marriage as something that you can build, not something that just magically happens to you (or that magically disappears when you face a hard time).
When I get worried about how our relationship will fare as we try to get me pregnant, it helps to remember how many challenges we have faced already. I’m so grateful that I went to church that day twelve years ago, and proud of the relationship that Roo and I have built in the intervening time.