Sometimes all you can do is keep your mouth shut. I’m sure everyone in a long-term relationship, or marriage, has felt this way before. You could offer a truckload of solutions to a problem your significant other is going on (and on) about, but no matter what you suggest they’ll still move forward with something that was their idea; or make the idea you presented seem like it was theirs to begin with. On the inside I have to laugh, because it’s hilarious, but on the outside I have to keep up the fight – challenging the stubbornness.
The spring is here to stay, and with the change of weather comes angry allergens, twenty-four hour colds, and major sinus drama. If I notice the slightest hint of a cold, I immediately begin to take medicine. Whether it be sniffles, minor headaches, or a kind-of-itchy-throat, I make sure to keep taking medicine so the condition does not get any worse.
My husband, S, would take a completely different approach to attacking pre-cold symptoms. He would simply not take any medicine; no Airborne, no Emergen-C, no meds at all. “Maybe you should take some medicine… knock it out before it spreads” is my usual response whenever any health related issue is presented. True to form, he’ll answer in a way that basically says “no, I’m not doing that,” or he’ll change the subject. “Why won’t you take the medicine?!”
S is an Aries, and anyone who knows an Aries is very familiar with the my-way-or-the-highway mentality they manifest on a daily basis. Why so stubborn, though?! I hate saying I told you so, so why can’t he just try this one idea I’ve shared? As spouses we share our respective jurisdictions – regarding one of us being right, and the other being wrong – but there’s always one of us that won’t bend so easily… and that one is usually him.
I’m a self-proclaimed romantic. So you would assume Valentine’s Day would be of the utmost importance to me, right? No. I love everything that Valentine’s Day represents. I love romance, and all the cheese that comes along with it. I love when two become one in the most barf-inducing-tears-of-happiness kind of romantic film, and the idea that someone is experiencing that kind of love; even if it is just a story. With all that said, what kind of romantic would I be if I only expected that kind of attention on a single day out of the entire calendar year?
I hope a date, a surprise gift, or the smallest gesture that shows one the other cares on any day of the year is appreciated. What does it say if a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, is only stressed about having a perfect, error-free, romantic day or night only once a year? S and I never do very much on Valentine’s Day. We may go to dinner, or have a quiet evening in with a homemade meal and champagne. Our first Valentine’s Day, I bought him cologne; not sure whether we would be a couple that went all out when this day rolled around. During the early stages of our relationship, it was fun to get small gifts and cards, but now February 14th is just another day.
The fact that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day like all the other lovebirds does not sour me in the slightest. In my opinion, it’s much more exciting to find an unexpected burst of love randomly throughout the other three-hundred-sixty-four days of the year. If you already play cupid year-round, then I won’t shade the fact that you’re going above and beyond on Valentine’s Day. Because if your significant other has the pleasure of experiencing these exclamations of love outside of this particular day, then good for you! If Valentine’s Day is the only time you’re pulling out the special underwear, thoughtful dates, or passionate appreciation of what you have together… you’ve got some work to do.
Three years ago, this evening, our relationship presented itself as something new. It was New Years Eve in my cozy, cheer-filled apartment. I had one of my best friends in town – visiting from Los Angeles – amazing roommates, a great chunk of friends I had made working at the Goodwill Store, and him. I was so happy S had come down from Indy to celebrate the holiday with us. At the time, we’d only officially been boyfriends for a little over two months, and were an hour apart during the work week. About thirty minutes or so before midnight, we found ourselves alone in my bedroom. “…I’m scared” I express as I look past him nervously and prop myself up on my elbow. Lying next to me, he puts one hand behind his head, and the other around my arm. “Why?” He looks worried as he presents the single-worded question. I shift. “I think I love you.” The second it took him to respond felt like agonizingly long minutes passing on a clock. “I love you too” he grins looking directly into my eyes.
When is the right time to say “I love you” to a person of interest? Our exchange that night was not planned, and I honestly had not thought about the subject at all. We were still a very new couple, but there was something in the air that evening that made me want to share my feelings with him. Society programs young adults in so many ways when it comes to saying “I love you.” We absorb the lessons we learn – or think we’re learning – from relationships we’ve witnessed in the past, and think we have to apply them to our own relationships. Whether it’s too soon or long overdue to share those guarded words are up to the individual that possess the feelings. When I think back on that night, I recognize that the timing was right. Our relationship didn’t feel like work – I say that a lot, but it’s true – I was always excited to see him, always wondering how his day went, counting down the days until we were together again… the love was building before I even thought about saying it.
“Communication is the key to life. Communication is the key to love. Communication is the key to us… Will you communicate with me?” – TLC & Dallas Austin. “Communicate-Interlude.” Fanmail 1999.
Communication will make or break any relationship. What do people fear when they’re finally in their own relationships, or marriage? One thing I knew I would have to respect – maybe “fear” is the wrong word – within my relationship was the communication aspect. This stems mostly from growing up in a two parent home, up to the age of sixteen, just to watch it all fall apart because my parents did not communicate properly within their situation. Do I think my parents would have stayed together if they did communicate effectively? No, probably not, but I think they would have gotten to a better place as peers – raising their three children together – faster than they did in real time.
Communication can be simple if both parties are willing to participate, listen, and learn. I remember a time during my husband and I’s first months of dating. I was usually the one to initiate communication – whether that be text or call – and after some time, I decided to give him the chance to reach out first. Well two days went by before I heard anything, and I was absolutely pissed. I ended up calling him and making sure he knew how I felt. At the time we were living an hour apart, and during those couple of days of no contact, I didn’t feel wanted anymore; this worried me, but I had to test him. From that point on, if there were ever any issues, I made sure to communicate them to S, and encouraged him to do the same with me.
You never stop learning when you’re sharing a life with someone. Flash forward to yesterday – married and three years into our relationship – when I was expecting my husband home at a certain time. I decided to call after the minutes on the clock totaled to an hour past his estimated time of arrival. Now, I was not mad at him, but I was worried. I don’t make excuses for anyone, and he is no exception. Any form of message informing me that he would be running late would have kept my spousal jitters at bay. There is no perfect way to communicate. The act itself can be as easy, or as hard, as you make it. The important thing is that you try. I’m a firm believer in communication, and as long as it’s present… you can’t lose.
When one is single, working out and staying in shape is important for the wrong reasons. Most will say that it’s for their health and wellness, and mask the fact that they’re sweating it out to better their chances of hooking up come time to play the field. I recognize that there are people who take their health and fitness seriously, but during the partying years?.. Let’s be real, everyone has ass on the mind. If not for health and wellness, does the reason for exercise change when you land that special someone?
Something happens when you become one with another; at least it did for me. Before S, I was a heavier guy, and legitimately began working out and dieting to add years to my life. Now that I’m married, I find myself working harder than I had before on my health and overall fitness. My reason for working out, in addition to general health, is to maintain my attractiveness for my husband. I get off knowing that I look good, and even more so when I know it’s for him and our relationship. Hey now, I work out for me too! I love working out in the morning, and gain so much energy going into my day. I even workout on weekends to keep my energy on the up and up.
I’ve come a long way from refusing to run in gym class back in high school, to doing cardio, yoga, and strength training five to six times a week. S has gone through his own fitness transformation as well, but doesn’t possess the cocky confidence that I do. Even when I was a bigger guy – pushing three hundred pounds – I could work with what I had and still pursued guys without hesitation. I love when I catch guys eyeing my husband, and how he doesn’t even notice. What I love more is when other, thirsty, guys realize what they have to get through before they can get to S.
I find it entertaining that even after you’ve entered a serious relationship, you still have to maintain what you had once worked so hard to obtain, to keep your prize. By no means am I saying that you need to be in shape to keep a partner. We share numerous cheat days and battle the scale together now – after falling off our low carb wagon here and there – and gain great pleasure when we notice changes in each other physically. Earlier I said that working out, as a single partier type, was done for the wrong reasons. When it comes down to it, maybe working out (then) for the approval and validation of others is just practice… We say we do it for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better, but eventually all that nonsense, worry, and stress turns into the very elixir that provides us the power to keep a comfortable grip on what we’ve achieved.
The shower area of the gym is steamy, warm, and a most welcome feeling with the chill of winter’s approach outside. I towel off in the shower stall so I don’t track a pool of water into my private changing area, before I notice the tanned, dusty-haired, blonde that had been making eyes at me across cardio equipment. He’s an attractive guy – beefy, with body hair in all right places, and an ass that looks like it could feed a small family – but I tend to lean more towards dark-haired men, and let’s not forget that I’m off the market. Our shower and changing rooms were right next to each other, and there are only three showers so the space between the two is small. Removing his towel so only his front was covered, he offers carnal grin. “Good morning” he says, still holding the towel with only a couple fingers just under his navel; revealing a wet torso and thighs. “Good morning. Did you have a good workout?” I know exactly what he’s up to, so I slip into my changing room and calmly close the half door. Making sure the door doesn’t slam, I leave him alone and exposed in the small area between shower and changing room. I begin to dry off as he answers my question, and the small talk continues the entirety of my getting dressed. Fully dressed I make my way out of the changing stall. “See you tomorrow” he flirts with another grin. “Later! Have a good day.” My inner Beyonce tends to surface after all of my workouts – various songs of hers play in my head (complete with choreography) when I notice changes in my body as I’ve already lost 100 lbs – making me feel strong, awake, and confident going into the work day. The influence of Scorpio season and the fact that I had just been cruised at the gym had my inner Queen Bey slaying the stage; dropping it like it was hot all the way to the car. It wasn’t even 7AM yet! I can’t wait to tell S what happened.
Forbidden fruit comes in the form of the heterosexual male. During my time in the closet – from eighth grade until about three weeks into my college career – I had plenty of secret crushes on straight friends that I knew I could not have. I strongly believe that it’s this time in the closet that causes the craving for a straight guy to brew and reach extremely potent levels. I remember when guys would ask me “what I was looking for” in a guy – in various gay dating chat rooms – and I would simply respond with the descriptor: “straight-acting.” What does that even mean?! That description is still frequently tossed around in regular conversation amongst gay friends. Stereotypically speaking, the term “straight-acting” represents a heterosexual guy who is macho, strong, and handy, is into sports, and doesn’t mind getting dirty; someone that can wrestle in a godly fashion. The picture next to my interpretation of the definition would be an image of thick, burly, muscular lumberjacks; complete with tight denim and a big axes. He would be a bearded, gloriously-sweaty – Gaston from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” – or a Gerard Butler type of guy.
Little did I know then, that I would end up with my “straight-acting” guy. It’s always an adventure with S, especially now that we live under one roof. My daily interests revolve around the performing arts – having played music from a young age – Pinterest boards, organizing our closet, and stressing about the growing bald spot at the back of my head. S will spend the entire college basketball off-season counting down to the first game of the next season. He grew up on a farm with real chores – raising horses and cleaning stalls – and can change the oil on his own car. You’d think that being from Alaska I would be a better outdoors person, but he takes the cake in that area too. We went hiking once with friends, and I spent the entire time running from ticks. Occasionally I’ll get in his car and he’ll have it tuned to a sports radio show. “What’s this?” was the question I would ask with the look of instant boredom smeared across my face. He would then proceed to laugh and let me plug in Spotify; set to the “Radiohead Radio” station most likely. I imagine S probably has the same look on his face when I turn on an episode of ABC’s “Scandal.” Since our beginning, I have joked with friends and family about S being my “straight curse.” Every day I gain life from the gifts my curse provides… for this I will be forever thankful.
Sexual appetites are something that need to be fed in order to keep a relationship flowing. People can get along fine within a relationship without sex, but for how long? Being realistic, what is a long-term relationship without regular sex? Some argue that sex is not the most important factor when it comes to making a long-term relationship last, and others say the opposite and argue that it is the most important factor. When it came to my relationship – before I had any relationship, really – I knew that sex would be big factor. Being a big astrology and zodiac enthusiast, I fully embrace my Scorpio identity, and carry a great amount of sexual energy; Scorpios are said to be the most sexually dominant of the astrological circle. When S and I were living apart from one another, I could confidently expect to get some action at least once a week; during weekend visits. Now that we lived together, I wondered how often sex would come.
Most guys – even us gays – welcome the idea of being drowned by sex once living with a partner commences. Dan Savage’s “Savage Lovecast” is a weekly sex and relationship podcast S and I both listen to regularly. Savage’s sharp, honest, and enduringly blunt tone has a way of getting one’s mind to open up regarding everything sex; not to mention all the stories and experiences shared by listeners, both gay and straight, of the show. We took our relationship one day at a time. There were never any specific talks regarding how much sex either one of us expected, so I would do my best to close the deal any time I was in the mood; and I was in the mood pretty often. Much to my dismay, I found that I would have more adjusting to do when it came to our shared life.
Adjusting sexually to one another isn’t a bad thing. Internalizing any rejection during dry spells, I would feel pretty down – even paranoid or worried – when more than a couple weeks would pass without any intimate, nighttime action. I’d become accustomed to sex at least once a week, so anything less than that forced feelings of insecurity and visions of red flags on the horizon. What I came to learn was that my sex drive was way higher than his. Being the paranoid individual that I am, I would ask questions: “is it me? What’s wrong? Did you get off today?” I wasn’t looking for signs of cheating, but I was looking for a way to make him want sex as much as I did.
I found the answer wasn’t to make him want sex more, but to adapt and have fun whenever play-time did come around. Sexually I am satisfied. My feelings of insecurity were completely natural, because sadly, we humans pay attention to the negative more than the positive of a situation. When it comes to us, the good continues to outweigh the bad. There are weeks where I am more than happy in the sex department, and plenty of times where I am caught off guard – in the best and most appetizing ways – by him. Sexually starved is definitely something we are not, and having lived together for going on a year and a half now, we are more than pleased with each other in every aspect of the subject. Patience is an ongoing lesson, but one thing I will continue to harass him about? Is a lap dance. If I can get a lap dance out of S, I would probably pass out from shock and/or excitement (lol).
There were no storybook-happy-endings looping in my head when it came to S and I living together. What I enjoy most about our relationship is that it doesn’t feel like work, we blend, and above anything else we respect each other. All of this sounds pretty great when reading it aloud, but the reality of the situation is that not every day is smooth sailing. There are days that feel like our relationship is work, and depending on the situation, our problem-solving skills have to come into play. In the past my role as the token gay friend plagued me with the curse of knowing all details of my friend’s relationship ups, downs, and all the drama that nested between their frequent battles. Looking back on my time as a couple’s counselor – providing advice while having not been in a relationship of my own – the hours spent on phones or over coffee, listening to bitching and moaning, really turned out to be a gift. All the advice I provided to my coupled friends in the past, was now mine to apply to my own relationship.
Much like the beginning of a new relationship, the honeymooner phase returns when you move in with one another. Our honeymoon phase didn’t last very long, mostly because there was a natural feeling about being with each other; that or we are a couple of boring queens compared to the shenanigans of our friend’s relationships. If there are fights we manage to just talk through the problem, and learn from what happened. S doesn’t like to talk about problems all the time, but I don’t let the subject die until it’s completely solved; this may seem annoying for S, but I don’t do well with negative energy. Beyond the fights, there are other things like learning his pet-peeves – I’m saving that topic for a future post – and various other things that probably drive me crazy, as I’m sure there are things I do that drive him up the wall. So far it has been smooth sailing, and I’m happy that I have been fortunate enough to not run into any situation that required the application of any advice I once shared with flustered friends. We have our days where we both feel like wrapping hands around each other’s throat, but without that flicker of irritated emotion… every once in a while… I would be more worried; because at least we know we care…
The day had finally come for our time in different zip codes to end. We talked about moving in together about a year and a half into our relationship, but we’d already renewed our respective leases. The remainder of our sentence – separated by that hour stretch of interstate – was less than a year, but progressed slowly all the same. Our relationship was pretty easy-going, so when we were together on weekends, our roommates and the antics of their relationships were the main focus. His roommates did nothing but suffocate any available space on the couches, argue, and add to the stench of the cat-littered apartment, while two, of my three, roommates lived out a screwy relationship that’s usually only seen on seasons of MTV’s The Real World.
Excitement, wonder, and fear were the three feelings that resonated most with me during our move-in day. I was excited to escape life with roommates, and to begin a new chapter with S. I wondered where we would be in a year or two, and how we would be getting along. I feared thoughts of unknown hurdles we would have to clear; not wanting to lose him – lose us – for any reason. I guess that’s normal though… the fear. There are so many young couples these days that commence living together at the very start of their relationships; this hasn’t worked for anyone I know. Moving in together is not marriage by any means, but it’s an act I respected.
Each trip between the moving truck and S’s apartment was filled with adrenaline and anticipation. I’d left my Bloomington address a week prior to start a job I’d accepted up in Indianapolis, and was looking forward to escaping the stink of cat and the unorganized mess that were his roommates. We managed to get everything loaded on the truck in a timely manner, unloaded at our new apartments, and ended the day with pizza and beer. Full from the conclusion of our day, we were finally home. There would be no more hour drives, weekend visits, or roommate drama. We were officially beginning a new, grown up, phase of our relationship and the skies were clear. As I look around our new apartment, those feelings of excitement, wonder, and fear lingered. I was thankful, though; thankful for our new couches, thankful for all our belongings being under the same roof, thankful for the bottles of champagne, and above all… thankful for him.