In 2008 we were starting a new life together. Living in a one-room cottage in the back of her parent's house. Way, way too old to be there, but that’s where we were. In the back yard. Two full grown adults and a 2-year-old living in a shag-carpeted former tool shed with what might pass a bathroom. Toilet, yes. Sink, yes. Shower, more like a sink sprayer.
Our life had had already hit the reset button two years earlier when she became a single mom and halfway across the world, my then-wife had Fedexed me divorce papers.
Now, after a long-distance courtship, we had bit the bullet. I quit my stable marketing job in England, sold all my (few) belongings and moved back to the US to start a new life. This time as a dad.
Going from glamorous long distance to a domestic nightly routine of brushing our teeth was comforting, charming, and for the moment, novel.
Both of us standing in our underwear and t-shirts. Talking as we got ready for bed and loading toothpaste on our toothbrushes. She had a fancy Sonicare that I think an ex-boyfriend might have bought her.
She was telling me a story about a meeting she had with an astrologer. Her eyes were bright as she was telling me the story. But my hearing dimmed as soon as she said, astrologer.
You see, for a churched boy as myself, astrology was a big no no. A practice of witchcraft and satan. Don’t mind the fact that I was already a very, very heavy drinker, divorced, living with my girlfriend, all things that I was so glad to overlook so as long as I was happy and comfortable. But astrology wasn’t a line that I had crossed yet and one, that for some reason, my semi-religious mind was too afraid to participate in.
Morgan was just talking away like it was totally normal. And I guess, for someone who had not been brainwashed by a church, it was perfectly normal. Totally normal. Astrology. You know, like the back of a newspaper.
I did her the disservice of cutting her off with the terse sentence, “when we are married, we aren't going to consult mediums, spiritualists, or astrologers.
She wasn’t fully aware of my history, nor was she aware of me picking and choosing some “Christian” rules over the other, nor did she even know that I was somehow elevating any kind of Christian rule. This was all, very not normal to her.
She had been raised as a perfect, Portland humanist. At first, relying on little other than her incredibly bright mind, good grades and drive. But as she grew, she could sense a divine spark in the universe and sought it wherever there seemed to be a clue. Why not an astrologer?- Even Jesus’ arrival was, celebrated, announced and charted by far eastern astrologers.
She sought the full spectrum of human understanding of the human mind and spirit, studying philosophy as an undergrad and later getting a master in eastern philosophy. She had earnestly dabbled in everything from Nietzsche, Buddhism, Baha'i, and even landmark (And by dabbled, I don’t mean she read a book or two, I mean, she really threw herself into them for a year or more.
Meanwhile, I had built a solid wall around my mind that told the world the only way to be rescued from the punishment of our own existence was to say a specific set of words, in a specific sequence. Doesn’t this sound a bit more like witchcraft?
Back in the cottage.
She continued to brush her teeth.
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM, said her Sonicare toothbrush.
Her eyes, gorgeous oceans of blue looked at me, deciding.
She spit in the sink. And she stood at the door to the bathroom.
I stood on the other side, brushing harder to hide my own fear and feeling of being both out of place and to be honest, mentally outmatched. Her eyes continued to measure me.
Then in her gentle west coast, educated elocution, she said, “I don’t agree with you. But it’s more important to me to respect you than it is to argue with you and be right.”
That sentence concussed the air like a bomb. And if I were a physicist, I’d say, those words were so powerful that by their very force, they have continued to be heard in every direction into infinity, probably reaching the asteroid belt past Mars about now.
Up to that point, she had confessed her undying love for me, promising me her forever. She had said 1 million I love you's with everything in her faculty, but those words hit me deeper than anything she had ever said.
It was at that moment that all my fear, edge of reason doubt and worry about our relationship was blown out of my belfry, as easy as a birthday candle.
SO HOW ABOUT NOW?
That was a defining moment in our relationship. And I still say silly shit like that. Plus, I’ve made dumb mistakes; spending money that I shouldn’t have, decisions that hurt us as a family and even this year, neglected to buy her a birthday card.
And when I do boneheaded things I often try to stay in my boneheaded world instead of quickly admitting fault and course correcting, falling into a wonderful sticky marshmellow of self-pity that just invites me to go deeper the more I squirm.
Last night was one of those time, we had a tough conversation about money and she wasn't feeling very confident in me. In fact, she was pissed at me. (you can listen to our follow up podcast about money here.)
She could have easily belittled me. Instead she firmly urged me to remember who I really am, reminding me what I can live up to and the deadend that my self-pity would lead to.
Was she mad at me? Hell yes.
Did she rail me like she could have? No.
She allowed her respect for me to filter her anger.
Her respect is always the best (and often undeserved) gift that she gives me.
Where are you at with respecting your man? Is it something that comes naturally or do you feel as if he's got to earn your respect?