On Wednesday, A and I had a spontaneous evening where we reconnected. I worked late and was a bit of a mess and asked him to come pick me up so I could collect a hug. We ended up going for drinks. It was amazing. So full of laughter and some deep conversation too. To say that my life has experienced an ongoing state of upheaval and stress the last few weeks would probably be an accurate statement. A is a stabilizing force in my life. He grounds me. He knows me well, so that means he can say the things that make me laugh, intentionally get a rise out of me, and calm me in a way very few people can.
Our relationship is atypical. After so many of my partners have had a hard time with it, I’ve spent some time thinking about why they don’t get it. It makes perfect sense to me (and to A). So, atypical compared to other poly relationships? I don’t know. The fact is, we have great boundaries. There’s not much about our relationship dynamic that we haven’t discussed and actively decided on together. We get each other. He understands my life. That dates are different when the kids are home than when they aren’t. That I have a full-time job and a second job too. That I’m going through a divorce and sometimes I’m going to go on crazy rants about the frustration of negotiations. That I’m going to date others and I’ll tell him about it, but otherwise, he doesn’t have much say. He actually really appreciates my other partners and has never uttered a jealous or judgemental word about any of them. He has supported me through recovering from heartbreak several times. He has been my partner in so many new experiences. From shooting guns, getting in a collision, visiting a new distillery, bondage, pain, orgasm control, group sex, and everything in between, we’ve been a team. I think what people don’t realize is that we are really good friends. We talk about nearly everything. I value his opinion and he values mine. Nearly every date begins with a couple hours of talking and reconnecting. So much of our attraction to each other is intellectual. I’ve never thought for a second that I was being judged or anything but loved and accepted when we talk. I know he feels comfortable confiding in me and I’m his place of calm too. I am the type who volunteers information. You never wonder where you stand with me. A, he requires some prodding, but I’m the type to ask all the questions that pop into my mind, and he generally answers, if somewhat reluctantly.
It’s less often now that I am surprised by something A says or does. Over drinks, were talking about how A, as a bit of a chameleon, scores differently on the Meyers-Briggs tests every time he takes one. He can take the same test and get three different scores. Having never taken a Meyers-Briggs test before, I suggested that I take one and he read me the questions. It was so fun! He guessed what my answer would be before I answered and for the most part, he was bang on. Things like “Your life is always tidy and organized” – ***Strongly Disagree*** and “You are completely comfortable talking in front of a big group of people – ***Strongly Agree*** were pretty straightforward and obvious. There weren’t many that were a shock about me, which is not surprising, because I’m rather transparent. When he took the quiz, I was shocked by some of the more introverted tendencies that he had, but more in a “Oh right, you’re actually an introvert who pretends to be an extrovert” kind of way. Part of the reason these things surprise me is that we almost always spend our time together one-on-one (sometimes literally! Har-har-har!), but also that I know that we are now close enough that I get a real version of A, without the walls that he maintains as part of his public and business persona. What surprised me most is how well he knows me. Not so much that the information is there, but that he paid attention! 😉
When I was a teenager, I heard this story about how in the days prior to modern plumbing, men walked on the outside of a sidewalk and women on the inside so that when a chamber pot was dumped from the second floor balcony, the women wouldn’t be hit. This also served the purpose of preventing women from getting hit by water or other grossness from the street when carriages passed.
While I am a strong, independent, fiercely feminist woman, I love chivalry. Over the year and three months I’ve known A, he has been chivalrous in his understated way. He has passed many tests he didn’t know he was participating in. The first was on our first date, when I reached for my purse to pay my share and he immediately put a stop to it and told me “On the first date, the man pays, put that away”. The second time was when we went shooting a year ago as part of my “40 before 40” list, and when we walked out to his truck, he walked me to the passenger side and opened my door. I remember commenting on it and giving him a kiss. That night, we were in a collision with a moose. When D came to pick us up, he immediately got in the back seat and let me climb in the front, completely respecting my love for D. That was the third time.
There have been hundreds more open truck doors. There have been drinks he’s poured for me and rides he’s given me. There have been hugs he’s gone out of his way to give when he knows I need one. I’ve made a lot of requests that he has fulfilled without complaint. He’s listened to me, he’s held me, he’s hurt me in exactly the way I need, and he’s loved me despite the hot mess I sometimes am. He has been what I need, nearly always.
We were walking away from the bar we were at, and I threaded my arm through his elbow as I tend to do and we reached for each other’s hands. Then he stopped and said: “Get on the other side.” I said “Why?” and he said: “Because men walk on the outside, and women on the inside.”
I was flabbergasted (I love this word). It’s been at least 24 years since I first heard the story of chivalry and where men and women should walk on the sidewalk. I teach my children this lesson. First that adults should be on the outside and second that a man should be on the outside for my daughters. My son will get this lesson when he’s old enough that him running into traffic isn’t my primary concern. I even talked to my girls about this in front of F, and he didn’t note it. I have silently tested and judged everyone I’ve dated over the many years I have known about sidewalk placement while walking using this metric. No one has ever said anything. Then A does this: He passes a test he didn’t know existed.
I mentioned earlier that we have a pretty great and detailed understanding of where we are in our relationship. We know what we mean to each other and we are both happy with the parameters we’ve set. We mean a lot to each other. I have said for months, as a term of endearment (and a bit of an acknowledgement that we are where we are in our relationship and it’s not going to change), that he is an ***adequate*** boyfriend. I joke that he has to be careful, if he is too good to me, he will be upgraded from adequate to satisfactory, and I’ll end up having unrealistic expectations of him.
Truthfully, my expectations haven’t changed, but I love him that much more because he passed the uncommunicated test. Dating a true gentleman is amazing.