Last night I went to dinner with a friend from work who lives in Europe. He's here in SF for a few weeks working and probably doesn't want to sit alone on a weekend evening (nor do I) so I figured, why not! He's not been a close friend in the past but I like the guy... not such a bad way to spend an evening.
A few glasses of wine and we started talking about relationships. He's about my age (29!) and he's not married but has been with the same woman for over 20 years and they have two kids. One is fully grown and in graduate school (proud poppa) and the other is a wee eight year old. They are unconventional this couple. But it seems to work. Over twenty years ain't bad.
He asked me about my dating life and offered some advice. Uh-oh. He said: in every relationship one person loves the other a little bit more. Yikes. Not too much more. There can't be a huge gap or it won't work. But it's true. And the one that loves a little less holds a bit more power. They get to make more of the choices.
Ok I didn't like the sound of this. But he continued. And he's not some weirdo power hungry, heartless dude. Much to the contrary - he's a super nice guy, adores his kids. Laughs easy. Respectful of everyone.
I asked him: Who loves who more in your relationship? Without pause he said his girlfriend loved him more. (I think he means: she puts up with more shit). But... I love her. I will never find someone I can be as happy with. As compatible with. Or have such great sex with (he added earnestly). Ok we're getting to be better friends.
He continued: next time, you should be the one who gets to be with someone who loves you a little more. You've done it the other way. I furrowed my brow, about to protest, then realized he was right. Just from how you describe your marriage, you were willing to do anything. To try anything. He had limits. True. He's right. I loved more. I think. Not sure what the ex would say.
Don't you think it can ever be even? No. He didn't waver.
I thought about my friends, my family, the relationship I'd embarked on since my divorce. The other relationships I know. My brother. It seems even with my brother. Then I thought about it further. Maybe not. But it's just a hair tilted, if at all. (Not gonna say which way!)
So it's one view. I get why he'd offer this advice and recommend going the way of the one in more control. Perhaps you avoid some heartbreak. I can't do heartbreak again. But I'm not sure I'm built this way. I think I may be built to be the one that gives up the power. I think that may be what love feels like to me. But that's a fucked up story for another day...
Or maybe he's just wrong. And the love that works best is perfectly even. Give and take. Each willing to give up something for the other. The balance working itself out over years, not weeks or months. A dance where one leads and the other follows but it gets switched up over time depending on who can handle what at the time. I'd like to think this is what's in store.