The day finally came. I thought it would kill me to watch him drive away.
After much thought and discussion, my partner of 13 years took a job opportunity in another town. Graham had been feeling stuck in a bit of a career rut. He needed a new challenge. I could see the way he lit up when he talked about this possible promotion, and I just couldn’t let him pass it up.
But while I wanted to be so strong for him… I didn’t anticipate just how painful it would be. Graham is the person who knows me better than anyone in this world. He’s the person who makes me feel understood, loved, wholly accepted unlike anyone else has yet shown themselves capable. He’s the one who makes me feel like I’m not alone in this world. He’s…. home.
Watching my home slowly pack it’s essential belongings and carry them one by one to the car… it was like slowly having the oxygen sucked out of the room. My chest felt tighter. I could hardly breathe. I cried. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to be a pillar of strength. But despite what people think of the girl with 4 romantic partners, I don’t always get what I want. And I didn’t get to be a pillar of strength that day. Instead I got to be a wave of emotions… periodically melting into an undefined puddle on the bed. Graham was strong, but kind, compassionate. He wouldn’t let me apologize for my tears. He accepted them for the outpouring of love that they were. He comforted me.
That day felt so heavy. Eventually I was just a little numb, but knew I needed to not be alone. My girlfriend, Rowan, knew it too. She made me chocolate banana bread and invited me over. She instinctively knew just how hard today would be. She also knew it was likely I hadn’t eaten. She cooked salmon and vegetables for dinner, and we alternated between quiet conversation and comfortable silence for a couple hours. She held space for me. It was exactly what I needed. For someone to be comfortable experiencing my sadness with me…. and just hold space. It was okay to just be.
I don’t consider myself a needy person, but I recognize we all need someone at different times. And it’s okay. It’s okay to need people. It’s okay to need help, or support, or love… it doesn’t make you less strong, less independent. It just makes us human. In a world where we feel this expectation to be super human…. to do it all, be it all, at the speed of light…. I’m here to tell you: It’s okay to be human.
Graham has always made me feel strong and independent. He talks about me like I’m a force of nature. I love that he sees me that way. And I love that he doesn’t see me as less of a force of nature if I need him. I think he knows it’s a compliment… that I let myself need him.
Graham moving was undoubtedly going to change not just my relationship with him, but also my relationship dynamic with my boyfriend, Ethan, with whom we’d both been sharing an apartment. Time, space, who does the dishes when — It all has to adjust, however incrementally. And Ethan is slow to accept change. It’s rarely a smooth transition. More often a rough and bumpy ride in the beginning, but we always figure it out. I think Ethan’s learning that we can figure things out together. He’s still learning that he doesn’t have to do everything all on his own. While I’ve had Graham and we’ve grown and learned together over that past 13 years… and we’ve had the good fortune to be able to take for granted that we’re here for each other always…. Ethan hasn’t had that same life experience. His life experience taught him it’s best to never let yourself need anyone. Life has taught him hat you should figure out how to do everything you can on your own, and ask no one for help. It seems to be a combination of his perception of what it means to be a good man… a strong, independent, self-sustained person… and how he believes one can avoid feeling let down or disappointed; something he seems willing to avoid at great cost.
But we can all learn new things from our significant others. I hope that one of the things Ethan can learn from me is that it’s okay to let yourself need someone…. and that it’s safe to need me. In time I hope I can show him that I’m a partner who loves him completely, that I want to be here for him, and that doing things to help and support him is in no way a burden to me, but rather something that brings me sincere joy.
We’re all learning. I’m learning it may be safe to lean on people other than Graham. Graham and I are reminded just how much we love and appreciate each other (the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is pretty on point), and we’re learning how to stay connected over long distance for the first time. Ethan and I are learning how to communicate even more and how to share more time and space than we ever have previously in a way that works for us both. I’m also simultaneously learning how to connect as equally as one can with two separate members of a couple (Rowan and Jax), and how to be very transparent with everyone involved. And I think Rowan and Jax, for as sage and wise as they seem, may still have a few things to learn too.
I can’t be certain how long this season will last. Graham may be working and primarily living several hours away for many months. So for now I’m trying to focus on the positive, and attempt to be grateful for these difficult changes… because I think this is where our growth lies.