My partner and I are not what you could in all good conscience call ‘entirely well-balanced’.
We can both be reckless and have poor self-control. We are both driven and feel slightly socially gawky. We have complicated feelings towards our families, absent parents, bereavement. Both of us were bullied at school and were tested for ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. We occasionally lash out while asleep and buried in a violent pit, hitting a peacefully slumbering loved one in the face. Once, he bit my cheek. Another night, I cracked him in the jaw hard enough that the click of his teeth woke me up. We both love to give context for a situation, half out of respect for the wonderful humans around us, half because we are afraid of being judged.
At various times, we needle each other to stop worrying and slow down or to put on pants and get off the couch. I suspect that he isn’t as interested in my writing as he says he is. He knows I’m not nearly as interested in watching him enthuse over circuits as I pretend to be. Alternately, we try and give up medication and therapy. In cycles, we are giddy over new projects, running around and getting a good night’s sleep, or narcoticising with too much booze, drugs, Netflix or Tumblr. We’re untidy.
We are the biggest fans of tangents and it makes for wonderful conversation when there’s two of us in it, but also for frustrating monologues and hidden allegations of narcissism.
We were incredibly attracted to each other the moment we met and had insanely loud sex on the first date. There have been times when each of us owed the other a fairly large amount of money.
We both mentally like to compare ourselves to Holmes and Watson. We both think we’re Holmes.
Each of us suspects that the other might secretly be a bit of an elitist because we both feel guilty about the amount of approval we crave. At turns, we are drama queens and bitter cynics. He has the patience to hold me when I explode and on the one occasion I pushed him instead of melting into his safe space, it wounded him deeply and he could not speak for the rest of the day. I worry and rub his back as he crumbles inwards and only time he got scared and used his venom, I got so upset that I left our tiny one room flat and walked around around the city frantic and aimless for two hours. We lived in there for nine months, sharing our room with mould spores and our kitchen with seven other people. The barman in the nearest pub knew me by name and I only ever went there alone. My partner began to stay out later and more often with people he barely knew. I preferred staying in with our hodge-podge group of close friends close to our startlingly unsafe and most definitely illegal gas fire.
We move into a suburban house-share.
I want him to read more and he wants me to play more video games. The two of us have made an effort and we also work on excuses for not making a bigger one.
He brings me coffee, just because. I once tried to train him to do it whenever I scratched my chin. Apparently this is not okay. On a date night (my surprise), he got into an argument in the comment section of a national newspaper and only spoke to me to ask for advice on rhetoric. We don’t bring it up. Every day we tell each other what we have learned. I try to make him laugh and have a good track record. He tries to make the stories from his job as entertaining as possible, and we are content.
We have only had three loud fights. All of these have involved escalating amounts of alcohol. Once we got so drunk and angry at a house party that we completely demolished a friend’s stash of Captain Morgan. We still owe her for the bottle. Mostly though, we sound as though we are reading from a relationship counselling manual, seasoning liberally with “I feel” and “this is what I think the situation is. Please correct me when I’m wrong”. We have rules. There is a schedule. Both of us have built up a weighty file of therapy jargon and coping tips. We do cringeworthy things like “call time out”. I try not to raise my voice. He chooses his words deliberately. Witnesses have described the process as a cross between an episode of Dr. Phil and an arms treaty negotiation.
We are incredibly lucky, because it most of the time it works.
And when it doesn’t, and now that we have more space, our obsessive personalities carry us to separate rooms, where we can Google desperately for solutions until we catch our breath and count our blessings.