Out on third-anniversary date night, assessing our relationship, Stone and I concluded that basically we had being doing great and that there really wasn’t much we could change. We were doing our best and things would get better once both of us simultaneously got a full nights sleep. I proposed a toast: Here’s to not needing to improve!
But wait. ‘Well, there is one area’, he suggested. ‘We could spend more time together, watch a movie, listen to music like we used to, you know after Zi is in bed on a weekend’. Hmph. ‘This is an improvement?’, I thought. After I deal with all the needs of my job and Ziya’s needs, improvement is now about turning to your needs right after? It’s not that I don’t get it. I miss the weekends of movies, music and hugging up too. It’s just that after she’s down, the only need I can think of is to sleep.
‘We don’t have to do it every weekend, but every other weekend would be an improvement’, he gently pressed. ‘I hear you’, I countered, ‘but on weekends, I feed the baby four times and usually bathe her three times a day. That’s why I’m too tired to look after your needs’ (our needs, he countered back). ‘I hear you’, he said. ‘I’ll take two meals and two baths then, so you’ll be less tired.’
‘Great! I’ll just shoot off an email to you recording this decision, but before we toast to it’, I proposed, ‘wouldn’t it be better if we tried to improve on the time we spent together every weekend’?
‘Every weekend?’, he asked, beginning to sense a trap looming in the recesses of such generosity. ‘Sure’, I went in for the kill, ‘we should be spending time together every weekend so, for that to happen, you can do two meals and two baths every weekend’!
I could see he suddenly began to question the wisdom of starting this conversation. ‘Yep’, I continued, ‘that means two meals and two baths on two days every weekend’.
‘Two days!’ Now he began to plan a retreat that could nonetheless retain some terrain of victory. ‘I only meant the one day we’d be hanging out’.
Not a chance, I was on a roll. ‘But, I’m not heading straight to bed just because of that one day, I’m also conserving energy to do it all again the next day’. For me to have the energy and inclination to stay up late being your girlfriend from twelve years ago, means not having to manage exhaustion from two full days of reproductive work after a whole week in the labour market’.
That led to a whole discussion about whether having a baby was at all worth it if I’m exhausted all the time and I end Saturdays with the exhaustion of Sundays on my mind. But, of course, creating life from nothing but your body is worth it. It’s just that, well, here we are.
So, I announced, a toast! To two meals and two baths both days of every weekend, and then hanging out on evenings after! This of course was nothing like how he saw improvement, but I felt like it was a successfully negotiated conversation. So successful did I feel that I even could throw some crumbs. Okay, I gave in, two meals and two baths on two days every other weekend, and only on one day on the weekend in between, and we hang out on the weekend with the two -day shift, but not the other weekend.
He couldn’t stop laughing. What else does one do in the face of one’s own folly? I couldn’t stop laughing myself. What else does one do in the face of such sweet strategic victory? That made two of us, laughing hysterically with tears rolling down our faces over third anniversary dinner. What else do we do in the face of mutual checkmate?
I guess this is the lived representation of when and how negotiations occur in long-term relationships, the ways moments must be seized to have conversations that need to be had with the kind of emotional good will they need to be had amicably. The skill of familiar poker players that partners bring to those conversations. I tell you, UN Security Council deliberations, don’t bring that kind of sophisticated nuance and engagement to nuclear treaties as parents bring to whose turn it is to change a diaper. Political horse-trading is clearly child’s play next to the thrust and parry of power in long-term love.
A toast! To those romantic heart to hearts over anniversary dinner! A toast! To improving always!
A toast! To weekends missed and still looked forward to!….though perhaps for different reasons.
Happy anniversary husband!