Seven Years, No Itch

First published at Between the Lines News on September 18, 2008

This column appears on the eve of my seventh anniversary with my partner Mark. Happy anniversary, sweetie.

Like many gay couples, Mark and I have multiple anniversaries. It was seven years ago that we had our first date—a date that we almost canceled due to the 9/11 attacks. It was five-and-a-half years ago that we moved in together, and three years ago that we exchanged vows and signed a bunch of legal papers merging our assets.

I know some gay couples who mark their anniversary according to the first time they had sex. (It’s really none of your business, but it happened some time after the first date.)

And if—perhaps, optimistically, I should say “when”—Michigan reverses its constitution and permits same-sex marriage, we may have yet another anniversary to celebrate.

However we mark the years, they’re worth marking, celebrating, and reflecting on.

Mark and I actually met eight years ago, at a party at a mutual friend’s house. We hit it off well; we drank too much; we kissed. Mark called the next day, and we talked for nearly a half-hour.

The way he tells the story, I never called him back.

The truth is: I never called him back.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I was just coming off another relationship, knew that he was “husband material,” and wasn’t ready for something serious. Maybe it’s because he lived in another city at the time. Whatever the reason, in hindsight we both agree that the timing would probably have been wrong.

A year later, Mark moved back to Detroit. We bumped into each other occasionally, but it was awkward. To me, he was the cute guy I had kissed at the party but let slip away. To him, I was the asshole who never called him back.

I started pursuing him. He resisted, I persisted, he relented. Seven years later, I can’t imagine life without him.

People sometimes ask me what the secret is to relationship longevity. In response I quip “low expectations,” but I’m only half-joking. Mark is my partner in life. He is not my “everything,” and I am not his.

In my view, the idea that a partner or spouse can meet all of one’s needs, all of the time, puts way too much pressure on relationships. It’s a myth that fuels the “grass must be greener” mentality, which leads—often needlessly—to dissatisfaction, affairs, and divorce.

Some people are never satisfied in any relationship. A few months, or even weeks, in, they complain: “Something’s missing.” Often, such people don’t need a partner. They need a hobby.

I don’t mean to be glib about this. I consider myself very lucky to have found a wonderful man who thinks I’m wonderful too, despite how well he knows me. I’m not sure I could explain what makes us so compatible, but it works, and I’m grateful.

I’m grateful for someone who makes me laugh—often at myself, so I don’t take myself too seriously.

I’m grateful for someone who “gets” me. I’m grateful for someone I can be completely candid with—despite my quirks, my moodiness, my insecurities. I’m grateful for someone whose youthful spirit inspires me even while his constancy reassures me.

I’m grateful for someone who shares my values.

I’m grateful for someone who complements me, not in the “one man one woman” sense that our opponents valorize, but in a host of other ways equally deep and more meaningful. Someone whose ease alleviates my anxiousness; someone whose exuberance tempers my gravitas.

And for complementarity that really counts: I’m grateful for someone who can work the DVR.

For seven years I’ve shared my life with this man, learned from him, and grown with him. He’s made me a better person, and he makes me want to be better still.

Happy anniversary, sweetie. Here’s to the next seven-times-seven.