Most people who are in a relationship will tell you that it is easy to stay with someone in the good times. The real challenge is to stick together through the tough times. Lately, I am realizing that the Boy and I seem to have the opposite problem.
Our relationship has been most successful during the hard times in my life. When we first met in Round 1 it was just after my Mr. Big and I broke up. It had been a long and painful year of dealing with the aftermath of his stroke. And I just wanted to go out and have some fun. Perfect timing to meet the Boy. He was cute, single and did not have a care in the world.
Then in Round 2 we started dating again after I got my job at the Company. I was completely miserable and hated my new career as a consultant. All I wanted to do was get out and have some fun (sound familiar?) Of course, I started hanging out with the Boy again.
Now that I have found a new job and things are starting to get better in my life, it seems that my relationship with the Boy is struggling. It is further exacerbated by the fact that the Boy has been frustrated with his job and his finances, not to mention the ongoing house hunting saga.
One of the things I appreciate most about the Boy is that he is lighthearted and fun. Which really helps to make up for some of his less endearing qualities. When that side goes away, his other flaws are amplified to the point that I can no longer see past them.
This week, I had drinks with a male friend who I used to work with. He is not someone that I am physically attracted to at all, but he and I always had a special connection. Probably because he is a little older that I am and is really easy to talk to, just like my Mr. Big. He showed up at the bar in his sleek wool trousers and neatly pressed dress shirt with his sunglasses propped on top of his head.
I have never seen the Boy in a pressed shirt. In fact he only buys clothes that he can throw in the washer because he doesn't like to dry clean anything. The only nice pair of wool pants he owned was destroyed because he didn't know how to care for them. It is one of the qualities I have learned to overlook these past two years, but deep down it annoys me that I dress so nicely and he is always a rumpled mess.
Anyway, my friend and I had a great time hanging out. The conversation just flowed so naturally from one topic to the next. Since we work in the same industry, there is a common frame of reference so he totally understood all of my work stress from the past two years and my excitement over my new job. When the waitress brought the check he reached for it in one fluid motion and said simply, "I'll take care of this." He spoke with just the right balance of authority and chivalry that it did not even occur to me to protest.
The Boy never carries a lot of cash. And he rarely offers to pick up the check when we go out. Since I earn almost twice what he does, I have gotten used to underwriting the costs for our evening entertainment. He doesn't even go through the motions of arguing with me. It's not the Boy's fault that I earn more money than he does. But I sometimes find myself wondering what it would be like to be with someone where things were more equal.
This weekend I was out shopping with my girlfriend and we were talking about what kind of car I should get. My new job comes with a car allowance, which would allow me to afford something much nicer than I am driving right now. I have been conflicted over the car allowance because I am not really inspired by material things. Yet now that I am 40 years old, the idea of upgrading my ride has a certain appeal.
"You know, part of me doesn't want to get a really nice car because the Boy will want to drive it and I won't want him to," I admitted. "In all of my other relationships I have always had this strong desire to share everything with the person I am dating, but with the Boy I don't do that. I am not sure why."
"That is because you want him to grow up," she said bluntly. "And if you do things for him you are worried that he will stay a perpetual man-child."
In one sentence she was able to articulate what has been bothering me for the past year and a half. While I appreciate his carefree attitude, I want the Boy to be a responsible and mature adult. Every time he lays in bed and hits the snooze button I secretly wish he would get up and go to work. And whenever he bemoans the fact that he still has not been able to buy a house I want him to wise up and make better decisions.
I have worked really hard to get to where I am. And it involved making a lot of good decisions along the way. I'm afraid that if the Boy is exposed to all of the things that I have, he will start to take it all for granted. And he won't ever grow up.
Last night the Boy met up with some of his college friends. They wanted to go downtown to this huge Labor Day festival with lots of beer tents and entertainment from bands who passed their prime about 10 years ago. While he was out partying, I was home with the worst headache.
By 12:00 AM it was so bad that I actually thought of going to the emergency room. I called the Boy to ask him what to do, but Drunk Boy answered the phone instead. Our conversation consisted of a few extended pauses after which he admitted that he was too drunk to give me good advice so I would need to decide for myself.
I ended up asking my Mom to come over and she stayed with me until I fell asleep at 3:30 AM. The next day when I got up, my headache started to come back slowly throughout the day. I was supposed to meet up with the Boy and his sister for lunch but I texted him and told him I couldn't make it. He asked if I wanted him to come over later and I said no.
I have been so irritated with him lately that I just wanted to be left alone. And I was not feeling like carrying my end of the conversation, which is usually at least 75% to his meager 25%.
A few hours later I was laying on my couch and still contemplating whether or not I should go see a doctor when the phone rang. It was the Boy again. He had just dropped his sister off at the bus station, which is not too far from my house.
"So, I was just checking in to see how you are feeling," he said.
"Well, I still have a headache and I was thinking about going to the urgent care tonight. I am trying to figure out when it might be less crowded," I explained. "Probably around dinner time."
"Well, its almost dinner time now," he observed. "I have my laptop and some magazines in the car so I can entertain myself while we wait."
At first I said no, but the more we spoke it sounded like a good idea. So I let him come over and help me. After the urgent care, I was really hungry so he took me out for some Chinese food. Then we headed back to my house. He reached out to hold my hand as I rested my head on the front seat of his car.
As we drove, I was reminded of a blog I wrote when we started dating again in Round 2. It was called The Importance of Showing Up. Whenever there is tension in our relationship, I tend to pull away. And the Boy always comes chasing after me. I am not sure whether it is true love or pure tenacity on his part. Or maybe he is not astute enough to realize that I am pulling away from him.
Whatever his motivation, the Boy keeps showing up. And I have to admit that its kind of nice.
So far, the ideal combination for us to be successful is when things are going well in the Boy's life and things are not going well in my life. I think he likes to be needed and it gives him an opportunity to support me.
Even when things are not going well for either of us, at least misery loves company. But my life has been miserable for far too long and I am looking forward to some better times ahead.
Let's hope the Boy and I can find a way to be happy in the good times, as well as the bad.