Dater X: Compromising Position

As things continue to progress with The Bartender, I find myself thinking a lot about compromise.

More specifically: I’m a person who has been on her own, for better or for worse, for most of my life. That’s not to say that I don’t have a strong support system, but rather, that I’m very accustomed to making my own decisions about how and where to spend my time and energy. One of the greatest benefits of chronic singledom is the ability to do whatever and go wherever you want, limited only by your own budget and imagination. And with that freedom, I built myself what felt like a pretty complete life, complete with deep family ties, a network of friends that spans several cities (and softball teams), and a fulfilling, if somewhat scattered, career as a freelance writer in a city that I love.

Of course, every connection fosters some level of commitment, and at this stage, I’m committed to a lot of things. I have several bosses and myriad deadlines each week, not all of which are always convenient to one another. Weekends often find me traveling, whether for work or pleasure. My summer is dominated by Sunday’s day-long softball games and time with my teammates. And there’s the not-inconsiderable amount of alone time to which I have become accustomed and without which I can start to feel a little frenzied.

While it’s a welcome distraction, throwing a relationship into the mix can create some complications.

During this weekend’s meet-the-family-birthday-slash-Valentine’s-Day adventure, The Bartender and I had a lot of time to talk about our plans for the future, and we did. And as I’ve written here before, they’re not always compatible – or at least, not always identical. So we’re starting to find our way to common ground, mostly by way of the large amount that we already have.

As I expected it would, the kids discussion continues to simmer below the surface as we talk about our plans, with the most recent development being his clarification that “it’s not that I actively don’t want kids, it’s that I don’t actively want them.” He’s worried that that would make him an unfit parent; I see it as a self-aware assessment that more would-be parents should acknowledge. We agreed that it’s something we’ll continue to discuss, but it feels great to know that we can talk about it at all, which is how an extrovert like me comes to be comfortable with a decision anyway, however that decision turns out.

We’re also talking seriously about location, location, location – namely, whether it makes more sense for us to settle in his city or mine, both of which have compelling arguments in their favor. One of the biggest things weighing on the decision is the fact that we’d like to buy real estate, so the relative costs of living in each place have become something of a sticking point. I also finally voiced something that I’ve had trouble putting into words until now, which is: if I’m giving up kids, must I give up my city, too? And does that take this otherwise rather equal partnership and strip too much of my self-created identity out of it? In other words, exactly how much am I willing to compromise, and how much would be too much?

In some ways, it’s impossible to know. The Bartender has been quick to assure me that he has no qualms about being in my city eventually, though he has a stubborn practical streak (and, not to put too fine a point on it, the majority of our down payment) in favor of keeping costs low to start so that we can build ourselves a comfortable life down the line. Which, at first, set off little tremors of panic in my chest at the idea of leaving the independent life that I’ve constructed for myself. And then I realized that in building a relationship with him, I’m leaving some of it, anyway.

The more time I spend with him, the less I feel like I’m giving something up and the more I feel like I’m gaining something. Our plans with each other aren’t finite. If I lose a softball season this year, nothing says I can’t go back the following summer. If I readjust my deadlines and priorities to favor one city or the other, I’ll still be an expert – importantly, a hirable expert – on both. And as I’ve been quick to point out to him, yet have seemed to struggle to remember myself, I won’t be doing it on my own. The support of a partner who is as invested in my success and happiness as I am is something I can’t overstate. I’m spending a lot of time weighing big decisions that are looming down the line, but I’m also spending a lot of time enjoying being with him.

Which brings us to this weekend. After hours together in the car, dinner with his parents and brunch with his grandmother, a sub-zero ice skating excursion, late-night drinks with his hometown friends and one very cozy hotel stay, we’re not tired of each other. Quite the opposite: our relationship, which has tended to feel a bit like an extended vacation thanks to our travels to see one another, seems to have settled into a more comfortable, honest place. The little things – mooing loudly at cows as we drove by; counting down the miles to landmarks; the inevitable, unavoidable fart in a closed car with subzero temperatures outside – still make us giggle. And we’re talking about the bigger things. We seem to have returned home to his city at the end of the honeymoon phase, ready and willing to take on dishes and laundry and all the decidedly un-vacation-like trappings of everyday life together. And so far, that doesn’t feel like a compromise at all.

Until next week,
Dater X 3.0