When my girl Eren Cervantes-Altamirano first wrote about “simple and happy“, I had to laugh. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she has gone through too many trials and tragedies on her way to finding someone “good enough” and that she absolutely deserves to be happy. I am flattered that I have a seat at the shisha table and that I am part of her happiness, she is certainly a large part of mine too.
However, my argument laid in her use of “simple”. She may have written that I remind her to “keep dreaming”, but I never believed there was such a thing as “simple” in the context of a relationship: happy, perhaps, but never simple!
So it came as no surprise, last August, when I first met my partner, that nothing seemed lined up to work.
For months, we could not agree on what form our partnership would take: he wanted a friend and I wanted a family. As I stubbornly put it to him one evening:
The only position currently available at Stephanie Inc. is the one of romantic partner. Unfortunately, Stephanie Inc. currently has a full team of enthusiastic and successful friends that are currently more than managing Stephanie Inc.‘s weekly friendship quota.
I’m a snarky bitch and my way of seeing things was not necessarily fair: not everyone has the disposition, the time, or the desire to fit into their lives the emotional labour required for a romantic partnership. We both saw the commonalities in our beliefs and values, our work, and the work we would like to accomplish for ourselves and the world, and we both knew we wanted to work together. However, as I stubbornly argued, this did not obligate me to put in intellectual effort to divest my romantic feelings into a platonic partnership (commonly known as friendship). Friendships should be simple and playing tug-o-war with my feelings in order to render my affection platonic is not simple.
So all the while, we vacillated between the comfort of each other’s company and the distress of an uncertain relationship. I will relent that much of the distress came from me: assured that happiness was out of my reach unless our relationship was strictly defined in hetero-patriarchal monogamous terms or that I would have to remain single forever otherwise.
Through the push-and-pull, the “quarantines”, and dating other people, we finally decided to solidify our relationship as both friends and romantic partners. We decided to try to have it all: the chaos of our multiple time-crunched projects, and a collaborative romantic partnership. To my surprise, our gamble seemed to pay off: our relationship is mostly simple and happy. Between my day job, the podcasts, the writing, the blogging, and the public appearances, and between his two jobs and his numerous projects, we find time to help each other, alleviate our burdens and show in many ways our affection for one another.
Even through all of this, I spend hours at night wondering if he’s truly happy. I often ask – usually at ungodly hours – and he reassures me every time. Yet I keep wondering: Can things really be simple and happy? Do we deserve simple and happy?
I look at my friends, all of whom deserve simple and happy whether they’ve found it or not, and I think how unfair it is that it would fall on me.
My friends would probably argue that I do too, but do I believe I deserve simple and happy? I don’t think I was ever given what I deserved: I’ve gone through trials and failed relationships, I’ve stared at the ledge and chosen to survive, but I never deserved the bad I was given, so how could I possibly deserve to be happy, let alone simply happy?
So it is not a matter of “deserving”: as a friend so cleverly puts it, no one is entitled to a relationship. It is a matter of “want”.
So do I want simple and happy?
I know I want to be happy. I want the glowing, heart-warming happiness that emanates from those moments of tender complicity between partners. I want the strength from the mutual support that permeates an equitable and solid partnership. I want to be happy.
Do I want simple?
I don’t think I’ve ever known simple. I have never seen calm lest it came before a storm. I fear simple as it seems a cheat for all the hard work I have been taught relationships should be.
I see the mountain of hardship ahead for my partner and I as we tackle the work we want to accomplish, the projects we want to pursue, and the life we want to build for ourselves, and I know that work will not be simple. Yet, the relationship itself – the time, the energy, the emotional vulnerability it all takes – seems effortless.
I don’t think I deserve simple and happy, I’m not even sure I always want it, but here it is: anxiety-ridden simple happiness.