This is Jessica dropping in briefly to say, I'm on vacation! Yay! Because I would afraid you would all feel neglected without any updates while I'm gone, I arranged for some lovely ladies to guest post in my absence. If you'd like to read the original post on which this series is based, you can check it out here! Please leave lots of wonderful comments for my guest bloggers and check out their blogs!
Here was the question: Within your marriage/partnership, how do you strike a balance between companionship and autonomy? What are the challenges you still face in finding this balance? And what role, if any, does faith in God play in how you create this balance?
----Balancing companionship and autonomy in the relationship between me and my boyfriend is simple: We just choose one or the other for as long as we can stand it and then switch.
In August 2008, I met Matthew, who was surprisingly thrown into my Boise Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) community. If I remember one thing from JVC orientation, it's "Don't date a housemate." I had absolutely no interest in dating during my JV year (and then he'll tell you he got new hip glasses, and we were glasses twins and I fell in love with him….blah blah blah). We each stayed single until sometime in November, when we brought up the idea of dating each other at a house meeting and our 3 female roommates gave us their blessing. ("Do you care if we date?" …awkward conversation? Um, yes.) Though my dad responded with a sarcastic "Well, that's cozy!" when I told him over the phone that I was dating Matthew, I still argue that it's better than the several suitors I had at my job…
In any case, we survived and lived happily in community for a year until we realized that our year-long commitment was coming to an end and we had to figure out what to do about "us." I had never been one for long-distance relationships. If I'm dating you, I want to be able to SEE you on a regular basis! I sort of abandoned that mindset and have been "going with it" ever since. Shortly after JVC, Matthew went to an artist residency in Michigan for several weeks and lost cell service. Our main form of communication became old-fashioned snail mail. It was just plain terrible. Then we visited each other back and forth in Chicago, Columbus, and the St. Louis area until our five-month trip to Peru, where we traveled and volunteered.
In Peru, the dynamic of our relationship changed completely. We were a team 100% of the time. With my Spanish skills and Matthew's sense of direction, we survived adventures of all kinds, not excluding culinary. With dishes that regularly included random animal body parts (tongues, feet, intestine…really, you name it!) and bus rides from hell, we had the pleasure of seeing each other very, very sick. We also pushed each other to the bottom of a canyon and back up (figuratively, mostly). I learned that I hate hiking. And that Matthew has a much deeper interest in old rocks than me. But we survived, taking care of each other and loving each other. Even when all his CRAP somehow magically ended up on my side of the room, or when he decided that he wanted to sit right.next.to.me while I was trying to write in my journal. That's companionship.
Since Peru, I've mostly been in Columbus, and Matthew moved from Chicago to Boston for grad school in January. Autonomy is easy. I wake up, go to work, come home, work another job, come home, sleep. I see my family and sisters. I read, I swim, I go on the Internet. I am independent from Matthew! Believe me.
When we do get to spend time together, like the 5 days I visited him in Boston in May, it's the best. I don't care if we're sitting next to each other on the train, or drinking iced coffee on rocks overlooking the sea, or running back to his house after being shat on by a bird. Being together is good.
Living at home with my parents is good and easy (and free), but I'm trying to summon the courage (and the money) to move to Boston and live in the same NEIGHBORHOOD as my boyfriend of almost three years. No more of these extremes: living in the same house or 12+ hours away from each other. Some kind of personal space is good, but having multiple states between us is a little much, if you ask me.
I think our relationship works because we started in a funny place, living in community for a year focused on simplicity, social justice, and spirituality. We're invested in working for the good of humanity and taking care of people. We feed off of and inspire each other and have been open to what life brings. Without the intentions of meeting or dating ANYONE during my JV year, I met this crazy boy whom I love deeply. Our relationship has evolved in so many ways and it's been tough being so far apart for so long. But if you ask us whether "it's working" the way things are... we'll just tell you we're really excited to be neighbors sometime soon.
----Sara works hard flingin' bagels and pushing kids on swings. She plans to move to Boston soon, but not above the liquor store down the street from Matthew's house, like he suggested. If you want to read more about their crazy adventures in Peru, check out their blog at www.piefoot.blogspot.com!