I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The art of compromise

Last night I woke to the sound of a car alarm. I peeked at the clock and saw it was after 1:00am and I had been fast asleep. Once whoever's alarm had turned off, I lay awake for awhile, thinking about this post, wondering what to write about. I thought about my dear life partner lying asleep next to me and wondered if he woke from the alarm. No stirring, so I went back to my own thoughts.

We sleep with the bedroom window open a little to allow fresh air to circulate in the bedroom. We always do that, we even did it in Colorado when it was below zero degrees in the winter. The bedroom door is closed so that only one room cools way down. I have a nice down comforter that keeps me warm in all but the most extreme weather, and Smart Guy has his own setup. We sleep in the same bed but with different coverings. It works great for us, and it doesn't keep us from snuggling together if we feel like it. Usually we don't, however. I have never liked to be wrapped together with someone while sleeping; it makes me quite uncomfortable.

When we first got together twenty years ago, we slept in a double bed with covers like everyone else. I'd never experienced another sleeper who tugged as hard on the covers as I did, and one or the other of us was constantly being "outed" to the cold air. We came up with our solution because of the times we spent in a tent together, when we both noticed that we liked having our own sleeping bag because we could be in charge of the covers. It was many years ago that we decided to sleep together in the same bed but with our own coverings. The wonderfulness of having my own comforter that is not going to be disturbed by his nighttime tossing and turning has made our sleeping together a delight, rather than a battle.

When it is very cold, we have another cover that goes over both of our little burrows, but usually it's just two separate sets of coverings next to each other. It looks a little weird to the uninitiated eye, but it's certainly made us both very happy, and now it seems like it's always been that way.

Sometimes I think back to previous bed partners and remember some of the habits that would drive me crazy today. A lover way back in the eighties, Jamie, loved to snuggle, and I would tolerate it until he went to sleep and then creep away so I could also go to sleep. He was a small person and never hogged the covers, but I must say I would wake sometimes in the morning and find that I had taken them all away from him! We never thought of the obvious solution that Smart Guy and I came up with, because we never saw it done before.

Compromise and accommodation are the hallmarks of a good relationship. However, I had to learn to find out what I really wanted before I could compromise, because I thought if I just allowed the other person to have their way, I could live with it. This is a bad idea, because I always harbored thoughts that somehow he should have known something I never shared truthfully! One thing I have learned in this relationship is how powerful it is to talk with and share with another person. I was cursed with the Ozzy and Harriet idea of marriage: the wife is the helpmeet to the important husband and takes care of all his needs without thought of her own. Yeah, right!

Smart Guy wouldn't allow me to get away with it. The early part of our relationship was very stormy because we were so different, and we were both almost fifty with ingrained habits and expectations. But we managed to find common ground through talking, compromise and creative arrangements, with neither of us "giving in" to the other. Sometimes I look at him while he's busy steaming and preparing our vegetables in the kitchen and I'm amazed that we worked it all out. He's the main cook and prepares our food in bursts, rather than daily. The prepared veggies go into the fridge, mine in containers cooked a little more than his, and when it's dinnertime we both prepare ourselves a plate just the way we like it and put it into the microwave. Sometimes when I'm tired from a hike, he will fix a plate for me at my request, and he always makes it much more elegant and lovely than I make for myself. He mixes colors and textures just right.

We do get in the way of each other if we are both in the kitchen, but I'm extremely happy to cede that domain to him, as long as I get fed in the manner to which I've become accustomed. On my other blog I wrote a post showing a picture of my usual dinner. (I called it "Gratitude" for obvious reasons.) I also wrote another post last April showing what the inside of my fridge looks like, in response to another blogger's queries. I named that one "Our Food Choices" and talked a little about how our menu changed when we moved from Colorado to Washington.

The main reason for this post is to remark to myself at how much I've changed in response to my partnership. Neither of us is the same person we were before we met (or, as he said more than once, before we collided). I don't think I could ever have imagined the life we share. If we had done it the way I thought it should be done, we would have separated long ago. But today, I cannot imagine my life without him.


Norma Jean said...

What a wonderful symbiotic life you have created. I admire the compromise you have both decided was the best way to have what you both want. Kudos!!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, Jan. David and I have separate blankets, also, mainly because he prefers something light and not too hot, whereas I prefer a warmer blanket. Both covers are blue, but made of different fabrics. Looks weird, so we are on the lookout for a bedspread to cover all.

I am glad you found your soulmate and you get along so well. I can't imagine myself being single in old age.

Linda Reeder said...

These are very interesting accomodations you have worked out with each other. I guess in our own ways, if we are in long term relationships, we have all made compromises that don't feel like capitulation. For the bed thing, we bought a king size bed as soon as we could afford it. We don't like to touch while sleeping either. And we have always used duel control electric blankets, his on high and mine on low, with the window open on my side of the room.

#1Nana said...

Duh! I've been married to the spouse for something like 38 years and we are still tugging on the covers on cold nights...and it's usually my butt that is hanging out in the cold! Why didn't I ever think of separate covers? After Christmas, when the shoppers have left the mall, I will shop for another down comforter and we can both be warm.

Gigi said...

I love the idea of separate covers!! Simple and ingenious! Now, do you have a solution for his snoring that doesn't involve me putting the pillow over his head?

PeterDeMan said...

When we lived in Michigan we always slept in the winter with all windows in the bedroom wide open. Sometimes snow adorned a chair under one window; other times it blew thru the screen over our head and showered us. We had a huge and heavy blanket my grandmother made and we'd just burrow deeper into it. We've never fought once over covers and have always snuggled.

Grandmother Mary said...

I thought the same as you for a long while- allow the other person to have his way and live with it. No longer. I don't like to snuggle while I'm sleeping and finally said so. Now we do our snuggling before sleep time or in the morning and I'm a happy camper! You're right, compromise is an art.
My Honey is the cook in our family and I feel deeply grateful to be cared for in this way.

Donna B. said...

Oh goody. I always am thrilled to see you have a post. Now I will have to visit your other blogs in between.

I am envious of your mutual compromising partnership and your diet. How I would LOVE to eat more healthy. My husband is a dinosaur who must have his meats. He is diabetic, so he must stay away from pasta, and being Italian, he feels it is very cruel.

I tried being a vegetarian back in my twenties. I found myself craving meat. I have a cupboard FULL of recipes and hardly use any of them. My hubby thinks if he eats what I prepare, it is the same as complimenting me on my efforts. I don't.

I remember when my two teenage daughters complained about what I was preparing, so I went on strike. Both girls are excellent and creative cooks. Maybe I should go on strike again...

My husband and I after ten years together are still colliding. He snores, so I wore ear plugs. I snore and he sleeps on the couch. He has insomnia and has the TV on all night. I refuse to have a TV in our bedroom, so he wakes up from my snoring, and falls asleep watching TV on the couch. I have always enjoyed snuggling like Linda and can relate to GiGi. We both do agree about sleeping with the window open. He doesn't mind snuggling, but too much snuggling wakes him up (if you know what I mean) and once I am asleep, I am ASLEEP! So he is wide awake and goes to the couch to watch TV and falls asleep.

I am now sharing our bed with our dog. I told my husband if this arrangement keeps up, we will have to get a bigger bed because I am so accustom to sprawling out and using the entire bed myself...with a corner of the bottom of the bed for our dog.

Your husband's cooking sounds delicious. You are a lucky woman. My sister's husband does all the cooking as well. I wish I could work out such an arrangement with mine, but we would probably have even MORE MEAT!

I think your idea of separate covers is unique and ingenious. I am a warrior when I sleep and hog ALL COVERS. My husband does not cover himself when he sleeps, so it works...now if I could just find a solution to my snoring....

Red said...

You cover a lot of great stuff here. You've proved that compromise can be made with both being total winners. I can see many things here that many people could use and benefit from. But it takes discovery on your own to achieve such a compromise.

Whitney Lee said...

This is beautiful. Also, in light of where I am at the moment, quite inspiring. Thank you for your comment, as I appreciate it greatly. I know that compromise has such a bad rep at times. It's often viewed as the way neither party gets what they want. I believe, and this post exemplifies, that it can be the way in which both parties get exactly what they want, as long as they are willing to think outside their preconceived ideas.

Relationships change us, often in ways we would or could never imagine. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes not. It sounds as though your relationship with Smart Guy has allowed you to grow in beautiful new ways. You sound like such a strong couple.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

I love coming to this blog. You and Smart Guy sounds like great people. And I know what oyu mean about covers!

gayle said...

You are so right about compromise! That's what my husband and I try to do too!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Nancy is always cold and totally heaps covers on herself, I often lie on top of the covers, hot blooded I guess. Then in the middle of the night, a shift happens; I get under the covers. I will wake up in the morning and Nancy is there sleeping away with the covers thrown off down to her knees. Too funny.

Stella Jones said...

I think that's a really good idea, to have your own comforter (we call it a duvet). I think the larger of the two partners usually ends up with the whole thing by the morning. When I'm in America, I sleep nearest the window and so have most of the draught. We have a cat flap in the window so Millie can come in and out at will so we get lots of fresh air!! By the morning, I'm usually only half covered and Larry has most of it.
However! in England I turn off the heating during the night, down to 15 deg. so in the morning the whole house is at about 60 deg. I sleep better in a cold atmosphere BUT when I'm in Tennessee, they like it hot! the apartment is always at 72 deg. That is hot to me and I have difficulty sleeping in such a hot, dry atmosphere, so to wake with only half the duvet is quite nice.
It is difficult getting it just right, isn't it.
Like you say, we all have to make our own compromise.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Compromise is an art..it sounds like you both have worked together to come up with solutions that worked for you..I think that is what happens when you get rid of the "me" and the "I" and think "we". Sometimes people get stuck..and never progress..you my lady have progressed! :)

Sandra said...

First of all, I love your blog header.
And I could totally relate to this post. There was a time in my life where I expected so much from my husband. Now, 9 years later, i've come to learn that I need to expect so much from myself, and the rest doesn't matter so much.

Unknown said...

D'Jan.. after reading your funny and honest post about your first meeting with Smart Guy, I couldn't wait to find out if you stayed together. It was just delightful to read though your blogs and follow the development of a relationship between two such remarkable people. I am very glad to have met you and to have been introduced to your blogs.