It's a conversation I used to have all the time in my previous life: Who does more for whom. A tally, of sorts, spoken aloud, of who has spent more money, who has been more selfless, who has been kinder to the other. It only ever mounts to frustration because, naturally, we always think we're doing more than our partner. Rarely does someone say "Honey, I'm so glad you do so much more for me than I do for you. I'm thrilled that I don't have to give you anything in return." Even the laziest, most non-contributing person in a relationship can delude themselves into thinking that he or she does more for their other half than the other half does for them. Sure, you might pay for every bite of food I've ever eaten, and wash our clothes, and clean our house and give me money for day-to-day spending, and rub my back and slough the callouses on my feet and floss my teeth for me, but let's not forget that I did walk all the way downstairs to retrieve my own shoes from the center of the living room so that you didn't have to. Let's be fair here. I can't say that I've ever actually been the person who would be that ridiculous, but I'm sure it happens.
Every couple I know has the battle of More. They can go for months without having it, then suddenly, one foul comment made in the throes of a bad mood sets it off. And the person talking always, always thinks - nay, KNOWS - they do more than their counterpart.
For some reason, Billy and I had this conversation this morning. It started as me saying something about how he had a great night last night. I didn't say it, and I didn't mean to, but apparently I implied that his excellent evening was due in large part, if not completely, to my selflessness. I didn't think my comment sounded that way; I thought it was a genuine statement of "You had a great night, huh honey?" Meaning: I'm glad you had a great night, you deserve it. He heard: You had a great night and it's all because of me. Look how much I do for you. I'm the reason you're so happy; because I selflessly give and give and give and you should be really grateful. This set an uncontrollable ball of competition in motion.
He said, genuinely, "How did I get so lucky," and I replied, in my standard sarcastic way, "I don't know. You must've done something really incredible in your last life," and followed it with a giggle and kiss on his bare chest. Not content to be the only one referred to as lucky in our short, first-thing-in-the-morning conversation, he chose that moment to tell me that's why he does all of the things he does for me. "And that's why we're going to Mexico in August - our third vacation in under a year."
I looked at him with my head cocked, like a puppy who doesn't quite understand her name or what her humans are saying to her. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"I'm just saying..."
What was he saying? I don't know. It's a mystery. Because I cut him off. "I don't want to have this tit-for-tat conversation with you." I said it sweetly and nestled back into his warm arms. "We're very reciprocal. I don't think either of us feels that we do more for the other. At least I don't. Do you?"
"No," he conceded. He kissed the top of my head and held me a little tighter. "You take care of me, and I take care of you. That's the best part about us."
Sure, there are times I think "What about ME?" when we go yet another weekend without leaving the house. And, in those moments, I think "Is this all there is to us? Me, doing your laundry and your dishes and making trips to the store for your necessities? I'd like to have something in return for all of my work here - For sweeping up the kitchen you all but neglect, for bringing you coffee in bed, even when you have to go into work and I don't, for getting rid of the ring around your collars, for changing the sheets on that bohemoth of a bed we share. A dinner at a restaurant, a stroll through the mall, SOMETHING that doesn't involve me looking at these four walls."
I'd never say it to him, and it's usually short-lived. And, after my internal bitching runs its course, I realize that I actually enjoy doing things for him, seeing him happy, making his load lighter. Because making him smile makes me smile. And he's never neglected to say Thank You. And I wouldn't even be sleeping in that bed if not for him.
And I consider that he's gotten used to the shirts that magically appear folded and/or hung in the bedroom, in addition to the clean sheets and the endless supply of Jack Daniels and Ginger Ale that somehow is always available at the house. But I've gotten used to him, too. Getting a dryer because I needed it. Compliments. Assistance in the upkeep of the household. His schedule doesn't allow for your typical random acts of kindness, but he makes up for it in his own way: By using his day off to paint the downstairs hallway. Installing a new towel rack in the bathroom. Being handy and doing the things I simply cannot do.
What's funny to me is that HE brought it up. Not me. Isn't that the girl's job? To paint herself as the martyr and ask for appreciation?
At any rate, when all was said and done we laughed about our battle of deeds, coming to a truce when we realized that our contributions are just different. They'll never match up when lined side-by-side or toe-to-toe. His favors are all done from work, via phone or on his way home. The best thing he can do for me, he does all the time: He tells me I'm beautiful, he calls for no reason. He lets me know, in little ways, he loves me. Mine are done on the homefront, in his absence. Mine are having his drink ready for him when he gets home, understanding his schedule, not bitching at him the moment he walks through the door. My contributions are made, mostly, while he's slaving away to support our taste for new beds, new dryers, and the new couch we're getting delivered on Thursday.
Now I just have to devise a proper thank you for that couch so that he knows how grateful I am...