I am passionately in love with a man who is both my greatest blessing and the most baffling curse.
We are so similar, Daniel and I. Despite the age difference between his 75 years and my 50, we have a surprising amount in common. We love the symphony, opera, art, music of all kinds. We share ancestral roots in the humble dirt of rural Illinois and Kentucky farmlands and even further back in the dogged tenacity and stoicism of the German blood that flows through our veins. Both of us loathe negativity and intentionally sway toward the positive. We are kind to each other. We rarely have a cross word. The sex is incomparable.
There’s some unquantifiable thing about Daniel; something alluring and almost magical that draws me to him in a way that’s difficult to explain. Yet for all of the common threads that run through our relationship, there is one which threatens to completely unravel us. We can find no common ground about what any future we might have together may look like.
There is a kind of dance he and I do about this whole thing that I find maddening. I always want a little more of him; he always keeps me at arms’ length. I am not used to this kind of dynamic. I am instead more accustomed to the conventional boy-meets-girl, boy-seriously-pursues-girl scenario. My last serious partner is still proposing marriage, in fact, and sending me a steady stream of emails.
I would like to marry Daniel one day. But he will never marry me.
He was ravaged by his second divorce. A broken promise, a failed prenup, and an unimaginably expensive aftermath soured him on the institution forever.
I would like to live with Daniel one day. To be interwoven into the fabric of his daily life. Not to own or control his life, but to experience life alongside him.
But living with me is something he will never consider.
I knew about the marriage absolute early on. But his views on cohabitation had been less clear over the years and learning that it was out of the question entirely was a new discovery I made only this past weekend. I had mentioned the idea of living together somewhere far down the road recently and was curious to see what his response would be. Over dinner last Saturday night, he told me that that was simply not an option. It made my heart sink. But in his response lies one of the things I love most about him; his honesty. He has proven time and time again that he loves me enough to deliver the absolute truth.
So then, what to do? Some of the important things I would like most dearly to experience in life do not interest him. The logical solution would seem rather simple, I suppose. After all, plenty of couples who are intensely in love can nevertheless reach an impasse about what they want for the future and when it’s clear that they don’t want the same things, they wish each other well and move on. While Daniel would manage our parting with much more grace than I, it’s very difficult for me to imagine my life without him in it.
Can I be happy with Daniel over time as we are now? A date once a week, a date once a weekend. No possibility of marriage. No hope of even a shared home.
In relationships, there are compromises and then there are sacrifices.
The former constitute something good, but the latter do not. Compromises are part of a healthy, robust relationship, allowing partners to move toward the nucleus that binds them together. Sacrifices, on the other hand, are essentials held by one partner that are either voluntarily diminished or even eliminated altogether so that the other partner may thrive or be happy. So which label would be appropriate if I determine to go on with Daniel knowing that one of the things I most dearly wish to experience in life will never come to be? Is that a compromise or is it a sacrifice? And what label would it warrant if he likewise pushed past his opposition to cohabitation and let me move in with him someday?
Both scenarios have the same, unavoidable outcome. No matter who did the changing, the sacrificing, the end result would be resentment. It is a losing proposition for both of us because resentment is the only predictable outcome. And I love him, and us, too much for that.
Daniel and I have undergone various incarnations over the past four years. We have evolved from a beginning in conventional monogamy, to a failed attempt at an open relationship, to months when we didn’t speak because of pain and healing; followed by a starting again in the simplicity of friendship; and finally a revisiting of our original form, conventional monogamy. What we will be now, with this newly discovered impasse, I cannot predict. I would like to think we could hold onto that loving sense we have about each other in spite of the many twists and turns we have taken since first meeting and find a way to move forward somehow. Perhaps that space is simply friendship. If so, rather than being the best wife I can be, or the best partner I can be, I will be the best friend that I can be to him.
He will never be my husband. Our names will never appear on a property deed together. The feeling when I first see him will never be mine to experience on a daily basis. But he may be my dearest and most valued friend. And perhaps there’s no sacrifice at all in that; only a loving and beautiful compromise.
Born and raised in Kentucky, Terri enjoys Kentucky basketball and football, bourbon, and dogs. She spent twenty years teaching in public and private secondary schools and now works in investigations and compliance for an educational organization. In her spare time she skydives occasionally, takes dancing lessons, and experiments in the kitchen.