When you write about your relationship, you open yourself up to being criticized about it. It can make you defensive, uncomfortable, even angry. I had that happen today when I read the comments to a piece I’d written a couple of years ago, My Husband’s Unconscious Racism Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage. I’d shared the essay again with people I’d met in real life, people who didn’t know I was married.
I live a kind of triple life. Not intentionally. Well, partly intentionally. My S.O. doesn’t like being in the spotlight, so I don’t involve him in most of my cosplay shenanigans. Even though that’s how we met, and he supports what I do, he doesn’t want that much attention. A side effect is that there are many people who don’t know he exists. So, when people find out about him and read the essays I’ve written about tackling the white elephant in the room, they have opinions. And sometimes when I see them, it bothers me.
I try not to dismiss them, because when something makes me feel some kind of way, I liked to explore it. I like to figure out why I reacted to something a stranger said. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection that I choose not to pass up. So today when it happened, I sat with the feeling to explore why I felt defensive this time, and, as usual, it’s because this shit isn’t perfect and sometimes it’s hard as fuck.
It is hard. Not always, not even most of the time, but sometimes. When it feels hard, I take a good, long look at our relationship and ask myself if it’s worth it to me. Then I think about my S.O. and how he never tries to stifle, silence, or change me into what he thinks I should be. I think about how he watches me grow and does his best to grow with me. And while his best isn’t always good enough, I have seen that he doesn’t stop trying and his effort, along with its sporadic rewards, are enough for me.
And they are sporadic. And unpredictable. Sometimes there’s regression. But the support and the attempts to do better never stop, so the growth never stops, either.
We made a choice. I made a choice. And while I don’t know what the future may bring, I’m comfortable with the choice I made…most of the time. It doesn’t matter if anyone else is comfortable with my choice. Their opinion of me and my relationship is honestly none of my business unless I ask.
In case you wondered, I’m not asking.
Racism is a part of every aspect of my life; so much so that it feels overwhelming and hopeless. But so is love and it’s nice to be with someone who works to be worthy of my love. When we both start dialing it in, we take some time to figure out how and why. When I’m exhausted from this world, he holds me, brings me breakfast in bed, and does what he can to ease the stress of this life. He shows up again and again, even when I fall. Even when I break. He holds all the pieces until I can put myself back together. He doesn’t try to take advantage of my weakness you shape me into someone else…someone more malleable and less outspoken. He protects me until I’m able to protect myself.
And he struggles with his whiteness and what that means. He struggles with the discordant spaces we occupy. But he doesn’t run from it or lie about it, which is why we still mostly work.
So, yeah. It’s not perfect and it’s not always fun. But what in life is perfect? What is always fun? We do our best and help each other when our best isn’t good enough and we’re honest with each other about how we feel, even when it hurts. I do not know if it be as strong as I am with him. I know I can survive without him, but our relationship helped me realize uncomfortable truths about white people that I know I was in denial about. It’s done the same for him. And through that, he helped me find my voice, even if he didn’t like what I had to say. But he listened and learned and changed. I knew that it he didn’t, I couldn’t be with him and he knows he doesn’t have to be with me. Being in a relationship with me means constant discomfort. Constant challenges. Constant growth. I am always shifting; it takes a unique person to navigate those changes with me.
We live with the understanding that our relationship is precarious. That white supremacy poses a significant threat to the survival of our relationship and our lives. We know that at any moment something could happen that would tear us apart. It’s scary and its complicated, but that’s where we are, and we choose to work together regardless. Every day we choose this. Every day I choose this.
And in the end, what matters is who chooses to show up and fight however that they can. We choose to fight together.
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Originally published at talynnkel.com.