I was deeply saddened by the sudden death of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s husband. In her book, Lean In, she wrote very intimately about her marriage, and credited much of her success to the partnership she had with her husband, Dave Goldberg.
Those sections of her book spoke to me on a very personal level. Before dating my current boyfriend, I dated men who recoiled at the mention of children, marriage, or even the word ‘partner.’ It took me a long time to learn it’s important that the people we date, love, and dedicate our hearts to want to be in our lives as partners.
Early in my current relationship, we began calling one another partner instead of boyfriend or girlfriend. It quickly became a term of endearment. At the time, I don’t think either of us realized how critical this language would become in the face of conflict.
As a feminist and a long standing fan of Noam Chomsky’s, I DO believe that language is used to maintain structures of authority and domination. I consider patriarchy and unfair gendered assigned “roles,” to be such. Structures that both men and women fight to eradicate.
In my own relationship using the term ‘partner’ and other gender-neutral language validates the non-traditional roles we would take-on, whether it is doing chores, making travel plans or just helping the other person out. I believe this rhetoric advocates for our relationship by re-affirming our commitment to one another as partners. This daily practice of affirmation has become as common between the two of us as saying, I love you.
We had only been dating a few months when we decided to live together for the summer. My living situation had become untenable, and he kindly offered to have me stay while I got my feet back on the ground. It was a risky move. However, we made an agreement as partners, that I would move out after 3 months, because we weren’t ready for a longer stay together.
At the time, I was working on a startup, and would spend most nights working through dinner, attending events, or simply meeting with artists. I didn’t have the time to execute traditional “girlfriend” things, like making dinner.
But on the nights I would come home late, there was always a plate of leftovers, a Manhattan, and a loving man who didn’t seem to mind sharing in the household duties after a long day of work.
Living together that summer taught me that we shouldn’t keep score in relationships. Instead, we should give when we can with kindness and care. The ebb and flow of relationships can be as hard as it can be wildly joyful. Remembering that we’re in-it-together helps me get through the hard times.
Do you have stories of partnership? Please share in the comments below.