I finally managed to make contact with a friend of mine who, these days, is starting to get into heavy wedding planning with her fiance. Since she and I have shared with each other the sordid details of our past insanities which we (at the time) coined relationships, I was very pleased to hear how well her plans were coming, especially given the memorable experience I gained this past summer in the antithesis thereof. Both her family and her fiance's family seem very cool, and genuinely like one another -- which I can attest, from personal experience, is a genuine plus. So as she told me about the thus-far smoothness of everything, I was genuinely happy, and not merely in a vicarious way. I told her things might get bumpy here and there, but part of the fun of getting married -- or so I've heard from people who have actually survived the process -- is making it through the planning phase...although there are people, myself included, who found themselves relieved they pulled the plug in time to get off the sinking ship. I'm glad that her ship is on the right course and I gladly wished her continued happiness.
Something that we discussed, something with which she and I both can definitely relate, is going from a lousy relationship to a great one. For me, the contrast of moods, feelings, and the overall sense of contentment are clearly apparent. Almost everyone I know has had at least one relationship they wish they could just erase from their past, although there are those people who have had a variety of relationships which had components of greatness as well as lousiness. The key to either/both is to come away with a sense of what you need and what you can tolerate, and what you can and can't handle. The trick is doing it before you meet the right person so you know what to look for, what to look out for, and what (and what not) to appreciate. And as she shared a few revelations of her "before" and "after" experiences, I ran through mine and found myself smiling knowing I wasn't alone and that this discovery I had experienced, and continued to experience, was not unique, and, more importantly, was legit.
Almost immediately after getting off the phone, I realized I needed to call my other half back, as she was on her way home from work to get ready to go out and meet a friend and the friend's husband. They had recently given birth to their first child, a daughter, so my other half and I had, earlier in the afternoon, ruminated on a good baby gift; she had already gotten the little one a cashmere blanket and a "onesy" (easily the most irritating thing about babies is the lingo, btw) but wanted to get another gift. She suggested a Tiffany silver spoon, and I suggested some sort of Polo outfit that would keep the little bundle of joy happy during the fading winter and coming spring (the newly-gifted trio live in Maryland, not exactly a hotbed of warm, infant-friendly weather).
So we went back and forth (mostly me being a major pain in the ass) and finally she relented -- although as I explained to her, a Tiffany silver spoon is nice, but it's not a user-friendly gift. Basically, everyone I know who's had a child gets one of these items; they ooh and aah at the box, they ooh and aah when it comes out of the little blue pouch, and then the fucker lands back in the box, in a bag, a thank-you note is sent, and the next thing you know, that spoon is at the bottom of a closet next to Aunt Gertrude's teacups, Cousin Fred's stamp collection and Uncle Elmer's first jock. Yippeee.
The real point of the matter, and what makes me warm and fuzzy (it ain't Elmer's private-keeper, that's fer sure) is that despite our difference of opinion, and her meowing at me and me teasing her about how lame it is to give a Tiffany silver spoon, is that we wound up laughing. We both knew it was a silly argument, and mebbe that's why it wound up in laughter; but in the five or six months we've been together, we've had, maybe, two or three arguments, and every time we wind up meeting in the middle (literally and figuratively) and go back to smiling without either person getting their feelings hurt.
The reason why I mention this, especially within the context of my friend's phone call, was that I had always paid close attention to (either from my girlfriend at the time, a female friend doling out advice, or non-female friends sharing their sides of the story) and studied the rules of conflict between a couple. Throughout the tenure of my dating history, for the most part, if a partner or I had a difference, (depending on the topic) we would either work it out -- "no, hon, you go tonight and I'll hang out here" -- or we'd agree to disagree. With one relationship, it would inspire knock-down, drag-it-out, bang-your-head-against-the-wall exasperation -- though that was more a case of not having a clue as to her thought process in general as opposed to a simple difference of opinion. But one of the many things I love about my other half is that, no matter what it is, we find a way to be happy, as opposed to finding a way to avoid happiness.
So, in retrospect, I suppose I have it a lot easier than my friend in comparing lousy relationships from the past to my current one; while we're both content, excited and thrilled about where our respective relationships are and where they're going, it's a lot easier for me to be amazed by my other half. Not only do I have a good basis of comparison, but I know she's the best thing to ever happen to me.
Even if she does have lousy taste in baby-gifts ;-)
(Yes, I know, I'm gonna pay for that one... :-)