A few weeks ago I asked for people to send in any questions that you had about me so that I could answer them and we could get to know one another better. The following question is one that’s come up over and over again in the past few weeks. So I figured, rather than just letting the answer live for 24 hours on an Instagram story, I’d also talk about it here.
More or less, the question is, “I noticed that ever since you came out as queer, you started referring to Ryan as your ‘partner’ instead of your ‘husband’. What’s the story?”
This also is a subject that has come up a few times since an interview that I did for the Hutchinson News (which I’ve never been able to find online so I can’t link it for you) came out where Ryan is referred to as my partner.
For starters, I don’t think it’s something that I started doing since I came out? Maybe I started doing it more after that? I’m not sure. I’ve been calling Ryan my partner since we started dating because being 32 years old and saying “boyfriend” felt really weird in my own mouth. Also when we were engaged, I couldn’t bring myself to say the word “fiancé” because it’s just so… fancy. When we were first married, I did like the way that “husband” sounded for a while but I just keep going back to partner because it just feels the most right to me.
Personally, in the past year or so, I’ve been trying to remove unnecessarily gendered words from my speech patterns. For example, I’ve been trying really hard to say, “hello friends” instead of “hey guys”. It sounds like a really easy swap to make but it can actually be quite challenging!
I have a few friends who identify as genderqueer, non-binary, or agender and a few of them go by “they/ them” pronouns. I want to respect those friends by using words that make them feel included and in doing that, I want to also train myself to see gender in my language and make changes where/ if I can. It’s just something I want to be pro-active about in my own life. As someone who has experienced the feeling of seeing that certain spaces were not created for my comfort, I want to do what I can to make my spaces into something that’s inclusive and welcoming for as many people as possible.
I’ve also started (trying to remember) to add captions to my Instagram stories and image descriptions to images that I post online when they’re related to my blog. It’s just some small habits that can make interactions with me more pleasant and welcoming for more and more people.
But really, when it comes down to it, I simply call Ryan my partner because I like the word. I think it describes our relationship really well. We live in partnership with one another. We’re teammates. I’ve asked Ryan how he feels when I call him my partner and he says that he doesn’t care one way or another. He calls me his wife–that feels good to him and it doesn’t bother me at all.
I added a new category on my blog called Q&A, so any time I get a question that might make a good blog topic, I’ll tag it as such. With that in mind, feel free to reach out with your questions either via comment, Instagram, Facebook, or email (libby (at) xoxolib.com).
What about you? What do you call your person? If you’ve ever been engaged, did “fiancé” feel as weird to you as it did to me??
You know how I know we’re going to be okay? It’s because you’re so good at giving me space to be myself. You’re excited to see who I turn into. No one’s ever been on my team the way that you are for as long as you have been. Even when it feels like things are a little bit too big. Even when it feels like we might burst and all these years that we’ve devoted to one another will get washed away–even then. You tell me what you’re afraid of and what I’m afraid of too. You say, “I don’t want that to happen.” And we both hold on a little tighter.
Part of the thing about a long term friendship, though, is that “holding on tighter” actually means to loosen your grip. We stay together because we stay elastic, flexible, and able to move without losing our own shape. We are that perfect pair of jeans infused with just enough spandex to keep your ass looking great but not so tight that we’re uncomfortable.
This is how I know we’ll be okay.
There are things in this world that, no matter how much I love the person who is saying them to me, the my instinct is just that flat mouth, wide-eyed emoji. And when a person is laying their heart out for me like that, I can’t just allow myself to respond that way. My care for them is what drives me to dig just a little bit deeper. To move past my initial instincts and reach down, in that moment, and practice being the kind of woman that I want to be. Do I want to be reactive or do I want to be the kind of person who invites the wholeness of the other person into the conversation? Because discomfort is a part of life and it’s easy to overcome. Just takes a little shift.
A lot of my life was spent working on the appearance of things it’s the soil where I was rooted. Everything was great so long as we had happy smiles and clean counter tops and we said polite things to one another. But under the surface, there were ants and anger problems that we dealt with in toxic ways–aerosol sprays and avoidance. Wipe it away. Pretend it was never here.
My favorite people to be around, these days, are the ones who are able to accept the contradictions of life. We can have clean counters and we can get ants in the summer–that’s a thing that happens all the time. That’s a thing that has no bearing on us as a people. We can smile and feel angry, too. One doesn’t counteract the other. You can hold both. You have two hands. And even more than that.
The past few years have been the most achingly happy of my entire life but they’ve not come without unimaginable pain.
I used to keep my soul so under wraps. It was private, a thing just for those closest to me. Just for those who had earned access to my heart.
Except–it grows when you give it away. Rip a piece off, hand it to someone, it’ll grow back. Really–it does. Try it. It’s worth it. That person might not know what to do with it, sure. But someone else might find a way to hold it with their own. Smoosh it together and create something new–just the two of you. Until someone else comes along.
The universal They is always telling you to guard your heart but I’m not there. That’s why I’m ripping open for you, here. I don’t know everyone reading this. I do know some people who are reading this–some of those are people that I am angry at or people that I would avoid eye contact with if we were in the grocery store. But that’s the practice, isn’t it? Right now, that’s my practice. Here, hold a piece of me. There are enough careful and grateful hands that I can spare a little extra.
So when someone tells me a thing about themselves that causes me to react, I want to take a step back. Sometimes that means responding in a way that isn’t coming that naturally to me, so that I can practice being the kind of person that I want to be. Sometimes in the moment, that’s the right thing to do.
And then go home and think.
I don’t want to think about the ways that my reaction was right. I don’t want to think about the ways that the other person is wrong. I don’t want to hold judgement.
I want to know myself. I want to know where that feeling came from. Where did my guard come from and why did it try to block me so hard? What’s keeping me from reaching out to my friend and holding this piece of her heart that she was so brave to hand to me?
And then I want to grab it. And I want to smoosh it into mine and let it live there, something brand new. And I want to go forward and keep handing it out to the other people that I love. And in time maybe we’ll all have a piece of one another.
This is how I know we’ll be okay.
September of 2011:
We’d been doing this back and forth with, “I like you, do you like me?” for most of the summer. To make a very long story deceptively short, one day, he came to my apartment in the middle of the day and told me that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I could feel a pair of invisible hands on my shoulders holding me–as if to say “I know this feels like a perfectly ordinary day but everything is changing right now so let this sink in.” I took my time. I listened to every word he said. I was cautious with the words I said as I was telling him “of course”. Band of Horses was playing in the background and I still feel a pull in my heart when I hear Marry Song.
There was nothing hasty in our deciding to team up–any one of our friends can tell you that. But I’m glad that it took so long. If there was one thing that I knew about Ryan by then, it was that he never did anything that he didn’t really want to do. He doesn’t exactly bend to obligation very easily. And while, at times, that can be challenging–in our early days, this knowledge was my savior.
Summer of 2013:
We started moving all of his stuff into my apartment. We were lucky to meet and fall in love while living as neighbors. It’s a lot easier to move in, that way.
We didn’t have a porch, but we did have a rickety, old, wooden staircase that made everyone except for us nervous. He’d make us gin and tonics and sit behind me on the steps and kiss the top of my head.
I used to hate summer time. I’d melt and whine and complain in the dry, hot winds of Kansas. But something about loving Ryan made me really enjoy the way it felt to experience my body in the summertime. I didn’t run away from it–the way it looked, the way that it operated, the way that it would sweat. I just started wearing shorts and tank tops and moving around in the heat. Ryan made me love summer–which is great because now I love all of the seasons and there’s no part of the year that I despise. Ryan made me love every single day.
We started talking about how maybe we’d want to get married. One day he suggested that we go to Wichita and go look for a ring at antique stores. We both, erroneously, thought this would be a good idea. It wasn’t. It was overwhelming and fruitless. And I had a panic attack on the way there because of the reality of it all. The pressure was strong. He just pulled the car over and held my hand and told me how much he adored me and we can buy a ring today or not buy a ring today and either way it didn’t matter because we’re together forever no matter what anyway.
We didn’t get a ring. But I did learn something about myself–turns out I did want a diamond after all. I thought I could be this cool girl with a pearl or a ruby or something. But the minute there was a sparkly diamond on my hand I was like, “Oh wait! Look at that! I didn’t actually know myself at all. I want one of these!”
A few days later, I mentioned that we could try shopping for rings again sometime and he was all, “Oh, actually…” So I didn’t press it, understanding he’d bought one in secret.
But guess what. A few months afterward, he still hadn’t proposed. Have you ever been in this situation? When you know that your person is going to propose but they haven’t yet and every time you have a vaguely romantic moment you get yourself all amped up, like, “This is it!” followed by, “Oh… maybe this wasn’t it?” It’s exhausting!
Finally, one night during dinner time and I just told him how hard it is to be in this position. I just would love it if he’d just put me out of my misery. He argued–saying that he needed a beautiful, romantic, grand gesture. He just needed to think of something. I explained that while I appreciated that, I’m not really a grand gesture type of person. I think everyday life is the most romantic. By now we were not quite fighting–I wouldn’t let it go that far because I was already feeling like quite an asshole for bringing up the subject in the first place. He wasn’t believing me.
“You’re telling me,” he said, “that you would want me to just pop down on one knee, one day, and propose to you right here in the living room?!”
“Yes! Oh my God, that would be the greatest! I would love that.”
“So you’re telling me,” he nearly shouted at me, “that you want me to walk over here to this little drawer…”
Me: *confused face*
“and open it and pull out this little ring box…”
Me: *shocked and confused face, still holding my dinner plate btw*
“and open it and tell you how much I love you and ask you to marry me?”
“Um… yes? I would like it if you would do that.”
“Will you marry me?”
“Are we doing this right now?”
“Are we really doing this right now as I hold a plate of chicken fried steak?!”
“Yeah.” He looked so happy and he was tearing up so I knew this wasn’t a cruel joke. “Will you marry me?”
May 16, 2015:
It rained all that week and all day and our plans for an all-day, outdoor, music-festival/ yard-game wedding were basically ruined. It’s taken two years but I’m finally past the bitterness of not getting the wedding I’d planned. I can see it for what it was–adaptation. Insanely romantic adaptation. What ended up happening was that we got married very quickly under a tent that was flooding, ate very quickly under a tent that was flooding, and everyone left very quickly from under the tent that had flooded because their cars were all getting stuck in the mud.
In the end, it wasn’t really that bad because we got all that we wanted. We got married. We walked one another down the aisle to a really beautiful Copeland song. We had our families and our best friends all around. We had my mom’s cinnamon rolls. More than anything else–I still can’t believe that we had friends who stuck around afterwards and cleaned it all up for us. This is the part that still gets me choked up when I think about it. All that hard work. In a thunderstorm.
We didn’t take a proper honeymoon–which was one of the smartest decisions we made, I think. We got a beautiful hotel in Wichita and slept for three days and two nights. We arrived in our soaked wedding clothes. I felt like a child in a costume. The next morning, I woke up and wrote down everything I could possibly remember about our wedding day. I wrote 15 pages, taking note of every single tiny detail I could possibly remember.
Ryan… it feels like you came up to my apartment just last week. But at the same time, it feels like you married me a century ago. It’s forever and it’s hardly any time at all. I don’t know how we keep making it through in this bizarre time warp but I’ll go through every single twist and turn if it means that I get to hold onto your sturdy hands throughout it all.
I love you.
The summer of 2011 was one of the most simultaneously difficult and fun summers of my life. It was one of the first times that I ever fully grasped how resilient true friendships can be. It was the first time that I ever did something difficult justbecause it was good for me even though it hurt. It was the first time I saw myself falling into love and realizing that “falling” is the absolute perfect word.
I was a few months out of a not-a-real-break-up* with someone that I wasn’t-dating** for the past four and a half years of my life. I was tender but I was recovering. *sure did wreck me like a real break up.
**Fell into that tragically, typical millennial thing where we decided we “didn’t need or want labels” as if that keeps you from really feeling anything. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. It just makes you feel like you’re not allowed to be as gutted as you are when it ends. Which is a really unhealthy place to land.
We got home, dropped our bags, and collapsed onto the couch in a bit of a heap. We invited the cat up for snuggles and ached with the bizarre feeling that comes from sitting in a car for 14 hours—stopping only to use the restroom, eat frozen yogurt, and find a Motel 6. Why is it so exhausting to sit still for such a long time in the car?
We were starving and dreaming up all the things we wanted to eat for dinner now that we were finally home. The last homemade meal we’d had was prepared by our niece, Genesis. She made us tacos and they were extra delicious and made with love and pride.
Right now, everything sounded delicious and everything sounded too hard. But we went to the store and kept reminding one another that we’re still on vacation. We’re still on vacation so we are allowed to go overboard on cheese. We’re still on vacation so we’re allowed smushy, lovey-dovey PDA. We’re still on vacation so grab a bag of gummy bears and a six-pack of IPAs. We’re still on vacation, so let’s sit here at the dining room table and keep listening to this audiobook that we’ve become obsessed with. Continue reading “A Generous Heart: New Orleans and Marriage”→