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San Diego couples endure dust-ups

Arguments

Scott and Michelle. "She suggested going back to Cleveland to visit her family. It started as a misunderstanding, like most disagreements do."
  • Scott and Michelle. "She suggested going back to Cleveland to visit her family. It started as a misunderstanding, like most disagreements do."

Donna and Eugene

Donna and Eugene. "Everything is not going to be all beds of roses and bluebirds fluttering around the window."

Donna and Eugene. "Everything is not going to be all beds of roses and bluebirds fluttering around the window."

How long have you been a couple?

Donna: Since the summer of 75.

How did you meet? ?

Donna: The first time we met, Eugene followed me into the Little Chef restaurant and asked me if he could buy me a malted. But I didn’t want to be committed for a whole malted ’cause a malted cost two bucks, so I said, “No, but you can buy me a cup of coffee,” ’cause a cup of coffee was a quarter, ’cause I figured for a quarter even if I just let the guy sit by me and be nice to him, that’s worth a quarter. And I had already planned to give the wrong phone number if he asked me for it. So he asked me for my phone number, and I gave him the wrong number, and that was the end of that. Two weeks later I saw him on the beach—I didn’t realize it was the same guy — and he was playing his guitar. And this time, I guess ’cause I’m a music fan, the muse in me was all a sudden interested in him even though I had not been interested in him without the guitar. So I sat there and listened to him play, and it was like he was playing all his songs just to me. It was like from his heart to my heart. We fell in love and we’ve been together ever since that day.

Do you remember it different?

Eugene: Well, I remember in regards to the malted — I knew you really wanted a malt. I knew the game you were playing. And as I was about halfway through my malted, you were done with your coffee, and I had to make a decision. Do I ask her, “Are you sure you don’t want a malted?” And I thought, “No, I’m not gonna play this game. You asked for coffee; you got coffee.” And then, in my memory, we had made plans to meet at the place that I was staying later that night, but I had a chance to play a gig with my cousin at a club called Elmer’s in Kensington. So I put a note for her on my door in case she did show up.

Donna: So we both ended up kinda standing each other up that first meeting. Did you recognize me as the girl from the restaurant when I saw you at the beach?

Eugene: Yes.

Donna: I didn’t recognize him ’cause when I first met him, he had his hair all pulled back. He was lookin’ all like he was out on the prowl, lookin’ for a woman. You know how men get, all duded out. When I saw him on the beach, he was not out to impress anyone. He was just being himself. And that’s what I think girls like. Well, at least I do. And after he played an original called “Fortunate Lady,” he sang “Oh Donna, Oh Donna” [singing], the Ritchie Valens song. I didn’t think he remembered my name.

Eugene: When I was done, she came up to me and kinda breathlessly handed me a matchbook with her number on it and said, “Please call me.” It reminded me of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki. She put her phone number in his ukulele.

Donna, could you describe Eugene for me?

Donna: Wise, patient, generous, manipulative, lazy about some things—not about his art, but we are both lazy about things we don’t want to do.

And could you describe Donna?

Eugene: I respect her, and I respected her when I met her. She’s a lovely person who is oriented towards spirituality, which I see as her strongest point, which would override any of her weaker points in the long run. And I’d say that our 25 years have proven me correct She’s a wonderful mother. We have two children together. And she’s been a wonderful mother to children I have from previous relationships that don’t live with us at this time. I would say that over 25 years I have been more fortunate than not to have her as my wife.

Okay, onward to your last disagreement. What happened and how did you get through it?

Donna: We’re not really over it all the way. It was last Sunday night and Eugene and I had had good sex. He has to take Valium at night to relax. It helps him sleep. He’s an insomniac. So on Wednesday night—and I’ve noticed this before — when he takes his Valium, when he takes it before our sex, he has a hard time getting an erection. And that’s not much fun for me; I can’t bring him to a climax. I could do it from now to forever and it wouldn’t work. So I was complaining the last couple of times this happened. It’s frustrating and it makes me feel inadequate. So on Sunday I noticed he had a nice erection and it responded really well and he came nice and I felt secure about my womanhood. And I asked him, “Honey, did you take your Valium?” And he said, “No.” And I said, “Thank you for not taking it before we had our sex,” ’cause I thought that he was doing it out of consideration for me. It really meant a lot to me, and I really enjoyed the sex a lot better. So what does he do? The first thing out of his mouth was, “Well, I’ll take a Valium next time.” How could he say that when I just said what I said? And I didn’t want to touch him after that. And that’s where we’ve been pretty much since then.

Eugene: Well, it’s kind of ironic because, first off, what it led to was that I didn’t want to touch her because it would have been her turn [laughs]. It was really a misunderstanding, and I explained it. And I’m going to explain the misunderstanding again. I am a person with formal education in psychopharmacology and I monitor substances and my reaction to the substances when I take them. Now, although she did quote me correctly, this is how something taken out of context can be misunderstood. What I said was, “Next time I’m gonna take a Valium.” However, she got so overwrought by that statement and what it meant to her that she did not hear the rest of what I said even after repeating it numerous times and trying to set the record straight. In my mind, as a scientist, the Valium was immaterial because a Valium — which surprised me many years ago —

Donna: No, no, no. He thinks it makes him better. But I’m the woman, and it does not make you better.

Eugene: The first thing that happened was that I got an erection when I took the Valium, within five minutes, which surprised me. I would have expected the opposite.

Donna: With or without me?

Eugene: Without you. It relaxed my autonomic nervous system enough so that those sexual feelings started to flow. So it actually helped me get an erection. This could be confusing, so I want to try to keep it going in a linear fashion. My feeling was that die problem came from the fact that for four nights before the date night I had taken a mild sleep aid, which I don’t always take. Now, you have to remember that this erection problem is very intermittent, maybe in 25 years —

Donna: Only when you take Valium, believe me.

Eugene: It’s happened three times a year, if that. My attitude is that I can’t get hung up on that and get worried about it because psychologically. I would be starting something that could cause me to need Viagra next time because I would start to believe I was impotent. So for me to prove my point I would refrain from taking the phenothiazine for at least two or three days before the day, but I would still take the Valium. And if there was no problem with erection and climaxing and what have you, that would prove that I was correct, that it wasn’t the Valium.

Donna: But that wasn’t the first time that I had had a problem with you taking a Valium before our date instead of at bedtime when you had not taken the other medication. So we agree to disagree, I guess, on that. He thinks it helps; I think it hurts. A lot of times we agree to disagree on things.

Eugene: I did acquiesce at one point. I did say to her, because she’s more important to me than the damn experiment—and let me interject that we are talking about a 5-milligram Valium. I agreed not to take the Valium ’cause she’s more important. “And if it’ll make you happy, I would not take the Valium on the next date night.”

Donna: But I was mad by then, and it didn’t matter what he said [laughs].

Eugene: This is her weak point. Once she gets mad and gets knocked off — like a bird on a wire. Once she falls off the wire, then its an excuse in some kind of way to stay mad. There is no resolution.

Donna: Its too late.

Eugene: There is no intellect at that point. She will just respond to the emotion until she calms down. Experience has also shown me that she will calm down in 24 hours, sometimes sooner, sometimes longer.

Donna: You’ve done that too, but I do it the most

Sounds like it has been resolved What do you think?

Eugene: It has faded out, ran its course. I mean, how big a thing is it really? When you look at all of the things that could happen in life, this is like a grain of sand next to the Rock of Gibraltar of possibilities.

But it is a good example of the interactions that have resulted in a 25-year union, wouldn’t you say?

Eugene: Yes, and it has pretty much dissipated. Tonight is our date night, so if we don’t have sex, it won’t be because of this. It will be the fact that we both have colds and are congested [coughs and laughs]. But one thing I knew back in 1975 was if you marry somebody, to some degree you have to realize that you’re stuck. Everything is not going to be all beds of roses and bluebirds fluttering around the window. No person is coming to you perfect. And even if they were, something about you could cause some contention about some things. So if you want the relationship to last, you’re better off knowing that up front Now, you could always create a better fantasy lover in your head, but that’s in your head. It’s not a real person.

Donna: [Laughs] I agree with him, but I don’t like the word “stuck.” I’m a little nicer about the way that I explain that same phenomenon. I like the word “commitment.” I think of it more like building character than thinking I’m stuck. My commitment means a lot to me. In a way, I guess that is stuck [laughs], though men feel more stuck than women, I think.

Eugene: Well, I’m like that girl in the Mel Brooks movie Life Stinks where she said, “Depressed? I like depressed. I can live with depressed ’cause it just stays there. Happiness, you fall for it and it goes away real fast.”

I would like to hear about the strengthening of the relationship that comes from another successful conflict resolution. Eugene?

Eugene: Well, that depends on whether the underdynamics improved. In other words, the dynamic of the disagreement itself really doesn’t make any difference one way or another. It could get resolved, and that’s important—the fact that it does get resolved to the point that the relationship goes on, that is. But whether it makes any improvement in the future, that depends. For example, if Donna would say, “You know, that does kind of make sense, that if I get knocked off the wire, I let my emotions run away with me and at that point I can’t really hear, listen, and I’m unable to understand any response that Eugene does give me.” This could bring about a change. And I have had times that I have apologized to her, and even that’s no good.

Donna: That’s because you’re older and you try to tell me stuff.

Eugene: So it really depends on whether the individual can learn from the experience and say to themselves, “Next time at some point I’m going to try to put the skids on this emotional runaway and listen past that first sentence, to start listening to ideas and reason again.” Then it could improve.

Donna: Do you remember what the question was? I feel like some things keep coming up because they weren’t fully resolved. If they had been completely resolved, they wouldn’t keep coming up. In a way, one reason things keep coming up with Eugene and I — they may get closer to a resolution each time. If nothing else, you’ve expressed your opinion. Sometimes it’s just about getting to a point where you can give each other enough space to agree to disagree and be happy with that.

Eugene: Without being disagreeable.

Donna: And you get to a point where your mate is more important than being right So I don’t always have to be right.

So it’s not necessarily swept under the rug simply because you were not swayed, nor does it have to be a festering thing that destroys a relationship. It can be a strengthening thing because you see that, Hey, we can even have unresolved things and we are still okay. Our individuality remains intact, and we are still loved and respected and that even though some differences with never meld in any meaningful way, this does not have to detract from the viability of the relationship.

Eugene: Right, sir; correct, sir [salutes].

Donna: There is a meeting of the minds on most things. We are pretty compatible, and we do understand each other, and we’re best friends too. I think it’s really important to be friends with each other. It’s a strength that comes from being able to have a real argument where I’ve said real bad things like “I hate you,” callin’ him fat and ugly—everything.

Eugene: And that’s true.

Donna: And you’ve called me bad things too, an imbecile and stuff.

Eugene: And they were all true too.

Donna: And after all that were enough of friends that we can—once the argument’s over, all those words are over too. They don’t fester. We get ’em out of our system, and we know that each other’s just saying mean things, so we don’t take it seriously. And we know that they will get over it, and were patient enough to wait We’ve been real blessed that way. I guess there could be something we couldn’t get over. There are times when I’m sure it’s just God that’s kept us together because I’ve been so frustrated in my marriage sometimes that I’ve gone into my room and said, “God, you promised you wouldn’t give me anything that I couldn’t handle. Well, I can’t handle this.” Then I’ll lay there for about 20 minutes and meditate or somethin’, and strength always comes. I always seem to get enough strength to not walk out the door and, you know, keep on lovin’ my husband and lettin him love me.

Eugene: And I do the same thing. Right now it doesn’t really matter that she’s a female and I’m a male. I might use different words to describe it, but it would be the same phenomenon that she described.

Donna: [Laughs] This is interesting to me. This is one of our bones of contention. He thinks that men — I can’t remember the exact words.

Eugene: What’s contentious about that? I just said I felt exactly the same way you felt.

Donna: And why shouldn’t you? And coming from a lowly woman, what a surprise. And he doesn’t even understand that he does it.

Eugene: It doesn’t matter if it’s male or female.

Donna: The fact that you even had to make a point of it.

Eugene: It was one of them androgynous kind of thought constructs.

Donna: And he is sexist, and he’s from that era He calls me a broad sometimes. How many women would let their husband call them derogatory terms like “dame” or “broad”?

Eugene: One who has a sense of humor.

Donna: Or one that understands a guy from your generation. They think that they’re better than women. Look at him there on his high horse. He is a bit of a male chauvinist, but I keep him in check a little bit.

Eugene: I never met anybody male or female that wasn’t to some degree a dingbat.

Donna: And in your case, a lot.

Eugene: You’ve got to have a sense of humor.

Jack and Audrey

Jack and Audrey. "You’re a vegetarian. I know what I want—steak and eggs, carne asada, and grease, the good stuff."

Jack and Audrey. "You’re a vegetarian. I know what I want—steak and eggs, carne asada, and grease, the good stuff."

How did you meet?

Jack: I used to work at a record shop, Off the Record, on El Cajon Boulevard. Audrey has two sisters. This was about ten years ago. Her and her sisters used to pal around all the time. I was 21 and you were 16. They would come in together, and I would notice her. I wouldn’t want to say you were cute ’cause you were underage [laughs].

Audrey: He went out with my sister.

Jack: No, I didn’t.

Audrey: Well, he came over to see my sister, and I thought he was cute, but he was way too old at the time.

Jack: Yeah, you were just a little kid.

Audrey: I lived in that area, so I would see him all the time. I had a crush on him till I was 19 or 20.Then I moved away for a couple of years up to San Francisco. My boyfriend at the time also worked with him. So I would always tell my boyfriend, “Oh, tell Jack hi.” I think he knew that I liked Jack too. When I came back to town, we started dating.

Jack: We met again in a bar called Live Wire. Nobody was there; it was dead. It was a hipster bar that was next to the Red Fox. I got her phone number, and I was calling and calling her.

Audrey: I was dating someone at the time. We started hanging out, and I broke up with the other guy and started dating Jack.

How long have you been living together?

Jack: One month.

What do you like about Audrey?

Jack: She’s intelligent, she’s pretty, and she likes me, for some reason. Let’s see, she is considerate, and she has an inner strength. When I first met her, she was not sure what she wanted to do. Now she’s going to be some biotech engineering genesplicing guru. There’s a lot to admire there.

Audrey: Okay [laughs], move on.

What is difficult for you to deal with about her personality?

Jack: I am a nomadic kind of guy, and I still think in those terms. I’m kind of a loner. What’s hard for me is that I think she’s needy. She needs a lot of attention. I’ve learned how to do that a lot better, and between her school and work it’s gotten better. And then there’s the regular female traits of “oh, we’re going to do this tonight, we’re going to hang out with these friends, we’re going to go here,” but I don’t speak up. I want to make her happy [laughs]. Sometimes it’s hard for her to speak her mind. We just got back from eating at this Thai place. I know she knows what she wants, but she won’t say it. She wants me to say it for her; this is extremely irritating for me. But eventually I’ll pick enough things off of the menu that she doesn’t like, I can zero in on what she wants [laughs]. It’s like red light, green light.

Audrey: No, it’s like whenever we go eat, I always pick. I just wanted you to pick.

Jack: Well, you’re a vegetarian. I know what I want—steak and eggs, carne asada, and grease, the good stuff — but you won’t go there.

Audrey, what do you like about Jack?

Audrey: That’s hard for me.

Jack: I don’t think she likes me at all.

Audrey: I do like you. I like the fact that he’s smart. He’s nice and thoughtful. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and he makes me laugh.

Jack: You make me laugh when I pick on you.

Audrey: I don’t know. There’s also —

Jack: Supreme wit.

Audrey: [Laughs] Yes, and an idiocy; you know, the really weird, bizarre, goofy humor.

Jack: Talent on loan from God.

What’s difficult about Jack's personality for you?

Audrey: He’s way too critical—I’m trying to think of a nicer word—too much of a perfectionist. And although he is by far one of the nicest people I’ve known, he can be very mean if he wants to—not in a violent way or anything, just a real jerk, a real creep [laughs],but he knows that.

What was the last fight you had that you would be willing to discuss?

Audrey: How about the time you said you were going to go out with me? You remember; and I got mad at you, and you got mad at me for getting mad at you.

Jack: Yeah, ’cause I knew you were going to get mad at me.

Audrey: Okay, so I had made plans without really telling him, so that was bad on my part. I did tell him, but I did not remind him that day. It was a Friday night.

Jack: You never told me.

Audrey: I did tell you, but you forgot [laughs]. So I came home that day, and I called him on his cell phone. He was at happy hour with his friends from work. I asked him if he wanted to go and he said, “Yes” [smiles at Jack, who is grimacing]. So am I telling the story wrong?

Jack: We had had two beers already.

Audrey: He’s a lightweight.

Jack: I don’t get out much.

Audrey: So, anyway, he said that he wanted to go, and I asked him what time he would be home, and he asked if I wanted to come down there with him. I said, “No,” ’cause we were going out. So he says he’d be home by 8:00 or 8:30. So nine o’clock rolls around, and he’s not home. So I called him on his cell phone again, and he’s, like, “Oh, what time is it? What time are we supposed to go? Okay, I’ll be home in 30 minutes.” At that point I was really irritated. He got home at 10:00, and by then I was mad.

Jack: It was like 9:30.

Audrey: It was a boring fight [laughs]. He walked in the door with an attitude ’cause he knew I would be mad at him.

Jack: I did not walk in with an attitude.

Audrey: Yes, you did.

Jack: No, I didn’t I might have walked in prepared but not with an attitude, and I was tired.

Audrey: Tired’s not the right word [laughs].

Jack: Had a couple drinks. I was coming down from my bar run, and I was not really interested in going out again. I might have been up to it if I came home and didn’t come off like a jerk. She didn’t look like she was really ticked off. I might have had the energy to go out, but after I know she’s pissed and I’m pissed at that point, it’s just not going to happen. I didn’t say I didn’t want to go. I said, “I think you should go out on your own.”

Audrey: I said, “Do you still want to go?” and you said, “No.”

Jack: I was hoping you would understand and go on your own. I didn’t want you to take it personally.

Audrey: I didn’t care. I just didn’t want you to be mad at me. I don’t like to fight Before I left I said, “Are you mad at me?” ’cause if I knew he was mad at me, I would bethinking about it, and I wouldn’t be able to have a good time. So he said he wasn’t mad at me, and I went out and had a good time.

Moving in together can be a tough time for couples. What compromises have you had to make in these first few weeks?

Jack: [Much laughing] There’s plenty of that, like, What color should the paint be?

Audrey: Oh, God.

Jack: I got this wild hair up my rear end. She was moving in, and I decided to put a little money into the apartment, make things a little nicer in the kitchen and the living room with some painting. I also wanted to put some tile in the bathroom. Now, this is before she moved in. I kinda had this perfectionist vision, which she complains about Its pretty small. It’s a studio downtown. I thought I’d make it look nice; you know, fix it up so it supports our habits. It was pretty ragged before. The tile was coming up. It just wasn’t a place that she’d want to be. I got some Better Homes and Gardens magazines for decorating ideas, color schemes, and types of molding, maybe some little hanging lamps here and there. I wanted her to be part of it, so I started getting her involved. That was really the first time we really ever tried to come together on something. Her tastes are more feminine in nature, of course. I wanted the walls light, and she wanted them dark.

Did you buy paint before you talked to her about it?

Jack: Yeah. At first I just painted it before she moved in. I thought I’d get away with it. I wanted to get it this strange kind of green-yellow, and it ended up just being a hideous yellow, and I painted it again. This time I went for a ’60s green and it ended hideous as well. So she suggested this kinda textured coffee-colored yellow, you know, with sponges. So I did that. Now, bear in mind that this is the third time that I have painted this wall [laughs]. But it was too dark; it made the room look small. I did not like it at all. She loved it. She wanted to keep it that way. She hadn’t moved in yet, so I kinda put my foot down and wanted to paint it another color for a fourth time.

Audrey: The reason we fought is that I wanted to paint it a blue color, and he got really mad over I don’t know what. He wanted my vision to be the same as his vision, which was never going to happen ’cause I’m a different person and I think differently. I’m a girl, for one thing. So that was the problem. He just wanted me to magically have the same vision as him. So he got mad at me.

Jack: Yeah, it was pretty bad, actually. We had already put the tile down. I let her pick out the tile. Now it seems pretty minor. The tile had a certain style. The tile was gray, and she wants to paint the walls dark blue. I thought it would look terrible, and I told her so.

Audrey: He finally let me do it, and it did look bad, and I stopped.

Jack: I should have just let her do it in the first place. I just did not want to paint it a fifth time. We got into a big fight about it, and I said all of these horrible things about her, like, “You don’t know what you’re doing; its a horrible color. I don’t know why you’d ever pick that color. I thought you were smarter than that”

Audrey: He insulted my taste. He said I have no taste.

How did you resolve it?

Jack: Well, the next day —

Audrey: No, we resolved it that day We said, “This is a stupid thing to fight about”

Jack: She was really upset—she was crying— and I felt stupid. I lashed out in a really dumb way I made it personal. Then her sister heard about it.

Audrey: That’s another thing he doesn’t like about me. I talk to my sister about stuff that happens.

Jack: It’s okay; you’ve got to talk to someone. She probably thinks I’m a royal jerk ’cause all she ever hears is the bad stuff [laughs].

Audrey: I just need someone to talk to. It’s not like I ask her, “Hey, what do you think?” I just need to get it out. I’ve gotten to the point with a lot of things where I just accept that it’s his personality. I like him anyway [laughs]. I still want to be with him. All of the good things overpower the bad things. Everybody has weird little things about their personality— as long as its nothing horrible or abusive. So I am not talking to my sister about how horrible he is.

Would you say that your relationship is stronger now as a result of being able to get through these bumps in the road?

Jack: Yeah, ’cause since we moved in together we’ve had plenty of chances to bump heads. We never really butted heads before.

Audrey: [Laughs] Only because I’m pretty compromising.

Jack: No, she’s not.

Audrey: Yes, I am [rolling eyes].

Jack: So now we’re bumping heads and learning how — I didn’t even know what her buttons were, and now I’m learning them.

Audrey: Like what he does to the toothpaste tube.

Top squeeze or bottom squeeze?

Audrey: Neither; he strangles it.

Jack: At least I get the top on. I’ve been kind of forcing what I wanted to do down her throat to the detriment of our relationship. Now, I’ve just kind of let go. The house looks good We kind of compromised on the whole thing. It works for both of us. It takes me a long time to do that. I knew I was wrong yelling at her about the blue paint. By the way, the walls are white now [much laughing from both of them].

Do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share with other couples on the subject?

Audrey: I did a lot of soul-searching, work on my insecurities, things I carried, weird things that I infected the relationship with. The most important thing is to realize that you are two separate people, and you think differently about things.

Jack: I just let Audrey be Audrey now. By the way, todays her birthday. She’s 27.

Julie and Robert

Julie and Robert." I think there’s a defense mechanism where we block each other off rather than have a fight."

Julie and Robert." I think there’s a defense mechanism where we block each other off rather than have a fight."

Could you give me a brief history of your relationship?

Julie: We met in New Orleans on Bourbon Street at Patrick O’Brien’s. I was there on business, and he was as well. I was there with my boss and his wife, and we shared a table with Robert and his brother. I was living in the Bay Area, and he was living down here in San Diego at the time. My boss and his wife had not been alone for some time, so they went back to the hotel, and I stayed there with Robert and his brother. And we hung out together till five in the morning.

Robert: After that we kept in touch and started a long-distance romance. She was traveling a lot at the time, and she would come down to San Diego, or on a few occasions I would fly up to the Bay Area to see her. Then she decided to make the move to San Diego, and the relationship just kind of blossomed from there.

Julie: We got married about a year after I moved down here.

How long did the long-distance portion of your courtship last?

Robert: About nine months.

Julie: I had an 800 number at work. We probably talked five times a day every day for nine months. We had a standing eight o’clock call every night.

Robert: We decided it would probably be easier to continue the relationship if we lived in the same town and got married.

Julie: So we did [laughs].

How long have you been married?

Julie: We had our eighth anniversary in May.

What was the last disagreement that you had that you would be willing to discuss?

Robert: It’s kind of hard sometimes to distinguish. Since we’re in business together, we’re with each other all the time. There’s always issues we’re faced with at work. For the most part there’s just a lot of little disagreements that don’t add up to a dispute or really getting mad enough at each other to walk away or whatever. Sometimes when it does start to happen, I think there’s a defense mechanism where we block each other off rather than have a fight, which may not be healthy, I don’t know. But because we are dealing with so much time together, we just let stuff go after a certain point Most of its pretty petty, anyway, in the scheme of things.

Julie: We do have disputes, but they are usually related to work, so its just stress at work and things like that.

Robert: We’re in a fairly stressful business to begin with, and I think it does take a certain amount of chemistry to do what were doing. Its tough to be able to work together as husband and wife, deal with employees and the everyday issues facing us running a business.

Julie: I don’t think we ever had a fight until we went into business together [laughs].

Robert: When we go home, we try to leave work back there. We do have our

little home issues too.

Could you share some of these home issues?

Robert: [Laughs] That’s funny ’cause I cant think of anything. We are fairly tolerant of each other. Maybe that’s where the chemistry comes in. I do get upset with her sometimes, for instance, and she probably doesn’t even know this upset me ’cause I didn’t tell her. Anyway, we had a lot of company in town recently, and sometimes I don’t think we’re being the best hosts. I often wonder what—like, if her folks are in town and stayin’ with us, maybe we should find out what’s goin’ on, make plans; you know, meals, and stuff like that. So I’ll maybe get upset because —

Julie: But you won’t say anything [laughs].

Robert: Because she’s lackadaisical. Maybe that’s just not a concern for her. It is for me, though. I’m sure I picked up a lot of that from my father. Dad was an ex-Navy man. He always planned and prepared meals when we had company. But we’re getting way off the track, and we need to talk a little bit about a good knock-down drag-out.

Julie: Well, there was the time you got really mad at me when I knocked the pipe off the wall. But we didn’t talk about it. We just kinda fumed.

Robert: Yeah, we had all sorts of plumbing problems, and —

Julie: We got our gas rerouted. We didn’t have gas for two weeks and we had no water —

Robert: They had to tear the walls out of our place. It was just a mess a really crazy week. And I don’t normally drive home with her, but we were pulling up to our place and we parked behind our garage. It was on a Friday.

Julie: And the plumbing just got fixed that day.

Robert: So she sheared off the faucet behind the garage, and water went shootin’ out in the alley. The last thing that I wanted to do at this point was start messing around with plumbing. I just wanted to hit the couch and relax. It had been one of those weeks; I couldn’t help but get real upset. So we had to figure out how to shut the water off and run to Home Depot and get stuff to cap off some lines. On top of that it was a Friday, and if you brought a plumber out, it’d probably be an emergency-type thing and, you know, extra charges and all.

Julie: We didn’t really fight —

Robert: I was upset with her, of course.

Julie: Of course.

Robert: I think the way we dealt with it was by damming up until it blew over.

Julie: Then we do a joke about it.

How long does the wait-for-it-to-blow-over phase last?

Robert: A lot of times we will separate ourselves. Like, I’ll watch TV in the living room, and she’ll go into the other room and watch something else. We do need a little bit of our own space, and I think by having your own space, you have time to think these things out. You may decide that it’s not really that important. So that’s kind of our cooling-off period. So maybe we wont talk for the rest of that evening. We didn’t communicate a lot; we just relaxed, unwound, and then the next day it wasn’t an issue at all.

Julie: A lot of times we’ll joke about it.

Robert: Or stick our tongues out at each other the next day.

Julie: And then it seems all fine again.

Robert: I don’t think there’s been any time in our relationship that we have raised our voices enough to say that we were, like, really screaming and yelling. There’s been times that I might let out a big “AAAAR-RRGGG” or a scream or something, but it’s not totally directed at her. But sometimes I wonder if that’s healthy in a relationship to hold things in. On the other hand, I also think you need to find other releases, other ways to let go of that stuff. If it’s bugging one of us enough, we’ll let each other know. Usually at that point the other person might get a little upset, so the defense mechanism might kick in a little bit Usually it just blows over, time heals.

That is an interesting point, that not everything has to be resolved between the two of yon, that there are ways to release pressure outside of the relationship.

Julie: Yes, I find sometimes, too, like something might make me really upset and I don’t say anything to him, and I’m better off ’cause yesterday the same thing he did didn’t upset me, but today it’s upsetting me. So it’s probably something within me as opposed to something going on with us.

Perhaps there is a difference between ignoring it and waiting to see if it really is something to get excited about, and the mouth does not always have to open every time the brain fires?

Robert: Exactly, and time to cool down and think Maybe it’s not important enough to —

Julie: Say things that you might regret later.

Robert: Or put extra stress in your relationship.

Julie: Sometimes talking about it makes it more real than it needs to be.

That’s interesting like talking can give it a life of its own?

Julie: Like if-you-see-it-in-writing, it’s-true type of thing.

Robert: I think we’ve had to learn, being in business together, that you’ve got to distinguish the petty stuff from maybe the more important stuff.

It sounds like you have an adjustable intimacy wall that goes up and down to fit the situation, and work is a time it should be up a bit. Is that what you are saying?

Julie: Yes. And if the issue is important enough, something that could really impact our relationship, then we would wait till we got home and work it out. Being in business together is a double-edged sword ’cause in a way it helps your home relationship ’cause you could go home stressed from a day of business and be in a bad mood, but then again after being with each other all day, you are kind of used to each other; so it balances out.

Could you describe the things that you like about Robert? Then well get into what you don't like.

Robert: Now we’ll get into some juicy fights [laughs].

Julie: He’s funny. He makes me laugh. Not just his looks [laughs]. That’s what I like about him. He’s a lot of fun to be around even though we live together and work together. My sister likes to tell the story of when she was in town and we went to Sea World and I called him twice.

Robert: She’s in love.

Okay, and things that you don't like?

Julie: Sometimes he’s kind of wishy-washy, like if I ask him, “What do you want to do?” He never cares [laughs]. But I’ve gotten used to that too. Or I’ll say, “Let’s go watch the sunset,” and I’ll go get my shoes on. And then he’ll say, “No, I’m kind of relaxed now.” So I’ll take my shoes off. Then he says, “Oh, let’s go down there; it’s going to go down.” And I’m thinking, “Make up your mind. What do you want to do?”

Robert: I think when that happens, I’m trying to get her take on it. I mean, does she really want to go watch the sunset? You know, tryin’ to get her feedback.

What do you like about Julie?

Robert: Well, she’s loving, beautiful, smart. People that she meets love her. Our customers love her.

Julie: That’s the way I feel about you. He’s cute. All the girls love him.

Robert: We did hook up and get married in life a little later than a lot of couples do. It took us a while to find each other. It’s hard to find someone you’re compatible with, like a soulmate type of person. And then there’s the bad things, like clutter — she collects things — and housekeeping. But, again, we re both real busy. So there are minor things that upset me, and sometimes we have little spats. And I don’t expect a perfect house, and I certainly don’t expect my meals to be made or anything, ’cause we work together, and she puts in more hours than I do. So maybe I’m the one who should be keeping the house.

Julie: I like that idea [laughs].

Any dosing comments?

Robert: I think you have to be flexible. You kind of have to let things go to a degree but at the same time not let things build up. There is a point when you’ve got to release it. It is also important to consider other ways of releasing tension, not necessarily with your mate; basically, just tolerance and flexibility.

Julie: You need to decide whether this will be important tomorrow. Why be mad when we could be putting on skits for each other?

Lee Ann and Paul

Lee Ann and Paul. “This one I had better go into the other room for a bit and leave it be."

Lee Ann and Paul. “This one I had better go into the other room for a bit and leave it be."

Could you give me a short history of your relationship?

Lee Ann: Well, we met when we were babies. I was 14 and you were 15. We got married when we were 16 and 17. I was pregnant. Gosh, in our first year we got married, Paul graduated high school, went into the Air Force, I had Sara, Paul came home from the Air Force, Paul’s dad died, Paul’s mom died, and then we had our first anniversary. We had some good years in between, but that was 25-plus years ago in May. We did break up for a year, though.

Paul: But that year was in our wild years living the life, doing whatever we wanted to and not really focusing on our marriage. You know what I mean? Doing drugs — and I did all of them. We still sometimes kinda go, “Wow, we’ve gone through the vortex and come out the other end.”

Lee Ann: There’s not much that we fight about anymore, not that we haven’t over these years.

Paul: And we do, but it never really escalates into any kind of a full-scale conflict.

For the purpose of this story, a fight is any conflict from the toilet seat to infidelity—conflict, reaction, resolution or nonresolution, compromise, discussion, and the like. So with that in mind, when was the last even minor butting of heads you had between you?

Lee Ann: Do you think it was Hawaii? I don’t think we’ve fought since then. We have discussions now. I see what you mean about fighting. When we were 16 or 17, we didn’t know how to fight; we were kids. Then through the drinking years the fights got real ugly, the knock-down, drag-out variety. Raisin’ kids was always good for disagreements. But we had an agreement — that we’d never argue about the kids in front of them; we’d go off and close the door. And still it happened.

Paul: Of course, that got better when we stopped drinking. I am a different person now than I was ten years ago. So my wife reacts differently to me now.

Lee Ann: It’s a lot more laid back now.

Paul: We also take timeouts now. Having been together for 25 years and kinda growing up together, you just kinda get a feel. You know, it’s like, “This one I had better go into the other room for a bit and leave it be, maybe check out how our stocks are doing on the Internet.” And then when I come back out five minutes later, a lot of times the disagreement has just blown away; you know, it’s not even an issue ’cause it was stopped before it could become an issue.

Lee Ann: I tend to dwell on it if I think it was something important and you just want to blow it off.

So then “Hawaii” was your last fight?

Paul: Yeah, we were leaving on a Sunday afternoon. I felt that Lee Ann had, like, overloaded our Sunday. At church we had a pancake breakfast for the youth on the same morning that we were gonna leave San Diego to spend the night in L.A. We were planning on leaving here like three in the afternoon. Then on Thursday you call me and say, “Hey, I made plans to go out after church with some friends to have dinner before we come home to get packed and ready to leave.” I was less than—we had words before church that morning.

Lee Ann: You were saying, “I don’t think we should do this,” and I said, “I feel that we should,” because our friends were leaving two weeks after we got back. Had they not been leaving —and I was totally trying to reason with you.

And they were leaving forever?

Paul: For a long time. I think some of it was getting ready to go to Hawaii, the adrenaline rush and all.

Lee Ann: Well, you want to hurry up and have fun. You get so antsy. I worked late on Friday night and that caused—and did I go back on Saturday?

Paul: Yeah, late Friday, and that was part of our deal too. I told my boss, “You got me until 8:30 on Friday night; after that I’m gone.” You kinda went ahead and worked late on Friday and went in Saturday. It started at three hours, then four, then after five. And all along you’re callin’, sayin’, “Oh, just one more thing and then I’m done.” And so there was two hours’ worth of “one more thing”s. She’s not a workaholic, but she works a lot, and that causes conflict.

It sounds like a case of you wanting the trip to be important enough for Lee Ann to say no to the overtime. Is that what was happening?

Paul: Yeah, a lot like that.

What did you fed from Paul at this point?

Lee Ann: It seemed to me that he thought I was trying to please other people and not him, you know, that “this is what I want to do and this is why I want to do it.” But I had my own reasons, and eventually I did say, “Okay, it is too much,” and we canceled lunch. So we canceled dinner on Saturday and lunch on Sunday. But Sunday was really a mutual thing. That was not a “give in.”

So you compromised on Saturday?

Lee Ann: Yes, exactly. I knew that they would understand if I called and said, “Look, I just overbooked again.” And it would make him take a deep breath and relax, like, “Okay, that’s over with; now we can go have fun.” He’s real funny that way, going on vacation.

Paul: You know, if we make plans, I want to stick to ’em.

Lee Ann: It’s a vacation. I am very, very bad at time, and he is a real stickler. He prefers to be 5 minutes early, and I think 30 minutes isn’t really late, so — [laughs].

My boss used to say, “If you're on time, you're late. You were one missed light away from being late. It doesn't seem as if you care” Is that how you are, Paul?

Paul: Yes, err on the early side. But over the course of time we have gotten a lit-de better with the give-and-take. Things aren’t quite as important anymore. You know, don’t sweat the small stuff.

What are the things you like about Paul?

Lee Ann: [Pauses, laughs] It shouldn’t be that hard. Well, his stick-to-it-ness. No matter how hard I want to get out of something, he says, “No, we’ve got to do it.” His sense of humor. He’s a wonderful dad, a great friend. And Paul is my biggest fan. There’s nothin’ I can’t do, because he believes I can, even when I have doubts. Although some days when I ask him how I look, he’ll kinda pause, which is like he already said something. You’re just a wonderful husband in that respect You know, that “Does this make my butt look big?” kind of thing, “No, honey, never.” He lies to me when it’s important. Mostly I guess that he’s my best friend. I mean, there’s nobody in the world at any given moment that I would rather be with than Paul. I have a wonderful time with other people and I have close friends, but he’s still my best friend. There is nothing I can’t share with him. We tell people that “Don’t tell me anything that I can’t tell Paul, ’cause I will.”

Paul: No secrets.

Lee Ann: No, even when you said stuff after you told our pastor that you wouldn’t tell me.

Paul: I’ve been doing these discipleship classes with the pastor at our church. I opened up to him a couple of weeks ago, told him about my past. His chin dropped down to here. He was new at our church. He asked me to be in the discipleship program with him. I say, “Sure.” Then we get talking and I tell him that I’m a recovering alcoholic, I used to freebase cocaine, I’ve done crystal, you know, blah blah blah. “Oh, and I’ve been in and out of jail.” Kinda surprised him. Then I said something like,“Lee Anns going to kill me when she finds out I told you all of this.” And he said, “Oh, she’s not going to hear it from me. It’s between you and me. I understand that there may be things that you don t want to get out.” And he said, “Likewise, I feel the same way about things that I say.” With those things, I’ll just come home and tell Lee Ann, “This ones between me and you; you cant say anything about it to anybody.” And I’ll share it with her. I don’t feel like Tm giving up a confidence.

Which is very dangerous outside of your relationship. Things tend to slip out, don’t they?

Lee Ann: I have to remember what they are sometimes [laughs].

Paul: There’s very little we don’t share.

Lee Ann: I was laughing with my little sister. We went to our parents’ for Father’s Day. My dad had had a heart attack months before, and so I was laughing, saying,

“So you lived; okay, we have to come visit you.” It really seems kinda funny, too, that in your circle of friends that you almost feel weird that you talk nice about your husband. Instead of girls getting together and bitching about their husbands, I prefer to hang out with my friends that happen to like their husbands. Sure, there’s a little venting here and there. Noreen, my sister, is somebody that when we have dinner, it’s kind of a gushy, “Oh, Steven did this,” and I say, “Oh, how nice,” and “Paul did this.” And I prefer that over “Oh, that rotten SOB; guess what he did again,” you know, and we just don’t have that kind of talk when we get together.

Paul: Once again, just getting older and growing up.

Lee Ann: Sometimes I tell you, “You know, it really pisses me off when you leave the toilet seat up,” and other times I’ll just let it go.

We were talking about what you like about Paul. Are you done?

Lee Ann: Well, without getting real personal [laughs].

Okay, your turn. What do you like about Lee Ann?

Paul: Well, she put up with me for a lot of years, and that’s real important to me now, that she stuck around. I mean, ’cause I was an asshole for a lot of years. It helps that we became good friends before we even started dating.

Lee Ann: Oh, yeah. I used to talk to him about boyfriends and everything.

Paul: Yeah, and it carried on through our relationship. Even when we were freebasing cocaine all night—we never did anything bad alone — there was still a lot of connection there. It was different than doing drugs with your buddy.

Lee Ann: Even to the point that if we were at different places, we would bring something back for the one who wasn’t there.

Paul: We know everything about each other. And after all those years of conflict, and now having six-plus years pretty much substance-free, things have mellowed. I also went to some anger-management classes because of my drinking by order of the court. And I brought a lot of it home; we shared it, and it helped the whole relationship. Even when I was still drinking, I would take the time-outs and stuff and work on those things. I can totally be who I am around her. I guess it’s a comfort zone that she gives me. She’s a great mom, a wonderful wife. She was always there to carry things when I didn’t or couldn’t.

Lee Ann, what do you dislike about Paul?

Lee Ann: He only likes to listen to classic rock. He won’t open his mind and listen to other types of music. Oh, and a lot of times he gets something in his head and you just can’t change his mind; it’s easier to go along with it. He puts things off until the last hour a lot of times. I put them off to the second to the last hour, so that makes him worse than me [laughs]. I guess that’s it without getting real personal. You fart too much, but I knew that goin’ in and it hasn’t changed. The rush-to-have-fun thing really gets to me, but you usually mellow out after we get there. On this trip to Hawaii, he had every minute of the day planned. I felt like I was in the Griswolds’ vacation — “Okay, let’s go to the Louvre, let’s do this.” He had it all planned out. “Okay, from 10:30 to 10:46 we’ll be doing this, and from —”

Did you pause to look at the smoke coming out of the volcano?

Paul: [Laughs].

Lee Ann: I mean, we would be in the shower and he gets out of the shower ready to fix the plan up. “You know, I think if we switched this with this day—” and my head’s spinning. And I want to say, like, “Honey, I’d just like to get there. Okay?” But I truly believed that once we got there, he’d go, “Ahh-hhh,” and mellow out. And that’s exactly what happened, and I’m thankful that I knew him well enough not to worry. So when we got there, he said, “Okay, schedule’s out the window.” One other thing that gets me about him is when he looks over my shoulder when I am paying bills, saying stuff like, “How come we owe —?” I tell him, “Just leave it to me. Everything’s okay.”

Have you ever just said, “Here, you do it”?

Lee Ann: Yes, I have, and it did not take long for them to turn off the phone. So I took back the job.

What do you dislike about Lee Ann?

Paul: She works too much, but that’s also part of her good trait of devotedness. She has a good boss — he has helped us out in the past—but I think she goes overboard She does more than he ever expects. She does not get places on time. She’s always laggin’.

Lee Ann: That’s probably gotten worse [laughs].

Paul: It’s nothing new or different; it’s just something I’ve learned to put up with after 25-plus years. I wish that instead of piling stuff, leaving piles around the house, she’d go through her piles now and then. She doesn’t take care of it. She just rearranges the stacks. I can’t think of much more that you do that gets to me.

Lee Ann: That’s plenty.

How long does it take you from the time you become uncomfortable about something to the time you open your mouth and say something?

Lee Ann: Me, maybe 30 seconds — I’m not real good at hanging on — a minute or two. I’m pretty quick to react.

Paul: Me, sometimes three or four weeks. I let it fester for a little while [laughs]. It’s not that bad usually.

What makes you wait?

Paul: Desire to avoid conflict It changes depend-ing on what it is, if it’s something small versus something larger.

Could you describe the style of your resolutions? Do they stay on the subject? Does the kitchen sink get thrown in?

Paul: We are pretty good about discussing things. I can’t remember the last time we got into a really heated discussion.

Lee Ann: There’s no name-calling or anything. But we have put some effort into it—Paul’s anger-management classes, marriage-encounter weekends, and a couples’ group with our old pastor. Basically, after we went through marriage counseling they told us to leave.

Paul: They said, “You guys are wasting our time” [laughs]. It was court-appointed, and it was towards the end of some stuff that I was doing. It was a case of her and I going to maybe 6 sessions together and me doing another 24, but they kicked us out after the 5th session. They said, “Your life is better than ours.”

Sounds like you two are willing to do whatever it takes to be a more effective couple. Have you always been so open to outside input?

Lee Ann: We’ve been pretty much this way from the beginning.

Paul: It’s definitely worth working things out.

Any parting words of wisdom?

Lee Ann: Remember it’s not always that big a deal, and he has an opinion too. And something that my dad said to me when we got married: “Don’t ever go to bed mad” The few times we have we just woke up feeling crappy. There have been some horrible times, and you wake up on the couch, and you’re alone, and it’s just icky! Sometimes we will have to take a few time-outs throughout the discussion.

Paul: You just have to have trust.

Lee Ann: If you are truly in love, it’ll work out.

Scott and Michelle

What are your names?

Scott: Scott and Michelle from Cardiff by the Sea.

Could you give a brief history of your relationship?

Michelle: We’ve been together about five years, and we met — we were set up by mutual friends.

Scott: We were married October 10,1998. We’re very happy.

Michelle: [Laughs] Yes, we are.

What was the last disagreement you had that you would be willing to discuss?

Scott: Well, it was just a few days ago; we were talking about it Michelle’s going back to Cleveland to see her family. She’s not going with me. I don’t know. Actually, we’re still talking about it The whole secret is communication, not to think that the other person is going to know what you are thinking. They may think weird things.

Michelle: [Laughs] Yeah.

Scott: Do you want to say anything about that?

Michelle: Just that I think we’re very lucky in the fact that we hardly ever disagree on stuff. We do communicate pretty well. We usually know how the other one’s going to react We talk about it so much that we don’t get to that point where we disagree about stuff.

How did you first approach this disagreement? When were you first aware of your discomfort over her leaving?

Scott: Well, we were sitting around the dinner table talking about it. She suggested going back to Cleveland to visit her family. It started as a misunderstanding, like most disagreements do. I thought she meant she was going to go to Cleveland when we had already planned to go to Chicago.

Michelle: And I didn’t clarify when I was talking about, ’cause we’d been talking about Chicago and then I just kind of threw that in there. And he thought that I meant during that time in Chicago I wanted to go to Cleveland.

Scott: So I got a real weird look on my face, and she took that as bad vibes against her goin’ and I was being selfish ’cause I wanted her to be with me for the evenings in Chicago, ’cause I’m goin’ there kinda for business.

Michelle: But it turns out I didn’t mean at the same time as Chicago.

Scott: So we got that figured out, and still I was being selfish ’cause I wanted her around. I know that I’m gone a lot, and she feels the same way. And I don’t always pick up on that I just gotta let it go.

How long did it take from the weird look on your face until she understood what was happening with you?

Scott: It stewed for a while.

Michelle: A couple of days, three days.

Were you unaware that he was uncomfortable?

Michelle: I knew he was uncomfortable. I just couldn’t see quite why. We sat down again a few days later, and it came up, and we talked it out then. So I understood a little more of what he was talking about, and he understood what I meant.

What went through your mind for those couple of days when he was not acting himself? Did you wonder what was up? Did you have any theories?

Michelle: I thought it just threw him off guard when I was talkin’ about goin’ ’cause I don’t — it’s not that I ever want to go anywhere without him. We had a previous vacation planned that got canceled and I just kept that time off from work I figured since he was working while he was at work I'd be able to go ahead and do j that without being gone very long. His hours keep him away 24 hours every other day.

Scott: I’m a fighter. That’s hard just to start with. It’s hard and it’s good. I mean, here it is a Monday and I’m off, but then I could work Christmas or her birthday. I have no control over that.

Michelle: So I don’t know how to answer your question. I didn’t really have a theory what he was thinking. I just thought, “Well, we’ll talk about it again when we’re both ready to; I’ll clarify more of what I was thinking of, why I wanted to go.” And we did.

Scott: And I did too. You just have to be brave sometimes and open up, say what you’re thinkin and what you’re feelin’. It’s not always easy, but—you got to make it work.

Could you give me a brief description of your wife?

Scott: Beautiful, wonderful, caring, giving, hardworking, a generous person who always puts others before herself.

Okay, Michelle, same question.

Michelle: He’s very intelligent, he’s very well balanced. He’s opened my eyes to a lot of things in the world that would have passed me by if I hadn’t met him. And he’s my best friend.

How has your style of disagreeing and getting through things—going to your comers, coming back, talking— changed through your time together?

Scott: It’s pretty much been the same from the get-go. We’ve kept everything pretty open from the start.

Michelle: And I’m pretty easy to read, and he can tell when there’s something wrong with me. I just get really quiet. He’s got a great way of draggin’ it out of me.

Scott: Just give her a glass of truth serum and she spills her guts.

Michelle: [Laughs] Just give me a glass of wine and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.

Have you resolved this issue yet?

Michelle: Oh, yeah. I don’t know if I’m going. We both know where each of us stands.

Scott: And it’s fine if she goes, and it’s fine if she stays. I’ll miss her, but it’s probably something she needs to do, and it’s a good time.

Michelle: I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m usually the one that wants more time from him, ’cause it usually is that way, that he’s the one that’s always gone. And the tables were turned in a way. I wasn’t used to him being, like, “You re leaving?” [laughs].

Scott: Both of us really appreciate the time we are together, but, on the other hand, we’re also independent. I truly believe you have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with somebody else. Otherwise, you will let the other person down. And if they have a lot of other unresolved stuff or big problems —especially when you get up into your 30s, I don’t think people are going to change a whole lot You can’t go into a relationship thinking that you’re going to be the missing link to change that person and make them better. You have to be able to accept somebody for who they are. If you cant, you probably shouldn’t be in that relationship.

What are the things that bother you about your wife?

Scott: There are none.

And you?

Michelle: I’d have to say the only thing—let me say this first. He does very well at managing what little time he has, but he is very busy— president of this, president of that, and his job, and this and that But I think I adjust well, and at times it gets to be a bit much, and I say so. All in all, he does well at giving me my time. If s a double-edged sword. I admire him for how involved he gets — a lot of important issues—but then the other side of that sword is it takes away from us. I don’t know if that qualifies as a complaint

Do you have any closing statements for the benefit of couple-kind? I think you two are in the minority. You are very open and willing to discuss these feelings.

Michelle: I don’t know how the saying goes, but you’ll never progress if you let fear take over. As far as relationships go, you’re not going to progress if you don’t have that communication. If you’re afraid to say something, how will that person ever know?

Scott: And if it’s a big deal and you keep it inside, it’s going to just keep getting to be a bigger deal and it’ll fester and grow until it makes a life of its own. Sooner or later it’s going to come out anyway. And there are times when it’s better to keep your mouth shut, but those are few and far between. But most of the time it’s a lot less of a big deal if you get it on the front end rather than the back end. You don’t want to treat somebody like crap for two weeks ’cause you’re mad at them over a stupid little thing. You get it out, and you feel better.

Michelle: And I don’t know if this is going to sound super negative, but don’t settle. There’s so many people that just settle with somebody ’cause they’d rather be with somebody than be alone waiting for the right person to come along, but they’re out there [laughs].

Stephanie and Pat

Stephanie and Pat. "I didn’t actually bring it up, but all along I had my suspicions about this guy."

Stephanie and Pat. "I didn’t actually bring it up, but all along I had my suspicions about this guy."

How did you meet?

Stephanie: Well, we met kind of unexpectedly. We were in a program together and it just happened. Basically, we just fell in love.

How long have you been together?

Stephanie: Three months.

Pat: Probably four months. We just started living together a couple of weeks ago.

Stephanie: So we’re just newlyweds as far as living together.

What was the last disagreement that you had that you are willing to share?

Stephanie: Okay, where I work at there’s this guy, he is gay, but I found out that he’s bisexual also. So because I was straight before and this is my first relationship with a gay woman, it looks really bad that I told Pat that he’s just gay. I lied ’cause I thought it would be easier. She’s really disappointed that I would lie about it. She thought so all along but I didn’t want a confrontation.

Pat: Can I add something? I didn’t actually bring it up, but all along I had my suspicions about this guy. I’m not saying that he’s a bad person at all, but today during some intimacy, before we got started, she got all — uncomfortable. When I came home from work, she was telling me this guy is totally gay, and then at the last minute she said, “I lied to you.” And then she told me that he’s bisexual, which isn’t the issue. It’s just the lying that kinda, okay, took me by surprise. I was really disappointed in her. To me a person lying is up there with stealin’. Like she said this is her first lesbian relationship, and I totally understand that, and I do have to go the extra mile because of that. I’m not totally innocent myself, but communication is the key. So it looks to me like she is unable to just sit there and communicate to me as her partner. The first thing that runs through my mind is the whole heterosexual thing, all the bullshit, the games.

So do you think there is less of that sort of thing in the gay community than in the heterosexual community?

Pat: Well, this is only my second relationship with a heterosexual. The first one was when I just got out of college. With a straight-woman-gay-woman relationship, there’s a whole trust issue that runs through my mind— do I want to deal with this whole heterosexual thing? My guards go right up.

How did you respond to Pat’s concerns?

Stephanie: I felt bad ’cause I said that. I had told her that he was going to give me a ride today, and I didn’t want to deal with the confrontation, but then , I felt bad just before we were going to get intimate. I thought I should just tell her. I didn’t realize this was going to be an ongoing nightmare. I feel really bad that I lied, but I can only make amends. Once you do something you can’t take it back. You can only try to make it right. Big deal he’s bisexual. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be with him. You know what I mean? I’m happy with her. And, yeah, it’s really hard ’cause I’ve always been with men too. I guess it’s that whole threat that because somebody might like me, that they want to be with me. But I feel the same way with her. A lot of women try to pick up on her and what can I do? I mean, I have to trust her. So a guy comes along. Big deal. It’s not like that in the gay world either, like “You’re the one,” and it’s not like that in the heterosexual world either. Its really hard for me. That’s always against me that I’ve been with men all these years.

Sounds like you were nervous about her being uncomfortable with you being in that situation, so you were trying to make it easy on her and it backfired.

Stephanie: It’s been an ongoing thing ’cause I get along real well with gay men. A lot of them are maybe bisexual and maybe they make passes, but they are primarily gay. You know how they—? I don’t know if you know, but a lot of them try to pretend that they’re straight, but that doesn’t mean anything to me.

Pat: That’s the whole issue. It’s like she was just explaining. It goes vice versa, like I get along with women and I do have these flirtatious ways about me, but I would never act on them.

Stephanie: It’s so hard because a lot of times it’s not really like that Yeah, she has really flirtatious ways, but it’s the same thing on my side. I can be that way too, you know? I’ve never been in a lesbian relationship, and it makes me feel really insecure when she tells me how she feels more comfortable with gay women. So it’s kind of like, “Well, you’ve always been with a man anyway.” And it’s that threat — “Well, you could just go back to a man.” And that really bothers me. Actually, it really hurts my feelings. We’re trying to resolve it.

Stephanie, could you describe Pat to me?

Stephanie: Pat has the soul of an angel. She’s probably one of the most complex women I’ve ever met. It’s really hard with her ’cause I’m used to dealing with men. So I’m trying to remember to deal with her as a woman. But she’s the kindest woman. I really love her. I fell in love with her soul. I never thought that we would be together, and I certainly never imagined that we would be living together. I like her whole aura, and I want to live my life with her, have a future with her, and have a baby with her. We have a lot of plans, but it could all get sidetracked because of my past. Now, if she was a virgin, it would be another thing altogether. I mean, we all have a past.

Pat, could you describe Stephanie for me?

Pat: Stephanie, too, has the soul of an angel. She’s really supportive, and I can see myself having a life with her. She’s strong-willed and very positive. I just wish that she could — well, for both of us, that we could come to some type of conclusion with this unnecessary dispute about our relationship. It’s insecurity on my part as well as hers, and I love her to death.

Stephanie: I love Pat, and this has been the best relationship I have ever been in. I see her as my soul mate. Sure, we have a lot of problems because of the way that I look at things; actually, ’cause men are so much easier to deal with. So it’s really hard for me just to be honest. I don’t like confrontations. I feel like if I just don’t say anything, then it makes it better, but it really doesn’t, it always comes out in the end and then it makes it look ten times worse, like, “Well, why didn’t you say anything?”

I’m afraid of people lying to me too, and while I know that I can’t control other people, at least if my side of the street is clean, I can get indignant if I am lied to [laughs].

Stephanie: Are you in a 12-step program or something? That’s such a 12-step statement.

Yes.

Stephanie: We are on our way to a meeting. There’s our ride now. Bye.

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