Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shoulder-to-Shoulder Time

One of the ways in which Nate and I mesh well is that we have very similar ideas of how to spend a vacation. I am a low-energy person and Nate tends towards that as well, especially when he's jet-lagged and coming off a crazy few weeks at the squadron in Korea. He travelled for 24 hours straight to arrive in Colorado Springs half an hour before he left (yay time zones that turn us into time travelers!) and we've had a wonderful time being lazy during his eleven-day stay. I love having very few fixed engagements, doing whatever we feel like doing (as long as that works with Sean's needs.)

Sean is delighted that Daddy is home– he couldn't wait to show Nate everything at Grammy and Grandpa's house, from all his toys, to the electronic piano, to the refrigerator, which is special because that's where the current love of his life– cheese– lives. The day after Nate returned we moved into an Airbnb in Colorado Springs so that we could have our own space for Nate's visit– and I have had a week and a half of living my fantasy of the three of us living in my hometown.

We're belatedly celebrating our fifth anniversary, and though I have lots of different marriage thoughts floating around in my head, the marriage practice upon which I wish to dwell for a moment is the comfortable companionableness that Nate and I have dubbed "shoulder-to-shoulder-time." I can't remember if we got the name from a book or made it up ourselves, but it is a practice which, though I remember resisting when we were first married, I've now grown to love very much.

Shoulder-to-shoulder time is simply being together without necessarily interacting– such as lying at opposite ends of the couch, each reading a book, or watching a movie together, or being in the same room while Nate plays guitar and I write. I initially disliked shoulder-to-shoulder time at the beginning of our marriage because I had the weird idea that if we weren't directly interacting in conversation or doing a specific activity together, then the time together wasn't really valuable. I have since changed my mind. Nate and I are both introverts, and conversation isn't always necessary for us to enjoy each other's presence.


That's really what shoulder-to-shoulder time is about– presence. It is a recognition of the mystery of us being separate people with our own identities, and yet simultaneously being made one by marriage. It is a kind of intimacy different from conversation, or making love, but in my mind the quality of intimacy is simply different, not lesser. I enjoy the quiet affection, the comfortable companionship that makes up so much of day-to-day life. I like having a love that is "broken-in," to quote John Mayer. In The Four Loves C.S. Lewis talks about how exhausting it would be if lovers were constantly in the throes of the kind of love we generally experience at the onset of a relationship– all fireworks and tension and a hurricane of up-and-down emotions. Perhaps it is shoulder-to-shoulder time that helps to mature married couples into being friends and companions, as well as lovers– the kind of partnership in which making love and making dinner are both held in high esteem, where you feel that no matter what may be happening, you belong together.




1 comment:

  1. I remember being on like, date 2 or 3 with Jesse (I should know the exact date, right? But there were those odd "take your sister with you on the date" dates so I don't know if they count) and we were driving home from the zoo and had had a wonderful day and it was silent. For a while. And he looked at me and said with a smile: I'm ok with this, It's nice, I like being here with you, is it ok with you that we're not talking? :) :) :) :) Ahh . . .

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