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It's A Guy Thing: Partnership vs. Cherishment
Posted by Guest in Sex + Relationships
Holding Hands by Chinogypsie

You know your relationship needs help when you get cold shouldered by Dixie Carter’s death. Nothing against Ms. Carter, but when a two-inch celebrity obit is enough to kill your partner’s mood, it might be time to ask what’s going on. In our case, it’s one of those Mars-Venus things.

Ordinarily, my wife and I are an excellent team. Whether we’re camping in a state park, planning a holiday party, or co-parenting our fierce and willful four-year-old daughter, we’ve learned to anticipate each others' needs, to communicate effectively, and to work with the skill and efficiency of a NASCAR pit crew within a schedule that’s often jam-packed with obligations. When one of us needs an afternoon off from parenting, the other picks up the slack. When one goes to the store, (s)he always considers what the other might need, without having to ask. In short, we know how to put the other person first. Which, to me, is the very definition of love. So, all would seem idyllic.

Well, not quite. As I’ve learned, all these things, while necessary and good, fall under the rubric of “support and partnership” but leave something to be desired when it comes to “cherishment.” Now cherishment is a word you may not have heard recently, probably because the last person to use it was likely Chaucer. But in essence, it encompasses all those little loving behaviors that one person displays to show physical affection: holding hands across the dinner table, playing idly with your partner’s hair, looking soulfully into your partner’s eyes, kissing deeply and passionately without the expectation of anything more.

As my wife explained it, “As a big woman, it’s easy for me to slip into thinking that ‘he won’t touch me unless he wants sex, so he must think I’m gross.’” Of course, being a bit of a beef-wit, I hadn’t thought of that. And I should have, because my wife’s been more than frank about her history before we got together. In those days, when her self-esteem was low, it was not unusual for her to be, shall we say, less than particular about her choice of partners—her logic being: “Well, he wants me. Good enough. I guess I’ll go home with him.”

Problem is, I’m just not a touchy-feely guy, and as such, I forget that those little caresses are so important to her. More importantly, I forget that their absence carries a negative subtext. So while I excel at support and partnership, I fail miserably at cherishment. Which is why something like Dixie Carter’s death can derail date night, even after seeing the movie “Date Night.” And while I’m not naïve enough to believe that remembering an extra quart of milk at the market is going to make my wife want to blow me (really, I’m not), I do believe all the times I put her needs before my own should count for something.

This is the part of the column where you might expect to find some pithy insight that solves the problem I’ve just described. Well, you can sit back in your chairs…no such luck. After another slogging late-night argument, my wife and I went to sleep, only narrowly averting a scenario where one of us bunks on the couch. We’ve discussed marriage counseling--I was in favor, she was against. We’ve each done a lot of work on ourselves, both in recovery from substance abuse and in individual psychotherapy. So I do understand her reluctance to embark on yet another soul-scouring enterprise.

So rather than tie this all together with some flip, clever, or pat answer that might get a laugh but solves nothing, I’ll put the question to you, dear readers: How do you practice “cherishment” in your relationship? And how do you encourage it in your partner?

PS - To Ms. Carter’s family, no disrespect intended. Dixie was kick-ass.