Yesterday evening, I hung out with my brother D~ at my brother A~'s house, late into his last night before flying back home to California. With the movie Gladiator on in the background while he packed his bags, we talked about our budding romances, and how throwing pregnancy into the mix might effect us.
"Have either of you overstepped your bounds yet?" D~ asked, meaning, had J~ and I had a confrontation. Had we worked through anything tricky. He hated the thought of us hitting a first-ever snag with a baby on the way.
"We've definitely had difficult conversations," I told him. "We've certainly had emotional conversations. But there hasn't been much in the way of overstepping."
Well, come to think of it, there was that time I called J~ "Marshmallow Man" once too many times, in reference to some wishy-washy parenting, or an unclear boundary with his ex. He let me know I'd gone too far. I immediately got it, and apologized, and haven't used that derisive nickname again.
And there was the time J~ made a judgmental comment when I decided against a second trip to his place in a single, busy week. (I don't remember the exact words, but essentially, the sentiment was, If I were only working two days a week, I would do it for you.) In our next conversation, we were both prepared to revisit this issue, and to honor the fact that as a part-time counselor (at the time) and part-time freelancer, I was actually working more than two days. And in any case, I can hear about, and care about, his disappointment without owing an apology or an explanation for my choice. It was never an argument. He got it, and was already prepared to retract his statement before I said a thing.
The truth is, we haven't had anything close to a knock-down-drag-out, not much that can even qualify as confrontation. In fact, there hasn't been much drama at all in this relationship, except in the mere act of being open to each other, after so much hurt in how our marriages ended. (If you're not a long-time reader: J~ and I were both cheated on by our long-time partners, and dumped.) This doesn't mean there isn't communication between us, or emotion (lots of emotion) or passion (lots and lots of passion). Even so, it seemed like I wasn't giving my brother enough of an example. But to my surprise, he nodded, satisfied.
We turned our attention to Gladiator, where a life and death struggle was taking place in the Colosseum, blood and sweat and bodies flying, the crowd gone wild. "Can you believe that used to be considered sport?" I said. "I wonder if, a few hundred years from now, people will say the same thing about our sports." I was thinking of football. A game without someone carried out on a stretcher is exceptional.
"Look at boxing," D~ said. "It used to be that fights were thirty rounds long. It pretty much guaranteed that there'd be a knockout. Then it went to fifteen. Now, fights aren't more than ten rounds, unless it's a championship, in which case, it's never more than twelve. And if it looks like someone's about to get knocked out, chances are, they'll stop the fight."
"Huh. I didn't know that."
It's still far too easy to find examples of violence to read too much into this, but maybe there actually is some subtle shift in society, as illustrated by our sports. Maybe there is a trend toward honoring human life, away from unnecessary pain. Maybe J~ and I, in our own small way, are furthering this subtle shift with our relationship. No less passion. No less heart. But far less drama. And maybe, if we're lucky, no knock-outs at all.