that’s a question that was asked by a few people, and i think it is worth answering.

*h and i actually had this very discussion last night. but in order for you to understand my answer, i want to provide some context.

do you know the story about the boy and the starfish?

a boy and his grandfather are walking along the beach. suddenly they come upon a section of the beach that is literally covered in starfish that washed up onto the shore. the boy starts throwing the starfish back into the water, one by one. after a few minutes, the grandfather asks his grandson why he is throwing them back in. there’s no point, he says,  because you can’t possibly save all of them. it doesn’t make a difference.

the boy turns to his grandfather, as he throws one more starfish into the water. and he says, “it made a difference to that one.”

well, *h is the boy and i am the starfish.

let’s just pause and let that sit for a minute.

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throughout my teen years, i dated mostly criminals. more criminals than any decent person should associate with. i felt safe around them, because i knew they wouldn’t hesitate to go back to jail, or even to prison, if it meant defending me.  for lots of reasons, which i won’t share here (sorry), i needed that safety net. (yes, i know it is ironic and backward, but it was what it was and you can’t rewrite history).

but those people weren’t strong. physically yes, they could hurt someone. emotionally, they were chaos personified. and they were wrecks. they were violent and potentially violent because they were terrified. they were posturing strength to cover up their deep weakness. they had to put up a brave front because they were just small damaged children inside, every last one of them.

fast forward to *h.

*h is a peacemaker. he doesn’t like confrontation and he doesn’t like tension in the air. *h will bend over backward to smooth over situations, even if it means he is the one to give in or to compromise.

it took me a long time to realize that *h can do this because he is strong, not because he is weak. *h doesn’t capitulate from a position of weakness; rather, he makes calculations based on an inner strength that is not jeopardized by giving in a lot of the time. *h remains intact even if his outward dignity is threatened because that is his way. *h doesn’t need to posture to feel strong, because he feels on a gut level that he already is.

so, *h will not be the type to confront.

i am coming from a very different place. i too have an inner strength, but mine was forged in the crucible of a rough life. let’s just say that my upbringing was more “gritty” than *h ever could have fathomed. at this stage in my life, i am tired of the fight. so that’s why i stand up to bullies. not because i want a fight, but because i am maxed out. i am so cosmically done with stronger people who pick on perceived weaker people. i literally would rather have been assaulted yesterday than watched that man go over and start with someone else. it’s like a line from a movie: “this ends here.”.

ideally, this would never happen in front of my children.

ideally, *h and i are a check on each other. he stands his ground a bit more and i back down a bit more. neither one is objectively better or worse- it just is what it is.

*h is better at providing for our family. he is better at  talking to customer service people and fixing things around the house. he is better at handling reams of paperwork and coordinating multiple tasks at once. he is better at calming the kids when they are upset. he is great when we need diplomacy. he is the carrot to my stick.

i’m good at making a home. i’m better at well-worded letters and standing up to bullies. i’m great at organizing and planning and managing. i’m interesting and funny and cool to be around. but i’m definitely the stick in our relationship. and sometimes i get stuck.

sometimes i’m jealous that i can’t be the silk instead of the burlap. sometimes i wish i was soft and gentle and open. i don’t know if *h ever envies me my hardness. but i do know that we work best as a partnership. we do our best work as a team. sometimes he is in the background and sometimes i am. and that suits us, as long as we can keep it in balance.

so, where was *h yesterday?

he was standing to the side and in back of me. he was being a rock for the kids while i was being a hard place for the parking lot ranter. he was protecting our children, and standing ready to jump in if i needed him.

because he’s strong like that.