It’s been a year and a half since the Guy and I met, and we’re still learning each other. We have so much in common–from the books we’re reading, the ideas we share, and a mutual need for time in the big wild, to a wide circle of friends we met separately long before we met each other. We share a passion for science and spiritual seeking, a love of horses and dogs, and cooking and food.
We’re also very different in some ways that are critical to nurturing a relationship.
Take communication. I am, in the Guy’s parlance, “a word person.” When I am trying to figure something out, I talk about it. When I am upset, I am vocal. When I am happy, I am voluble. Words are my way of communicating.
The Guy is much more internal. He tends to work through things in his head before he’s ready to speak. (Not that his body language doesn’t “speak” for him.) He likes silence. He needs space. And sometimes he forgets entirely to communicate in words what he has already processed in his mind.
Those differing communication styles have tripped us up more than once. I’m learning to leave space for his silence; he’s learning to use words to acknowledge his moods and let me know they’re not aimed at me.
One thing he communicates often is that he loves me. He doesn’t always say it; he acts it.
It’s the little things: The gentle pat of his hand as he passes me in in the bathroom as we’re dressing in the morning. The way he remembers to put my milk out on the breakfast table along with the half ‘n half he prefers.
When he heads outside to feed the horses, he often backtracks before he going out the door to kiss me.
When he borrowed my truck to visit a dying friend in the hospital a few hours away, he washed the truck on the way home. When I make dinner, he clears the table and washes the dishes without comment. (When he makes dinner, I do the same.)
For Christmas, he gave me a pair of riding chaps, the kind he has and I wanted but was too cheap to buy for myself. Then he gave me a pair of long johns too, just to make sure I’d be warm on winter rides.
He found me a saddle that fits my slender frame perfectly, and he oils and cleans it when he cleans his saddles.
He listens when I talk, even when he doesn’t want to hear what I have to say. He doesn’t pretend: he listens with his whole body, with a kind of attentiveness that is rare and precious.
When we’re apart (which is more often than not for our long-distance relationship), he remembers to call to catch up, even though neither of us really likes phone conversations. But they’re a way of tending our bond. He also sends me photos of the horses, links to news articles he knows will interest me, and funny cartoons.
He’s not demonstrative in the sense of hugging or holding hands often in public. But when I’m upset, he always remembers to hold me.
And at night in bed, he pulls me close. When I turn over, he rearranges himself to snuggle against me. Every time. And every time, it makes me smile.
He doesn’t have to say, “I love you.” His actions say it. Words matter, but as I’m learning, actions can speak the language of love too.