My partner, Anant, and I have been together for over 10 years. Legally, we can refer to it as married, but we have also created our own culture for this relationship and how we operate. It’s built on a foundation of respect and freedom. We’ve redefined the institution for ourselves and continue to find news ways to navigate this age-old construct. Before we got “married,” we conducted an evaluation (similar to reviews conducted at work) that allowed us to determine goals and aspirations as partners. Once we were past nuptial celebrations, we took our time to figure out how we wanted to make it work.
None of this is as seamless as it seems. One thing that we value is independence, and it has been the core of how we operate. As our partnership evolved, we realized how that common core positively influenced how we manage finances, relationships, career growth and individual pursuits. As it so happens, our streak of independence and ambition has made room for us to live apart for a couple of years in our decade-long relationship (for me, a year in Rwanda, and for Anant, a year in Paris).
These opportunities came uninvited, but they helped us calibrate and further push our relationship. We do these check-ins or evaluations a couple of times a year to assess how things are and conduct how we want to redefine it. It’s important to carve out time for this kind of conversation - most of our check-ins have been when we’re traveling and away from the usual home space. When I think about my life and my needs and wants—I think of it distributed as an enormous pie—Anant makes up a slice, there are my family and friends, and the pie gets further sliced by work, the communities I’m a part of, etc. And because nothing is permanent, each slice of the pie redistributes itself depending on where we are in our lives.
The point here is that neither one ]of us relies on the other person for all of our needs and moods.
There have been many specific situations and events when Anant relied on different friends and family members to manage his emotions. The same has been true for me. What’s exciting about all of this is that I know there are a lot of great things we can do individually and then there’s some fun things that we can do together.
We recently did another check-in at the 10-year mark, and here are some of the goals that we reconstructed for our contract:
• Continue to respect one another
• Build new relationships, expand our network and make new friends
• Pursue personal and career goals
• Challenge constructs of marriage
• And maybe, just maybe—find new cities, countries or places to live
I’m both a little scared and excited.
As a resident of San Francisco, Heena Patel is an IT professional with experience in international health and community development through her involvement in the non-profit sector.