Thoughts by Richard Bleil
They say that behind every great man is a great woman. It’s an outdated saying from an outdated time with outdated ideas of the role of women in our society. It might be better today to say behind every great person is a partner.
Or so I guess.
Unfortunately, I’ve lived more or less alone all of my life. Even when I was married, I didn’t really feel as if I had a true partner, at least not the kind of partner I would have wanted. She wasn’t very supportive, to say the least, and certainly wasn’t loyal.
But I have great friends with great partners. I’ve seen how powerful couples can be when they truly support one another, emotionally and otherwise. I’ve written before that the two worst times when you are alone is when things go horribly bad and you have nobody to share your woes with, or when things go incredibly well, and you have nobody with whom to share your joy. Alone, I have accomplished some wonderful things, but I can’t help but wonder what heights I could have reached, or where I would be today, if I had a supportive partner.
I have a really great friend with a fantastic husband. He’s a superb friend as well. I’ve been fortunate to have had Thanksgiving with them in the past a few times. I met her when I was working as a forensic lab director. The organization that treated me so badly and eventually let me go did the same thing (in a different way) first. They have a habit of cutting out great people that they just don’t like, I suspect they are usually people intelligent enough to make the chief feel insecure. But she and her husband are such great partners. They developed a business plan to start their own company, and have been business partners, life partners, and continue to be so to this day.
Another friend of mine has a marvelous husband (much to my disappointment) who is supportive in a different way. He has his own company, and she does help him out from time to time, but mostly, as they’ve been married, she is growing and developing on her own. Her growth would only be possible with a supportive partner, and I don’t mean financially supportive. She started her own daycare company, and is continuing her education, closing in on her bachelor’s degree in psychology even as I write this. I don’t mean to imply that he is paying for her (I doubt she needs the money), but rather, just to be supportive of her emotionally and to be accepting of the time commitment it takes is a great thing.
Sadly, I know far too many relationships that are not supportive. It always breaks my heart, and, as sexist as it might sound, most of the time (but not always) it’s the man who isn’t supportive. Sometimes I think that they want to be but just really don’t know how. I might be talking about my own generation here, but to be conceptually supportive is not really the same as giving the partner the time and space for homework, pitching in with the kids and housework, and just generally being there for the partner. And sometimes, it’s not necessary.
It wasn’t until college when I was invited to my first Catholic wedding and, for the first time, saw a unity candle. I saw the two lit candles on either side of the unlit one and immediately recognized what would happen and the symbolism it meant. I was mesmerized as the young bride and groom lit the new candle to symbolize the start of a new entity as a couple, and completely horrified as they snuffed out their own individual candles.
The reality is that in a relationship, there are still two individuals. Each member continues to have unique dreams and goals outside of the relationship, and in the very best relationships, both member supports the other in their private dreams, as well as contributing to growing as a couple. I’ve always wanted to be that kind of husband, but never had the opportunity. For what it’s worth, I honestly believe that anybody can be so much better with the correct partner than without.
The reality is that we, none of us, are meant to be alone. We’re two halves of the same whole, and without a partner, like me, we’re just a hole. (If you chuckled at that a little bit, I concur, but I love the turn of phrase so much that I’ve elected to keep it in, as in, I have a hole where my life should be.) If you have a great partner who you support, and that you try to support, take a moment to let them know how much you appreciate that person.