The art of compromise
No matter the relationship there comes a time when compromise must be made. It is said that compromise can be seen as a matter of life and death, a road to either safety or break up. Hence it is a matter of study that can on no accounts be neglected. Some people agree that compromise is critically important to sustaining a healthy relationship while others feel that two people shouldn’t have to change themselves in order to be together. No matter your argument, it can’t be denied that at some point you both will come to a crossroads and you will have to decide which path to take.
Since I’ve started dating Keith, we have both realized that for this to have any chance of working we would have to learn to compromise very early on. While most couples would still be cruising down Honeymoon Avenue in horse-drawn carriages, we were getting into the trenches learning each other good and bad. We knew that we already had distance against us and that communication would be paramount in making sure we were able to build upon the foundation we had laid. Although we had an original disagreement on that communication it was one of our very first compromises between one another. It’s now December and we agreed to visit our families and see one another for New Years here in Atlanta.
Christmas time here with my family was an absolutely amazing time. I helped decorate the tree and put presents under it. We went outside in the uncannily warm Georgia weather to string lights as well. I also got around to seeing my father and step-mothers side of the family which was the first time in four years. I also used it as an opportunity to come clean with them about my sexuality. Now don’t get me wrong, I have come to terms with myself back in 2005 but I never told anyone on this side of my family yet. So after finishing up the holiday with my mother’s side, I drove my Nissan across town to see them.
“Hey! Who is that? Is that Cam Newton walking in our door?” my cousin exclaims loudly as I walk through the front door of my grandmother’s home. I smiled.
“No but I’ve got a mean hail Mary,” I replied giving her a tight hug.
“I KNOW that ain’t my nephew! Who I ain’t seen since he went off to join the service,” came a sharp voice from the dining room. I chuckled before turning the corner to see a woman with a large butcher knife in her hand and her hands on her hips.
“It is Auntie! Hey!” I said approaching her with arms open wide for a hug. She held the knife out before her causing me to stop abruptly.
“Uh uh. Don’t come near me! I got a knife!” she said glaring. We stared for a moment before bursting out in simultaneous laughter. I closed to divide and she put the knife back in the ham and we hugged. This was my aunt Trixci, my favorite aunt on this side of the family. She was a strong woman with a lot of personality and charisma. She is always upbeat and though she works a lot to support her family I never once have heard her complain or seem down about anything.
“I know it’s been four years and I’m sorry, I just didn’t think that you all would be ok with…well my lifestyle,” I said after taking my seat and saying my hellos to everyone.
“What lifestyle is that?” my aunt Monica asked. I paused thinking of the most diplomatic way of saying this.
“Well I have a new boo,” I said figuring I’d start with the most recent facts since I knew my aunt Monica and a few of my cousins would know this already as we were friends on Facebook.
“Oh ok. And what does the new boo have to do with why I ain’t seen you?” aunt Trixci said glare back in her eyes.
“Nothing. I was just bringing it up to say that he and I would be spending New Years together in Atlanta,” I answered quickly deciding to cut to the chase. There was a momentary pause where everyone exchanged side glances before the conversation continued.
“Oho! So are we going to meet him before you leave?” aunt Trixci asked.
“He’s coming here right?” Aunt Monica chimed in. I looked puzzled. This wasn’t what I expected their reactions to be. Aunt Trixci caught my confusion and waved a hand as if waving off a fly.
“Boy if the reason you haven’t come to see me is because you thought we didn’t know you are gay then you don’t know us very well. We’ve known for years,” she said sipping from her red solo cup which I imagined had more than just cranberry juice in it.
“Well…I guess that I have no excuse then,” I answered smiling.
From then on the conversation turned to my relationship. Everyone wanted to see pictures of him and were genuinely interested in meeting him. I guess the old adage “easier the second time around” is true in this case. The drama I had to endure with my first coming out wasn’t felt in the least bit here. Everyone was supportive and understanding and it made me love them all if possible more. After the night was over I returned home to my mother’s place and hit the bed.
The next morning I woke up to a message on my Jack’d. Upon logging in to see who it was I was shocked to see that it was Cameron, my ex. Now Cameron is not just an ex. He is the first boyfriend I had when I moved to the US from Japan. Cameron and I met back in high school. We dated all through senior year and ended in our first year of college when I cheated on him with a guy who would turn out to be no good for me. Classic case of grass not being greener on the other side. We chatted it up and agreed to meet up while we were both in town before I returned to Kentucky and he to D.C.
A few hours after receiving his message I decided to hit up Keith. We hadn’t talked much during the holiday because I knew he was with his family and I didn’t want to interfere with that. Family is important. I told him about meeting up with Cameron and how we communicated this meeting and he seemed unperturbed which bothered me a little but I said nothing and we went to bed early that day to avoid thinking on it.
The next day Cameron and I ended up cancelling because he had to go see his brother off to basic training. So I spent the day catching up with friends like Nicole and Wade whom I hadn’t talked to since I’ve been home for the holidays either. As a majority of our conversations do, it ended up about Keith and I.
“So I’m going to be plain, your situation sounds like another Josh and I. You remember where I had to beg him for time and attention,” Nicole stated bluntly.
“No, they’ve fixed that issue girl, remember? They talked about it and Keith is doing better with communication and so is Javari. My only remaining issue is this not being out thing,” Wade answered. I rolled my eyes on the phone.
“Wait…what?” Nicole asked confused.
“She doesn’t know?” Wade asked.
“Know what?” Nicole asked confusion peaking.
“That Keith is not out to his family yet,” I said impatiently, silently cussing Wade out for bringing it up. They both paused.
“Look it’s not that big of a deal ok? He’s already said that he wants to do it he’s just trying to find the right time. I don’t think ruining Christmas with the news is the best time,” I said trying to sound like I was attempting to convince them more than myself.
“And that’s cute, but how much more are you going to compromise on? First this and then the Jack’d thing?” Nicole quizzed. It was Wade’s turn to be confused.
“Wait…what’re you talking about Nicky?” he asked.
“Keith still has a Jack’d, which is how Javari and Cameron messaged. Because when Javari found out he reuploaded the app himself,” Nicole responded before I could answer.
“Javari…” Wade groaned.
“What is this an intervention?” I asked sarcastically.
“Look boo, we are your friends and I would be remiss if I didn’t look out for you. I feel like you are giving up a lot here. Why? Why compromise on things that mean so much to you? Like why does he even still have a Jack’d?” Wade asked controlling his patience.
“He keeps it to network and meet like minded people,” I said, reciting Keith’s answer to the same question I asked him weeks ago.
“Do you believe that?” Nicole asked me.
“Look. I appreciate you two I really do, but I don’t want to be that type of partner to change anyone. If Keith wants to come out for himself then he can do it. If he wants to delete his app for himself then he can do it. I don’t want our relationship to feel like a weight,” I said my own patience wearing thin.
“So…is Jack’d a part of who he is?” Wade asked me simply.
“Well…no,” I said unable to counter that question. There was another moment of silence in which I knew the two of them were choosing their next words carefully.
“Listen. I just don’t want you to wake up one day having made all these…compromises and be in a relationship that you regret. You’re going to wake up and not know who you are anymore,” Wade explained.
“Wade’s right, Javari. I know how important family involvement is for you. You make no secret of your plans to have both families in you and your future hubbys life. Can you really defend that? Are you willing to give that up? Because that’s what his will mean,” Nicole stated.
“Geez…I didn’t think I was calling you two for life lessons. Look I love that you two are looking out for me I really do, but it’s my relationship. I know you are only looking out for me but if I’m ok with it I need you to be as well, please?” I asked. They agreed reluctantly and we decided to share happier news about their holidays with their families.
The truth was I wasn’t ok with it. I don’t want to give up that dream I have for my future. I am willing to give Keith all the time he needs. I don’t want to pressure him into making any decisions for me. I’ve done that before and it never worked in my favor. I want him to make decisions, even decisions for us because he wants to. Not because he’s pressured into it by me. Deep down I was optimistic that before we made it to any “till death do us part” type vows he would tell his family and it wouldn’t be a worry. Deeper down was the worry that he wouldn’t. I didn’t like to think about it, especially since we were just beginning to manage the distance.
As I drove to pick him up from the Atlanta airport on New Years Eve I couldn’t help but wonder, how much is too much compromise? Together we prepared to enter 2017 and I was hopeful for what it would bring for us.