The best of my love

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Did my partner Edna forget it again, as chronicled in last year’s column? You might be surprised to read that it didn’t matter to me. Reason One is because I really got her attention last year. 

Reason Two is that I’m also seeing the bigger picture — as evidenced by an upcoming prostate exam (which, for some reason, has become very important for Edna, who’s been showing more concern for my well being). I was on hold the other day, waiting to make the appointment and listening to the canned ’70s music — when I realized I was tapping my toes to the “Best of My Love.” 

Was it The Eagle’s version, you may wonder, with its lost-love lament? Or maybe Olivia Newton-John’s sugar pop? Neither. It was The Emotions’ joyous, booty-shakin’ R&B romp with the heavily-repeated chorus: “Whoa, whoa, you got the best of my love!”

Hearing the chorus over and over got me to thinking. I’ve had a few relationships that fell on The Eagle’s side of the fence, and a few on The Emotion’s side, and it has something to do with cylinders — such as in a big, fat 12-cylinder engine. I used to think that I had to share all 12 relationship “cylinders” with my partner — romance, intelligence, sexiness, good parenting, financial security, knowing where the keys are, fine cooking, caring, communication, kindness, friendship and desire to have (or not have) kids.  

I had a few relationships where the cylinders weren’t all firing and I had good reasons for not giving the best of my love, like the fellow climber who was in love with a married man while she dated me. And the Peace Corps volunteer who was “just about to leave” — for 10 months.  

This was much less the case with a fellow writer I met in grad school, the smart, beautiful “Kitty,” who also had a venomous sense of humor and a tongue wicked enough to wield it. I lured her back to Minnesota where she got a curator job at one of our big art museums. 

We started out revving at pretty high-RPMs, and I gave her more of “the best of me” than I’d given the others, but she also had me at my worst. I’d had a mountain bike injury and ruptured some disks in my neck, then blew out my rock-climbing elbows so badly I couldn’t climb. I was in pain and grumpy all the time — and needed someone to care for me more. Plus I was myopically finishing a novel and couldn’t broaden my focus to include her interests — which frustrated Kitty, who wanted to be “all-in” together.  

Maybe we just needed to accept that, although we were firing on most cylinders, we weren’t firing on a few that really mattered. I found it hard to tell her how awesome she was when she had so much going for her. I begrudged her this — and ultimately deprived myself of greater happiness with her. Or, heck, maybe we both just got out while the gettin’ was good. 

In any case, I learned my lesson, and when my present partner (and wife) Edna came cruising by I made sure we drove slowly even though we didn’t have all our shared relationship cylinders firing equally. I decided that the cylinders that were firing should get an awful lot of attention. I tell her when she’s looking good, and when her food is delicious, and how much I appreciate her smart, well-considered opinions — and what a loving mother she is to our son. 

To make sure your own shared cylinders are firing right and to give — and get — the best of each other, ask yourself these questions: 

Are your past relationships coloring your present one?

Do you begrudge your partner some parts of you that they deserve? Is there something that you’re withholding?

If there are some cylinders in your relationship that aren’t firing right, decide if you should fight for them or let them go. Sometimes, if you’re getting enough torque off those cylinders that are there, the other cylinders (like remembering birthdays or putting gas in the car) aren’t so important anymore. 

Finally, ask yourself if you are getting the best of your partner. Are they holding back? Can you draw them out?  That’s what I had to do with Edna, when I demanded that she give me more attention through the mild lashing of last year’s post-Valentine’s Day column. Since then, she’s shared more of her love and care for me — even urging me to get that pesky prostate exam. 

Come to think of it, though, she did grin rather impishly when I thanked her for pushing me to make the appointment, and then mumbled “just making sure you really are getting the best of my love,” as she mimed the snapping of a examination glove. Hmm.

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Sean Toren loves living the full catastrophe in Minneapolis with his wife and son. He can be contacted at editor@mnparent.com with thoughts or suggestions.