The Subtlety of a Relationship

Admittedly I am an observer of people. Perhaps because I am not an extrovert when I am out in a public setting I watch people. I examine body language and watch facial expression.

Last night we had dinner on the beach. Outdoors on a beautifully clear California day as the evening begins, people began to be seated and I went into the observatory of my mind. I simultaneously chatted with my husband and I watched co-workers sit down after a conference and order drinks and appetizers laughing and talking. Soon, others came and gathered at their table. Everyone seemed relaxed and enjoying the evening. Everyone keeping friendship distance, some standing, some sitting.

At our table the discussion was on listening to children yelling in glee in the background and when that ends? When do we stop yelling in sheer bliss? Was it when the parents told us to shush? Or did we just stop expressing ourselves in that way naturally? We commented about how Erin yells in sheer happiness but Cameron no longer does. I noticed his arm around me as he tightened his grip just a little as we talked about our grands. The subtlety of a relationship’s happiness in that one almost undetectable squeeze. He’s happy in this moment I think to myself. He is relaxed and happy. “Isn’t this a great place?” He says almost in response.

At another table a couple sat down. The husband expressed loudly, “Seriously, I came out to watch you look at your phone?” Most of the time I don’t get to actually hear conversations but this guy made no bones about his irritation. She said, “Sorry.” And put her phone down. They sat together and seemed to have a good conversation after that. Sometimes we need just a little reminder about habits. My husband laughed and said, “It is just such a habit to sit down and grab your phone. I totally understand her.” I did hear him tell the table next to him that they had been married for 30 years. They didn’t seem to share the same sort of connection though. Sometimes the cares of life get in the way of the blessing.

A couple who looked to be in their 60’s were seated. They sat on the same side of the table. They ordered cocktails and began to talk. He leaned in while she talked. He brushed her hand with his. As they laughed together she put her hand on his arm. These couples are my favorite to watch. They have fostered a good relationship. Their nuanced interactions show the work they have put into their marriage. The small merging of the life they have forged together plays out in those small gestures. The subtlety of two becoming one may go unnoticed by the daily grind that is their life but it shines through if you look close enough.

I watched as a young man walked in and sat at a small table. He looked to be a young professional maybe 30? He ordered a drink and was on his phone for about 30 minutes. A woman walked in with a friend. The friend introduced the woman to the man, the man stood and shook the woman’s hand and she sat down with the man as the friend walked away. You could tell it was awkward. His leg moved a mile a minute underneath the table. Her smile and way she sat showed she was attracted to him but very cautious.

My husband and I moved a little closer to one another as we discussed them. Once again, the subtlety of a couple’s movement that you don’t even notice unless you are paying attention. Thank you Lord, for giving me the discernment to pay attention to them. He asked me, “How would like to be that couple?” “No thank you, but you know, that is how it is done these days.” He then said, “I never went on a blind date.” “Me neither.” Reaching absentmindedly for my hand he said, “Thank God I never have to.” The subtlety of a relationship when you give each other a knowing glance and it speaks everything you have to say and more without uttering a sound.

As couples walked down the sidewalk and reached for each other’s hands or walked with their arms around each other I am always amazed about how body language plays such a part in a relationship. Whether it be driving down the road and he looks over at me and smiles, or reaches over to hold my hand or sitting side by side here at dinner talking, people watching, laughing at inside jokes and never noticing the countless times we touch or glance at one another until I stop to pay attention. Until I look up from what has caught my attention and see connectivity on a different level. Until I become acutely aware of the fact that I truly do not know anymore where I end and he begins. It just becomes unconscious movements towards one another.

It’s when we’re watching tv and he moves from the recliner to the couch and I tuck my feet under his thigh and we share popcorn. It’s when we are cooking dinner and we touch one another as we move about to make our part of the meal. The public display isn’t territorial as in the man who grabs the woman’s butt in public to mark his territory. No, this is subtle, loving, genuine.

“C’mon”, he says as he kisses my temple and puts his napkin on the table. “Let’s go watch the sunset and take some pictures.”

I grab his hand and smile. As the saying goes, we may not have it all together but together we have it all.

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