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Couples Chronicles ó Interview 15
The Ultimate Act of Loving
by Demian
First published in May 1988
© January 7, 2018, Demian

Peter Shalit, M.D., 34, is a resident physician, and Andy Wilks, 40, is a librarian. They have been in a committed relationship for eight years and live in Seattle. After living apart for the first five years of their relationship, they moved into a house that Peter purchased with an inheritance.

How did you first meet?

Andy: We were introduced at a dance concert.

Peter: Later, we met on the bus several times and I finally asked Andy for his phone number. We arranged a date in May, which we consider to be our anniversary date.

Andy: When I first met Peter, I had a feeling we would have some kind of relationship. I didnít feel like I had to rush anything because I thought something was going to happen anyway.

Peter: I didnít have that idea at all about Andy, but I thought he was very sexy. Every time we would run into each other, I had this terrible fear that Iíd never see him again.

We didnít have it in mind to have a long-term relationship. We were seeing other people at the same time.

When did you figure this was a long-term relationship?

Andy: The following month, Peter went away on vacation and I watched his apartment, watering plants and such. Thatís when I realized we werenít just seeing each other; that it was a relationship.

Peter: Me too. Weíd been spending a lot of time together, just because we felt like it.

Iíd been planning this vacation for a long time with a man I had been seeing on an annual basis for about five years. When the time came to leave for the vacation, I felt really torn up. It was going to be the first time Iíd been away from Andy for more than a day or two. It made both of us realize we were important to each other.

It was weird because we were both still dating others at the same time, which we both felt was important.

Why was it important for you to date others?

Peter: I had previously been in a relationship for about seven years that had ended maybe six months before I met Andy. It was a very sheltering kind of relationship with a lover who was very jealous of my even knowing other gay people, much less socializing with them. I was on the rebound from that and, also, I wanted to know a lot of people, not commit myself to any one person.

Though it was sometimes emotionally hard, we agreed that we would occasionally go out separately. We kept our separate apartments for about five years, living across the street from each other.

Andy: During those years, I found myself growing less interested in sexual encounters with other people.

Peter: As time went on, we became sort of de facto ďmonogamous.Ē Four years ago, we decided to be exclusively monogamous, specifically because of AIDS and our fear of bringing it into the relationship.

We both value not having to be concerned about safe sex between ourselves, because we have no sex with other people. Itís nice. Sexually, we can do anything we want with each other.

We know we are both HIV-negative. I learned this through a study that Iíve been in for years. After a year of monogamy, Andy got tested.

I also needed to know my status because Iíve been trying, by alternative insemination, to have a baby with a lesbian friend. She will be economically and physically responsible for the child. I want to be more than just a donor, but my time is limited these days.

Andy, do you also want a baby?

Andy: I think if Peter has a baby, I will enjoy it, but it is not something I would have sought for myself.

Have you executed legal papers on each other?

Andy: No, weíve talked about it, but weíve not taken the time to do it.

Have you combined your finances?

Peter: Not really. We have a joint account that we use for household expenses.

Andy: If itís not a household item, it depends a lot on who wants what. If I want a new piece of furniture, I pay for it.

How are your relationships with your parents?

Andy: My mother died before she ever met Peter. She was uncomfortable with the reality of my being in a relationship with somebody. My father and my sisters seem to have adjusted very well.

Peter: My mother died many years ago. I came out to my father when I was nineteen. Heís been accepting of my being gay for a long time, and he likes Andy.

After Andy and I had been together a few years, my father gave me the impression that he didnít think it a good idea to take Andy to my school or work functions. That seemed very strange to me.

I told him that my leaving Andy behind would be the same as if he couldnít bring his wife to an office party. Apparently, he hadnít seen this as the same kind of relationship, and it opened his eyes.

Andy gets along great with my family. I have five brothers and sisters, and Iím the only one who has had any kind of long-term relationship. Iím also the only one that has had a Jewish boyfriend.

What are your religious backgrounds?

Peter: Weíre both Jewish. I was born that way and Andy converted.

Andy: I was about 18.

Peter: Long before we met.

Have you held a formal relationship ceremony or celebration?

Peter: Nothing formal. Every year, our anniversary is acknowledged at the gay Jewish congregation when we host the post-service dessert.

Other couples have tried to make up some kind of ceremony honoring their relationship and it looked kind of silly.

Andy: My feeling is that our relationship doesnít exist because of being recognized by anyone else. Therefore, it would be undignified to have a marriage or ceremony.

Peter: Some of my straight friends have had an un-married relationship for a long time, then they got married, partly because of the recognition, and partly because of the gifts they get from their families.

I have one set of friends whose parents bought them a house as a wedding present. That was their reason for formalizing their marriage.

What has been difficult in your relationship?

Peter: Time has been a big problem for me because of my schedule as a resident.

Andy: Peter started med school about a year after we got together, which wasnít bad for the first couple of years. But once he started working in the hospital, the hours got weird.

Peter: And staying over night.

Andy: It was a trial for us, but I donít think it was something that came between us. In the eight years, weíve had maybe four times when we had to be out of each otherís presence for a few hours. Thereís no area where we nag each other.

Peter: Andy puts up with a lot; how much Iím away at work, and how tired I am when I get home.

I know of only one other couple that remained together from the start of my class at medical school to the finish.

What has supported your relationship?

Andy: Common interests have helped a lot: We both enjoy gardening, cooking and eating.

It wasnít important in forming the relationship, but the fact that we are both Jewish has been an important factor in our relationship. Before our relationship started, I never thought that would be important.

Peter: Itís been really nice to share that, and to celebrate the holidays together. I rediscovered my Jewishness with Andy. And the gay Jewish congregation has been wonderful.

Andy: One of the things that has been really good in our relationship is that we make space for each other.

Peter: The years we lived across the street from one another was good that way. We arranged to be apart for certain evenings.

Andy: These days, if one of us needs time alone when we get home, we donít consider it an imposition.

Iím reminded of this idea: The first thing God did in creating the world was to remove him-or-herself to make a space for creation to come into being. To make a space is considered the ultimate act of loving. Itís not being plastered to each other. Allowing space for somebody else to exist in and to develop is in some ways a more loving act.

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