Couples Chronicles — Interview 4
Lives Wrapped Around Each Other
First published in May 1987
© 1999, Demian
Richard Merk and Brad Peyton have been partners for over 10 years [in 1987]. They reside in Woodside, California.
How did you meet?
Richard: We met thirteen years ago, but just briefly. I was doing a lot of traveling and came back two years later. Brad had been renting a cottage my mother owns. It took a month and a half for us to discover each other.
What attracted you to each other?
Richard: He was (laughter) real good looking and real sexy walking around the garden with almost no clothes on…
Brad: …give me a…
Richard: …and he could cook. He feeds me really well.
Brad: He eats really well.
When he first came home from his trip I invited him over for dinner.
I was attracted to him by his friendliness.
Richard: He knew that I liked men, and I knew that he liked men.
Brad: He wasn’t pushy. We saw each other for three months before we slept together. We sort of glided into each other’s arms.
Richard: I was hesitant to get in bed with Brad because I thought it wasn’t good business bedding somebody who’s renting from us.
Brad: He still thinks that, but I don’t rent any more.
What do you enjoy most about each other?
Richard: Being together, having lunch or breakfast together, going for a walk, telling each other how our day was. We very much enjoy spending a lot of time together, compared to most people.
Until recently, we could come home for lunch, sit, snuggle together…
Brad: …then go back to work. Now, I work 8 to 4. I really miss those lunch times. We simply enjoy each other’s company.
What do you do for income?
Brad: I was a gardener. Now, I work in a senior day care program. I’m now getting my certificate to qualify for an activity director’s job.
Richard: I’m a carpenter, electrician, and jack-of-all-trades. I do a lot of home repair and remodeling projects, part of which includes fancy, ornamental Japanese carpentry.
I’m also in the process of changing my work. A year ago I got interested in work on human bodies. I got a California state masseur’s license and now I’m in a training program to learn an energy system called Zero Balancing.
In the last 18 months both of us have been in a dynamic period of change, completely changing our careers. I started before Brad and I think it intimidated him for a while.
Brad: It made me realize I had to find something for myself, something new. I wasn’t happy with gardening anymore. His change gave me permission, and made it seem possible.
How did you support each other with career changes?
Richard: Brad has supported me in my body work by being my guinea pig (he seems to like that a lot), and by touting my capabilities. He has gotten me work through his job and circle of friends.
I tend to be reclusive. Brad has drawn me out into the world more, gotten me in contact with people.
Brad: One way Richard supported me was when I came home from my AIDS Buddy training weekend. I expressed some very upsetting things I experienced and thought about as a result of the training. He’d hear them and hold my hand.
Has your relationship changed through the years?
Richard: It has gone through phases. Year nine was real tough. There were a couple of door-slamming times…
Brad: …pack up the Cuisinart; head on down the road.
Sounds like there was anger.
Richard: There was. Whenever I’m angry at Brad it’s because he’s not living up to my expectation. Which, of course, is unreasonable.
Was that what was happening at year nine?
Brad: Yes, I think so.
Richard: I had physical problems which made it difficult for me to work. There was worry about money, work; lots of stress, and I was having a big, heavy scene with my mother. I’d be in these horrible funks and Brad had to deal with this asshole. I don’t know how he stood it as well as he did.
Brad, how did you stand it?
Brad: Love. I knew Richard had a little monster inside controlling things. It wasn’t the real Richard.
Did Richard’s new work have an impact on the relationship?
Brad: As soon as he found something he could genuinely give to people, I told my mom, “This is the fellow I fell in love with.”
Richard: All through my life, I had all this love in me and no legitimate, socially-acceptable way of giving it to people. Now I can touch people, and it’s non-threatening. It opened up my heart and made me a lot softer.
Richard, what kept you from leaving the relationship during the hard times?
Richard: What saved me from walking out was that I knew the love between us was more important, deeper and stronger than any of this little shit. I knew, when I was pissed at Brad, our love was more important. That would bring me back to reality.
Have you gotten support for your relationship from the community?
Richard: Not from my part of the community, perhaps from Brad’s. Some support from parents; very little negativity. We’re all friends with each other’s families. They don’t invite one of us somewhere, and not the other.
Brad: I’m more willing to talk about us with co-workers, as well as my clients. I’ll talk about my life to get close to them; bring them out of their shells. I do get support from them. For instance, I spoke about problems Richard had with his health, and every now and then they asked on their own, “How’s your friend?” That makes me feel so good.
Richard: I’ve been more in the closet, because of working in the construction trades. There’s so many macho, tough types…
Richard: …I know it’s only my perception of them, but it’s my reality.
For instance, when I’m at the lumber yard, and want to pick through the pile of wood for the nicest sticks, I need to have rapport with these guys. I pick up on the kind of language they use, the attitudes they have, and work with that.
I don’t feel I can go there and say, “Me and my lover are going skiing” to these guys who drive pickup trucks. It’s probably just paranoia, but I have this fear that it’s going to change their attitude toward me, making it more difficult.
This is not the case with my body work clients, which is a real load off my mind. I feel much more comfortable. I don’t feel I have to be a different kind of person.
At what age did you discuss your sexuality with your parents?
Brad: At about 17.
Richard: Around 30.
Did that change your relationship to them?
Brad: Nor with mine. Their idea of who Brad is, is very clear. I’m basically a nice person. I was a good kid, and that’s what they care about.
Richard: With me the message is more mixed. I think my mother really would have liked me to get married and have kids. If I talk to her she says, “Whatever makes you happy, that’s what’s important.” That’s the verbal message, but I feel she really goes, “Oh, dear.”
Actually, Brad is as much a member of the family to her as anybody is.
Brad: Yes, I weaseled right in.
Richard: He takes care of her better than I do. I think she appreciates our relationship a lot.
My parents were divorced when I was very small, so my father is out of the picture. One of the last times I saw him, he was watching the hippies doing something on T.V. He said, “Those god-damn hippies! I’d cut their nuts off!” I had short hair, but inside I was a hippie.
If he’d lived longer he might have mellowed, as my mother did.
Do you have a “monogamous” relationship?
Brad: We do.
Richard: Once in a while, there used to be a third party. But not in the last couple of years. There are too many other things to think about now-a-days. Neither one of us wants to expose ourselves to unnecessary health risks.
Five years ago, things were a little different. We would occasionally go out separately. From time to time, we’d get together with friends for a three-way. The health crisis certainly is one reason we don’t anymore, but it may just be the fact we’ve mellowed into, and are comfortable with, each other.
Brad: We have this really nice relationship now. Why threaten it? Also, we’ve grown much more close in the past few years.
Richard: We now see a lot of those same people regularly as friends. We have people over for dinner a lot. We also have a lot of straight friends; maybe more straight than gay friends.
Because Brad and I are together so much, they get drawn into being friends to both of us. We seem to like the same people.
How are your household economics set up?
Richard: We have a joint checking account, but we don’t use it, which is kind of weird.
Brad: A lot of my money goes to food and household expenses, and Richard takes care of the utilities.
Any interpersonal contracts?
Richard: No. We’ve been talking about durable power of attorney and wills, and we haven’t done it yet. We never seem to get to it.
Do you have a philosophy for a long-term partnership?
Brad: I think it’s important to keep one’s sense of humor; to hold on during the rough times. The most important thing is the relationship.
Richard: It’s hard for me to imagine living without Brad. We are so intertwined, our lives are wrapped around each other.
Sounds like you love each other.
Brad: We do.
Richard: And we constantly tell each other how much…
Brad: …little notes all over the house…
Richard: Both of us also give thanks for what we have: to be able to live in a nice house in a beautiful place, and to be able to do the kind of work we like. We’re so lucky.
The underlying love is the chemical bond, and there’s no way to put that in words. It’s an experience we have with, and for, each other.