Thomas and Dustin

September 6th, 2010

I met Thomas and Dustin at a trendy restaurant inside the Seattle Art Museum, which Thomas carefully selected. He told me he had a vision for the setting of our interview. He wanted a place with clean design and lots of white. Later, he would reveal that everything was exactly as he imagined, and he was so happy.

Thomas and Dustin Love Story

And though I, too, was happy, I had no idea what to imagine when sitting down with the gregarious, yet surprisingly grounded, couple. We all share a mutual friend, but never spent any real time with each other. From a distance, I took note of how handsome the pair was, and how stylishly they dressed. They went to wine bars and brunch on top of mountains. They lived in a loft. I don’t know what kind of relationships I think cosmopolitan couples have, but I guess I inferred that there is a certain level of superficiality that matches the outer life they enjoy together. I blame Millionaire Matchmaker for that false assumption. Thomas and Dustin are solid gold, for sure, but not the kind you find in a bank. The kind you find under your feet. The foundation.

An illustration of the strength of their foundation comes from the fact that, when they speak, they give each other space to use their own words but manage to stay on the same page, proving they’re actually hearing the other person. Thomas would say something, Dustin would add to the story, and then pass it back to Thomas to complete the thought. It was entirely spontaneous, but almost artfully choreographed. They are clearly individuals, with their own opinions and identities, yet when they come together, they engage in this lovely dance with one another that makes them appear to be a unified whole. And they are. But they’ve got something figured out that most people never come to understand: the importance of balance. They do not lose themselves in each other. Instead, they dance on the same stage, far enough apart to be two dancers, but close enough to feel the same vibration beneath their feet. The vibration that can only come from two people dancing the same dance.

And so, to honor their dance, I’m going to let them tell their own story.

Curtain, stage left…

D: Right before I met Thomas, I created a rule for myself that I was not going to date anyone under 25 because everyone that age was either crazy or needed a parental figure of some sort. He just turned 26 when we met. I didn’t like him at first.

T: I thought he was trouble. I was dating someone at the time, but our friend Dana got us together. He was having an art party.

D: No, that’s not right. I was taking my dog to the dog beach and Dana said Thomas has a dog and would love to go to the beach with me because he didn’t like to get his car dirty. I told her to tell Thomas to meet me at my house and we’d go together. I think he thought I was mentally off when we first met. I was a little socially awkward at the time.

T: He was a different person than the usual people in Tampa. He doesn’t have this very sunshine view of everything. Has a little bit of dark and twisted in him, which interested me. What interested me the most, though, was that he was an artist. I found that fascinating. A lot of his views come from the ideas he fabricates when he does his artwork. He has a different view of everything, and I found that really refreshing.

D: You thought all that when I first opened the door? I started to like Thomas that day at the beach. He came prepared with sandwiches and snacks for both the dog and himself. He also brought extra food and water for me and my dog, Suzy.

T: I also had towels and umbrellas.

D: I thought, “This guy is a real catch.” That’s when Suzy fell in love with you, too. She thought, “Usually, dad makes me drink out of the hose before we leave.” Well, that, and I thought he had nice legs.

T: At that time, things weren’t working well with my ex.

D: I had just turned 30.

T: A month and a half later, when he found out from a mutual friend I had broken up with my ex, I got a call from him.

D: The first thing I told him on our date was, “Let’s just get one thing out of the way. I am not a real estate agent.”

T: I never understood what he meant by that.

D: It was crazy for me to think someone who dated a real estate agent would date a crazy artist like me. His ex was like superman to me. I was going to drum and bass shows. I was successful, but in a different way.

T: That’s just what I needed, though.

D: I didn’t have to live up to being a real estate agent.

T: We were honest from the get go. We put everything out there and said, “This is who I am.”

D: We didn’t have the same circles. We would have these amazing dinners and afterwards, we’d go our separate ways. We took it really slow. Didn’t move in together until 2 years later.

T: We were individuals. We collaborated on a lot of things, but still had our own sets of interests. He did his art, I did my dancing, and we came together in the middle. We didn’t feel obligated to always hang out with each other. You can never lose yourself in a relationship. You always have to have that individuality.

D: Put us into a party and we don’t sit next to each other. We like to travel the room separately, then meet back up.

T: In this relationship we are individuals, but people still know us as a couple. When you go from relationship to relationship and think about what failed or what you wish could’ve been different, you start using that for the next one and don’t repeat the same mistakes.

D: You have to learn to love yourself so you can love others.

T: When we first started dating, he liked the fact that I had opinions. We don’t always have to agree on the same things.

D: Which makes it great. Sometimes.

T: I didn’t fall in love with him because he agrees with me all the time.

D: You like my OCD.

T: I like that if I need a different idea, I can always go to him for a different perspective. I like that it’s not always rosy. I always felt that if you don’t have a little disagreement in the relationship, then there was no more spark. We fight all the time. There are some times I want to throw something at his head.

D: Sometimes I look at him and think, “I’m done with you.” I think I have a mental breakup once a week. But we always have to give each other a kiss every night before we go sleep. You can’t stay mad after that.

T: That’s a rule of mine. Never go to sleep mad. He’ll sometimes give up on the conversation, but I won’t. It’s better to get it out of the way, so in the morning, all the pressure and stress is lifted.

D: I have certain triggers for moods. So if I’m unhappy, I really have to look at what’s making me unhappy and usually it’s something I have to change within myself. The relationship is solid, so if something needs to change, it’s me. I need to be alone and have time to create. Sometimes I’ll get mad at Thomas for stupid things, and usually it’s because I haven’t created in awhile and I’m projecting on him rather than changing my actions.

T: I’ve definitely learned to have more patience. Not everyone is as open as I am. I tell people how I’m feeling at any given moment, and some people need to analyze first. I expect Dustin to tell me everything, but sometimes he doesn’t want to release any information because he processes first, and I don’t understand that. I have to tell myself to back off sometimes when I expect him to tell me what he’s thinking.

D: A lot of times he tells me I’m just hungry. He’s usually right.

T: Sometimes you have to ask someone, “When this comes up again, what would you like me to do?”

D: I like brutal honesty. Sometimes Thomas just tells me to just get over it.

T: Dustin is often blunt, but you have to remind yourself that it’s coming from a good place. Like some of the comments he makes on my cooking. They’re not cherry-flavored comments. Sometimes I get a little mad because I’ve put my heart into it. But he’ll give suggestions, like to put a little less cilantro in it because it overtakes the flavor.

D: We’re foodies. We don’t compliment food just to compliment it.

T: That’s who he is, and it’s what I like about him. He told our friend her corn was cold. And it was.

D: I’m a little bit darker and you’re a little bit lighter. You’re like a living gummy bear.

T: I’m like sunshine.

D: I’m like sunset.

T: That is what makes our relationship so good. We’re not complete opposites, but opposite enough to appreciate each other.

D: We both come from a lot of divorces and failed relationships. I’ve learned some really basic rules from other people’s unhappy relationships: Always be truthful, always communicate and always respect each other. If you don’t want to do any of those, you shouldn’t be in a relationship.

T: A lot of things we’ve noticed with others is that they’re full steam ahead and don’t really take time to evaluate. We took it slowly. I didn’t even let my shoes live at his place for one and a half years.

D: It’s been five years, and we just got a joint checking account.

T: We took our time making decisions.

D: After time, more of a partnership/relationship started to develop. Thomas is great at organizing and I’m not. There are certain roles we’re really good at, and we let each other shine.

T: He’s great at decorating and home projects that I couldn’t even fathom doing. The most unique thing I love about him is he can look at anything and make it into something functional, whereas I’d look at it and just see a paperweight.

D: But we can get 15 of them, string them together, and we’ve got a paperweight chandelier!

T: We’re not on a plan. We don’t have to meet certain checkpoints at a certain time. We’re just letting things flow the way they are.

D: We exchanged rings two years ago. It was just like a promise – a promise for tomorrow. No super formal commitment stuff. Plus, I kind of wanted jewelry.

T: When I look at it, I’m always thinking of him. But today we were eating crawfish. I had to take mine off.

T: When you’re in a relationship, you have to ask yourself, “Is this person worth staying in a relationship for? Is it worth all this heartache for the next day?” Every day I think about it, and the answer is always yes. I’m so glad to be in this relationship with him. He’s been a really big support for me and has helped me go for things I wouldn’t have otherwise gone for. He encourages me.

D: When I first met Thomas, the first thing I liked were his legs.

T: I had perfect teeth, too.

D: But I also liked that he inspires greatness in everybody. It’s effortless. If you’re having a bad day, it’s nice having Rainbow Brite sitting next to you.

T: OMG, he’s got all these nicknames for me. Another important thing is you always have to make the other person feel beautiful and always compliment them, but don’t lie.

D: You can never get too comfortable. You need to keep dating. And wooing.

T: I let him know when he’s wearing something he shouldn’t. Like those pants.

D: You doubted the polyester.

T: He’s gotten really great compliments on those tight, brown polyester pants.

D: They look really good with my boots.

T: Humor’s another thing. If I couldn’t laugh with him at least two or three times a day, I don’t know how we’d survive. Many of my past relationships were so one-sided. I like to talk.

D: About more things than your workout routine.

T: Yeah, or the chicken I ate that day.

Right before we leave the restaurant, Thomas pulls out his phone and there’s a picture of Dustin’s eyes on it.

T: He’s watching me all day.

D: That’s just because you can’t change your wallpaper!