Partner vs Spouse

When I lived in Costa Rica, the first place I stayed was an eco village. I loved the sense of community I felt there when we visited and I thought it would be the best place to start as newcomers to the country and culture. I noticed when I met new people they would say, “You’ll have to come to my home some time and meet my partner”. At first I wondered if everyone in the village was gay.

The word choice here is no accident. It’s a cultural difference I love.

First, let’s acknowledge the use of the word “home”. Very few people said, “house” unless they were referring to the structure. For example, when we were touring houses to rent or stay in, people would talk about the walls, the windows, the doors of the house. But, when referring to an event or gathering, it was happening in the “home”. I love this because a house is worthless without people inside it to make it a home. We, as Americans, put too much importance on the house we live in and how its decorated, but really, the focus should be on how you make the people inside it feel.

Second, the fact that people would invite me, a total stranger, and my two wild jungle babies into their home without first learning what I do (assessing my status), and what my hobbies are (assessing common ground) was shocking. In this culture, people were valued for their character, not what they wore, how much money they make, or where they like to hang out. And, it was generally assumed that you were a good person because if you weren’t a good person, they’d know about you. Criminals in Costa Rica are gossiped about and chased out of town. It’s highly disrespected to hurt others and the system works.

Third, the term “partner”. Now, I don’t remember meeting any gay couples, but everyone referred to their spouse as a partner. Some of them were legally married, some common law, and some lived together and shared children together. What all of these couples had in common was their view of this other person as a partner, and they actually were PARTNERS.

Some of my readers may feel they have a partner in their life, regardless of the cultural title assigned that person (friend, boyfriend, lover, husband) and this post may not apply to you, but I also know many friends of mine don’t feel they have a partner in their spouse and after several conversations we agree that part of the problem is the cultural view of the institution of marriage and the defined gender roles commonly associated with husband and wife.

I’m not bitter about marriage, and I have no judgement on anyone who chooses to get married or chooses to stay single. I celebrate and respect love in all forms. I have people in my life that I love and I tell them I love them; however, if I am fortunate enough to fall IN LOVE again, it will be with someone I feel will be my partner.

After much self-reflection I realized when I got married, my spouse seemed to develop a sense of ownership over me almost instantly. This feeling caused a heap of unhealthy habits on his part that led to our eventual demise. I won’t go into details, because it doesn’t deserve much more of my energy, but the expectations of me as a “wife” and  his views of me as a woman prevented him from viewing me as a partner and treating me as such. That’s not how marriage was designed to be, but unfortunately it is that way in many homes.

Here’s how a partner is different. 

  • A partner hears you and validates your feelings and needs
  • A partner laughs with you, not at you
  • A partner assists you with caring for the house AND the home
  • A partner stands up for you & never inflicts harm
  • A partner cares for you when you’re sick & protects your health
  • A partner shares your dreams and visions…even if they think they’re silly
  • A partner cares for children with you; the good, the bad, the ugly are shared
  • A partner challenges you to be better, but accepts you for all that you are
  • A partner supports you living the life you want and enjoys the ride with you.

When I find this person my promise to them will be that I will never hold them back from living the life they want. I will never ask them to “settle down” or compromise their dreams for me. Their journey is their own. I may like to be a part of it and I’d like them to be a part of mine, but I believe, I can love you and you can love me and we can share a life together but there are no rules for what that life looks like. I do not need a title to know I’m loved, nor do I need a lifelong legal commitment. The hope is to find someone I love being with more than anyone else and that they feel the same. Each day we wake up wanting to spend more time together and take each day as it comes enjoying evey beautiful moment.

This time around, I’m not accepting anything less than a partner to love.

April 1, 2012: An Improbable Romance

“It was an improbable romance. He was from the country, she was from the city. She had the whole world at her feet…he didn’t have two dimes to rub together… 

…but they fell in love” -The Notebook

chelsea vail with husband, cloudy

If you know my husband, 6’5 240lbs of solid country boy and “all man”, you’d probably have a hard time believing that The Notebook is one of his favorite movies, but it is. It was that discovery that made me realize that there was alot more too him than met the eye. Behind that rugged exterior is a soft heart…he’s my gentle giant.

I first saw him in the summer of 2004 (or 2005, who knows?) when he walked in to Bone Daddy’s, the restaurant where I worked briefly in college. It’s important to note “briefly” because I think I was only there long enough to see him. He walked in wearing a blue button up and an orange tie. He was taller than his friends and caught my eye immediately. I started sweating and froze dead in my tracks. I almost felt sick to my stomach, or eerily calm, I can’t really describe it, but I felt weird. It was almost like dejavu. I turned to my friend and said, “I’m going to marry that man right there”.

I couldn’t talk to him…I didn’t even meet him…but I knew I would marry him.



The oddest part is that I had a boyfriend at the time. Needless to say, I broke up with him shortly after. A few days after we broke up, months after seeing Cloudy for the first time, I was out at Sherlock’s Bar in Addison with my best guy friends. Our mission that night was to get completely obliterated, enjoy each other’s company, and not worry about meeting anyone new. Well, after getting hit on for the umpteenth time, and realizing that just relaxing at a bar with my friends without getting bothered by douchebags was completely impossible, I stormed out of the bar. As I was storming out, that same gentle giant I’d seen a few months before stepped in front of me and said, “Where are you going?”Chelsea Vail, husband Cloudy

Me: “I’m leaving.”

Cloudy: “Not without me”

Me: “What? I don’t even know you”

Cloudy: “So get to know me”

Me: “What if I like you? Then, I’ll have to tell my family that I met you at a bar.”

Cloudy: “Okay, fair enough. Lets go to HEB down the street. I’ll walk down one aisle. You walk down the other side. Then, we can meet in the imddle and tell everyone we met there.”

Ugh, it was such a cute approach.

I stayed.

Just talking to him felt so natural. So weird. So oddly familiar. We exchanged numbers and he called me immediately the next day. And the next. And the next. And the next.

We did the make-up, break up game for about seven years after that before we got engaged June 10, 2011. In those seven years we went through job losses, multiple moves, deaths, incarcerations of loved ones, co-raising his stepson, illnesses, and more than most couples experience in a lifetime together. We got through it all.

first look, cloudy and chelsea wedding

We were married at Red Corral Ranch in Wimberley, Texas April 1, 2012. My father initiated the ceremony and reminded Cloudy that this arrangement was forever. We love hard, fight hard, play hard and pray hard. He’s held my hand and hugged me close through all three years of our marriage, all three years we’ve been hoping our love was strong enough to bring our baby to us.

Here’s to fifty more years with you! Thank you for loving me. 

mrs and mrs cloudy vail