The Joy of….A Composite Partner?!


I’ve been single for nigh on twelve years.

After two runs at marriage and a myriad of other romantic entanglements, I thought it might be a good idea to just sit the heck down and be on my own for a good while. And so I have – mostly happily.

One of the great resources that arrived in my life as I began my single time was the humorous writings of Jill Connor Browne – better known as “the Sweet Potato Queen.”

Her books got me laughing – a boon in those post-divorce doldrums – and they also offered a nugget of wisdom that I’m still treasuring today.

In the opening chapters of one of her books, she outlines her theory about partnership – that we need multiple people in our lives that can fulfill different roles for us.

She wrote that she needed five men in her life:
One to fix things
One to pay for things
One to talk with
One to dance with
One to have great sex with

(And four out of the five can be gay!)

My list is different from hers, but I fell in love with the idea of the “composite partner.”

Instead of searching high and low for the perfect person – THE ONE, I found ways to enjoy the people who came my way without burdening them with big expectations and romantic fantasies. Instead of waiting and waiting to do this or that until I was with THE ONE, I just cast about and found someone who was willing and able to do it with me right now.

Some of the people who make up my current “composite partner” include my landlord/neighbor who lives upstairs. He fixes stuff that breaks, waters my gardens when I’m traveling, and practices old-school neighborliness with me. I enjoy hearing him bumping around upstairs. He’s part of my sense of home.

Sometimes I go out dancing with my older brother. We are usually the oldest ones on the floor – and the ones who stay out there longest, grinning and sweating. We are both a good bit over six feet tall, so we cut a wide swath on the floor.

There are women friends who know my soul, ask good questions, and listen to my tears and triumphs. There are men friends who know how to appreciate my beauty as a woman. There are mentors who have called me into my gifts and co-conspirators with whom I cook up good work in the world. I’ve had wonderful travel companions and friends with whom I can share loving touch.

I witness several friends’ yearning for a more traditional, live-in partner or spouse. Several of them are hip-deep in online dating, carrying a persistence and optimism into every first date. (Are you….THE ONE?) I wish them well on their search and sincerely hope their dreams come true.

As for me, I’ll continue creating my crazy-quilt composite partner and discovering love in its myriad and varied forms – right now – today.







About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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5 Responses to The Joy of….A Composite Partner?!

  1. helenkosings says:

    This is beautiful, Barbara. Finding THE ONE is such a crazy and unrealistic fantasy IMO, and puts a huge amount of pressure on both in a relationship. I’ve been married a very long time, and even though I married at 19, I never expected my husband to “complete me” (whatever that means – am I not a complete person by myself? lol) or to even be able to fill all of my needs – especially social. Yes, marriage works for me but I see others working out different arrangements based on their needs, just as you have and that seems not only practical, but quite beautiful. One size does not fit all. Much love to you – sorry I can’t make it to the next Atlanta thing – I so wish I could!

  2. Jody Healy says:

    I wish just saying the same thing to two friends today.

  3. mmitchell0818 says:

    Okay…you are lighting up my world…as the joy and wisdom of these words are seeping in(to) my cellular structure…
    On the Hoof,
    Margaret Smiling!

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