Monday, December 5, 2011

Folks, we need options...

“I’ve met this really wonderful person, who I really, really like…but I’m just not sure I want to be somebody’s boyfriend.”

The above was expressed by a friend of mine who recently started dating someone new after an extended period of being single.  While he very much seems to be enjoying the process of getting to know this person and spending time with them, he also has concerns about giving up the things that he has come to value during the period he has spent alone.   There is a lot of freedom that goes along with being by yourself; your life and your time are yours to do with as you see fit and that is something many of us give up when we start to feel that familiar tickle of falling in love.  

Of course we are told that this is what is supposed to happen.  You are supposed to meet someone, fall head over heels, move in together and perhaps even finally take the walk down the aisle where the two become one and live happily ever after.  Even if a couple never takes the step of formal vows, there is still more often than not the expectation that the ‘we’ is now more important that the ‘I’ and The Relationship becomes the guide for nearly all future action.  We are no longer two individuals, but half of a pair and somehow this is supposed to make us feel like complete people. 

And perhaps that is the problem.  We aren’t ever really given any other options, we are either single or not.  While I have no plans to ever live with someone or to marry, I do date and I do like to have, you know, companionship.  I also believe it is possible to love someone and to have a shared experience without having to merge every part of your life with theirs.  In fact for me, keeping my life separate is very likely going to be what would allow me to have a more fulfilling long term romantic relationship than if I live with someone.

You see one of the best things about spending all of this time alone is that I have come to know myself in a way that was never possible before.  Not only have I had the time and space to get to know myself inside and out, but I have also found ways to meet all of my needs on my own.  Everything from buying groceries to figuring out what to do with my time on the weekends has been thought about and decided upon by me.  And one thing that I have come to learn is that I don’t need another person in my life 24 hours a day to meet my needs or make me happy.   

What does this mean in terms of relationships?  It means that anyone who may be in my life is there because I want them to be there.  It means that I can spend time with them without any unattainable Prince or Princess Charming ideal hanging about in the back of my mind.  They don’t have to be anyone other than who they are because whatever they bring into my life is a bonus and a gift.  In addition, I am also more able to give freely of myself because I can give without expectation.

Most of us do this already with our friendships.  While there is an exchange of affection and love in a friendship, we don’t have the expectation that any of our friends will be the piece of our personal puzzle that makes us feel like a whole human being. 

So maybe we need to find a new ideal.   Perhaps what we should be doing is learning to be whole individuals first because the fact is that no one can do that for us, not a friend or a lover.  Whether we live alone, as part of a couple, forever dating or as frequently visiting neighbors across the hall, the only person who  can make any of us feel complete is us, and if we attain that first we might find  we are better equipped to give of ourselves without giving our self up.

3 comments:

  1. I believed in the whole romantic dream and was delighted to be married. And then eight years later it all fell apart and I experienced great pain. Older now and perhaps wiser, I am delighted to have a "gentleman friend," but have no plans to share a bathroom or a health plan.

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  2. Great post Spinster! :) I too have been spending time with someone and being consciencious of the idea of NOT falling into that trap. I think people find each other interesting BECAUSE of the separate lives we each have, and confidence we exude by being independent... so how to be in a relationship without losing that? I dont know. I do know I like this version way more than the hollywood version... which btw plays a HUGE role in the social development of relationship expectations. You know what... lets make our own rules! *Hi 5!*

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  3. Hi Jane,
    I think the biggest mistake with the traditional view of being coupled or of being married is this notion of "becoming one." My partner, Brian, and I both take our independence very seriously, and now that our lives have evolved over five years to a point where we consider ourselves partners, the considerations in our relationship revolve around how do we manage to meet both of our individual needs as well as the needs we have as a team. But, the team needs don't trump the individual needs, and it is always a matter of balancing our personal needs with our combined needs. So, how do we manage this? Well, we talk about it, and we make accommodations to make sure that we each have the time and space and support for our individual goals. And practically speaking, there are some things we share and other things we don't, and it changes and it evolves depending on what is going on in our lives. We do live together now, but we didn't for the first 2.5 years of our relationship. And, when we've needed to, for our work or for other pursuits, we've spent large amounts of time apart, which can be hard because it is an adjustment both ways. My advice to people enjoying their space and enjoying companionship is to take it slow. Enjoy both, but don't make any radical changes. Keep your space and your independence, and if the companionship grows, you can find a balance that gives you what you need as an individual and allows you to share certain aspects of your life with a companion. The specific logistics of how to do this may not look exactly the same for every set of companions, but I really believe that it is possible to find a balance--especially if you take things slowly. Anyway, that is just my two cents, but this is a good topic. I think I might blog about the same topic soon at www.ISoldMyPearlsToDoIt.com. Thanks for inspiring me.

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