Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“To thine own self be true…” *

In the throes of young love, I have recently seen several friends and relatives post about their relationships stating, “He is my whole world.”

I am always dubious about such statements. Perhaps from being some 30-odd years older and a few relationships wiser, that kind of “he’s my all in all” thinking just doesn’t sit well with me.

I get that people become wrapped up in one another the more time they spend together. I have a best friend that has become my boyfriend, and we probably think about each other more than we think about anyone or anything else. But he is not my world. And God help him if I am his.

Besides the sheer practicality of having work to think about for a large part of the day, there is just no way Pat can be everything I want or need in my life.

He can never replace (nor does he want to) my parents, my daughter, my other friends. Each relationship is unique and offers a specific give and take that is only fulfilled in that relationship.

We were talking about this last night. We have been commenting on how nice it is – after a couple of failed relationships in our lives – to have someone with whom we are finally so compatible. And we are. We like many of the same styles of music, genres of literature and film, stage productions, and jokes. We are well-matched intellectually and emotionally to the point that we each feel a benefit from having the other in our life, without feeling drained or stressed at any point.

One of the beauties of this relationship, however, includes the areas in which we are different from one another. I like Duck Dynasty; he doesn’t. He is intimately knowledgeable about computers and I have a nodding acquaintance with them. I’m never going to get him to go to an event with me to meet Uncle Si and Willie because it’s probably not something I will ask him to do. And though he plans on teaching me some HTML and wants to help me with some planned podcasts, I don’t anticipate “getting” all there is I will need to know.

There are other differences. I like wine. He doesn’t. He likes spicy brown mustard on his steak and I’m thinking I won’t try that. The man does not seek out zucchini in a salad bar. I can forgive him for this.

Recently, Pat has introduced me to the joys of riding motorcycles, flying, and the music of Al di Meola. I’ve introduced him to Cards Against Humanity and Norah Jones. Each of these things were outside of our realm of experience, but we were each willing to learn something new.

Still, he would love me no less if my old fears of motorcycles and airplanes were still in effect. We would work around it. I would not demand that he give up his beloved Goldwing to accommodate my dislike of them.

Similarly, if he didn’t like Cards Against Humanity, he wouldn’t ask me not to play it with my family when we all get together. He’d probably just go out and talk with my mom, who also doesn’t play, and they’d crack jokes about how crazy the rest of us are.

We would each have our own separate pursuits…indeed WILL have our own separate pursuits…and we will each be fine with that.

Because here’s the thing. We fell in love with each other for all the parts that create our whole self. There is nothing you can separate from me that wouldn’t change the person Pat decided to love. There is nothing I can separate from him that wouldn’t make him some other man in part or entirely. We are the sum of our experiences, our likes and dislikes, our thoughts and feelings.

To deny ourselves the things that make us uniquely ourselves is to deny ourselves the freedom to be the person we have been created to be. Not being true to ourselves denies us the authentic self we have become…and ultimately robs the other of the person we were first attracted to.

As a relationship progresses, of course there are periods of adjustment when people adapt their behaviors to one another for a more harmonious existence. But if it becomes that one person has to bury a true part of themselves to keep the peace, then something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

The key to all of this – the adapting, the changing, the being true to oneself – is communication. And if you have good, strong, open lines of communication – you can have the whole world at your fingertips…without being someone’s “whole world”.

*William Shakespeare

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