If you had described my current relationship to me before I was in it, I would have never asked him out. I would have said it was too codependent, that there wasn’t enough space for me to be me, that living and working and socializing together would be too much, there would be too many PDAs, and some nonsense about a surprise mutual proposal? I’d have walked — run! — away from the best thing I’ve ever known.
In previous relationships, I would hold part of myself back so I could tell myself that that part was the real, separate, individual me. I was scared. I thought I needed to prove that I was still a strong, independent woman. And that, by waving that proof around, I was looking after myself. If anything happened to the relationship, I would walk unharmed from the ashes, because I’d kept my “real” self out of harm’s way.
Society wasn’t going to pressure me giving up my sense of self while some man got to maintain his (even though no one ever asked me to). It felt smart and strong and sensible, but I was more concerned with the safety net than I was with getting on with the show. I was a trapeze artist who didn’t care whether her partner caught her or not.
Smoke and Mirrors
I was lying to myself, and it made the relationships into lies. You can’t carve yourself up like that (not healthily, anyway). I’m all me, and I was holding all of myself back. The person I was dating wasn’t dating the real me, but a version of myself I was willing to share with them. And inevitably I lost interest in maintaining that persona for the sake of the relationship (or they did — these relationships were usually with people with similar behavior).
I had some therapy between the end of my previous relationship and my current one. It wasn’t relationship therapy, and I didn’t even realize the impact it was having as it unpicked and repaired other snags in my mind and body. And then I asked J out, and within two weeks we were saying “I love you” and talking about moving in together. I had let go of the lies and the insecurities that fed them without even realizing it.
A harmony is more than two melodies
I found I had just as much space to be me inside of the relationship as I had outside of it. I wanted to show my whole self off to J, to introduce him to every quirk and foible, and learn all of his. I reveled in my individuality as I shared it.
I can be a more authentic me inside our relationship, because I’m loved and supported in a way that I often fail to love and support myself.
Yes, our relationship has changed our behaviours. Our friends have got used to the fact that inviting one of us usually means both, but since we both have awesome taste in people (as evidenced by five years of friendship between us before I asked him out) this just means there are more friends to go around. Our time spent together is filled with the things we both like. I read more ebooks now because he likes to hold hands while chilling on the sofa, and it’s easier to turn pages one handed.
There are easy compromises and there are hard compromises, and there are things that look like compromises but aren’t: times when we look like we’re doing the same thing, but one of us is there to support the other. I didn’t understand it when I was on the outside, but whether it’s him eating Chinese food even though he doesn’t like it, or me watching a Charlie Kaufman film even though I can’t relate to it, doing these things together creates a space where we can respectfully explore our differences.
I can be a more authentic me inside our relationship, because I’m loved and supported in a way that I often fail to love and support myself. I can support my partner in being his full self too, because I know his full self. We are motivated to support each other’s individuality by being together. We are not two separate acrobats performing in the same ring, but a single act that is twice as dazzling for the things we can accomplish together.
Anyone else learned to let go and allow your partnership to help you be more awesome?