Do you wake up to your spouse/partner every morning and reach for them beside you, feeling intense relief that they are there? Do you long and yearn to have them around you 24/7 in order to maintain your own happiness? Are your moments throughout the day completely distracted by seeing them after work, or wondering what the two of you will do together when you see each other next? Do you NEED your spouse/partner in order to survive?
Well, that’s lovely. That’s…. nice.
But guess what? This could also be extremely toxic for you and your relationship.
Let me tell you a little story:
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who married at 19 years. She fell hopelessly in love with her boyfriend at 17 and relied on him for EVERYTHING. She never learned to drive, because he drove her everywhere until she was 21 years old. She never knew how to manage money, because he did all that. She didn’t learn to pump her own gas, drive on highways, or change a tire. Whenever she was faced with a challenge, she would ask for the help of her husband and when he couldn’t help, she would sob. She NEEDED him in her life, and he enjoyed being her “everything”.
Their marriage was long, challenging, and rocky. Whenever she did things for herself, she felt guilty, and always asked for his second opinion. Her accomplishments, such as figuring out how to change a flat tire, by herself, or learning to pump her own gas, resulted in condescending flattery like “You’re such a big girl”, or “See? You’re growing up”, even while she was in her 30’s.
Needless to say, after 21 years, and a whole lot of self-exploration, she ended her marriage. She went out on her own, rented her own condo, had a great job, finished her degree, obtained her OWN credit score, and felt free as fuck.
Since then, she has moved to a major city, got the job she had always wanted, and is maintaining a writing life, while living in the home she shared in building, with a man who values her. She pumps her own gas, maintains her own vehicle, drives everywhere and anywhere she wants to, she has her own circle of friends and is happy.
The moral of the story?
There is a reason that birds don’t learn to fly unless they are pushed out of their nest.
That young girl thought love meant being with someone to rely on. Seeing the way her mom relied heavily on her dad for money, travel, maintenance on her car, and even grocery lists created a false sense of what a REAL successful marriage looks like. Her parents are still married after 50 plus years, but honestly, her mother is full of regret and sits at home, while her dad does his own thing.
In order for two people to truly VALUE each other, you need to be your own person. You need to be different from one another and be able to disagree on certain aspects of your life. It promotes a healthy individualism of yourself so that you can share a life that you choose, not a life that was chosen for you.
There is Nothing Sexier Than an Independent Partner
No one wants to be 100% relied upon for mundane life tasks. It’s exhausting, especially when you reach middle age. By the same token, it’s also exhausting to be your partner’s entertainment committee all the time. All of the “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” conversations are RUBBISH when you are in a strong relationship.
Answers and plans should be clear, and concrete. “I want Thai for supper. Let’s go to the Thai place down the road”, sounds so much better than, “What do you want for supper? I’m good with whatever you want.” It shows that you have thought about it on your own, and you are taking a stand. You are an independent thinker with your own thoughts. You had a problem, and you found a solution.
Whining that you don’t know how to put gas in your car at the fancy new gas pumps in your community, doesn’t put gas in the tank. Asking your significant other for help with such ridiculous chores does one of three things:
Empowers them and enslaves you
or Interrupts their life.
This is where you need to grab a set of balls, drive to the pump, and figure it out.
When we first moved to the city, automatic drive-through car washes were a “new” thing for me. I drove through with my partner in his truck and they scared the crap out of me. I felt a loss of control and claustrophobic while the huge brushes and sprayers surrounded us. So, I opted to pay a ridiculous amount of money and get soaking wet, using the spray wash across the city.
One day, my car was so dirty I couldn’t see out my windows, and the gas bar I frequent has a drive-thru wash. I pulled up to the door, punched in my code, and prayed I wouldn’t die as I slowly pulled in. At first, my heart was racing out of my chest, as the weird colored bubbles and the huge brush ran around my car. I cranked my radio over the noise, leaned back and closed me eyes, until the beeper went off, indicating my car was done.
Holy Crap! That was the easiest 7 minutes of my life! And my car was shiny and new looking without my hair and pant legs getting soaked. The best part is that it’s two blocks away, so I don’t need to battle traffic, just to wrestle with a powerful hose and stand in other people’s muck.
Guess who has become a frequent flyer of that car wash? Yep, ME! Not because my guy does it for me or because he told me to go there. I go because I faced my own problem with a solution and learned from watching him that I wouldn’t die trying it on my own. Small celebration I know .. but my former married self would never have considered giving it a go.
I would be thoroughly annoyed if my guy required my help in EVERY LITTLE THING. I love that he takes care of things on his own. I love that he shows ingenuity and creativity to figure out how to make things work. I also love that I am capable of the same. It makes me stretch my skillsets, forces me to learn, and makes me feel a sense of pride and resiliency. He teaches me, and I learn, and then I go on my own and do it myself. I teach him, he learns, and he does it on his own. We respect each other’s differences and we learn from each other. We also learn independently.
To be successful and independent, every problem should be approached with possible solutions. This goes in marriage, relationships and your career. Whining and be helpless doesn’t empower you, or help you to be a strong individual.
Your tire is flat? Fix it yourself or come up with your own solution.
Your budget won’t balance at work? Find the problem and come up with solutions.
Use your own brain, your own thought process, and your own experiences to figure shit out. You will thank yourself for it.
Being helpless and weak might be endearing and cute for the first week of a relationship, but being independent is damn sexy.
You Can Still Help Each Other
Of course, you can still enlist help from each other when you choose to. You can still do things FOR each other, like make each other a cup of tea, or fill the washer fluid in each other’s vehicle, or what have you. But KNOWING that you are capable of taking on these tasks for yourself and on your own is KEY.
Since I have been out of my marriage, I have become MYSELF. I have changed tires, changed my own oil, fixed a leaky tap, driven across the country, traveled on my own, and with my daughter, began writing, and have seen/done more in 9 years than I did in my first 40 years of life.
Why? Because I did it on my own! I made the choice, I learned the skill and I followed through. Yes, I have failed a couple times, but I got back up, brushed it off and tried again. Not because it was expected of me, but because I expected myself to.
I still do my guy’s laundry and make dinners and serve tea at 8 pm daily. He doesn’t RELY on me to do these things. I choose to do them.
He fills my washer fluid, and helps me carry heavy items, and opens doors for me. He makes me breakfast and pays our bills. Not because I rely on him to do any of it, but because he chooses to.
And I appreciate it, as does he.
He has his group of friends and I have mine. He travels and works away from home on occasion, and so do I. And I couldn’t be happier. I embrace alone time and take advantage of it.
In order for two people to share a fulfilling, happy life together, and to stay on a successful track, you need to be just that: TWO PEOPLE.
Two people who have their own identities, their own strengths, knowledge bases, thoughts, skills, values, traditions, pasts, and future plans. Complete reliance on each other, in order to survive, is poisonous to the structure of the life you are trying to build.
Consider this: You have never seen a tower erected on its own, right? You need someone to hold the structure up, and someone to attach the pieces together in order to keep it stabilized and to make it stand on its own. If one of the builders of the tower relied on the other to do their part, the tower would crumble. It takes both of you, working side by side, independently to make the tower stand tall, and last through its future. That’s what a successful relationship is. One of you may be stronger, but the other one might be more intellectual. But together, you are two people who have built a life.
You are Incapable of Full Respect of One Another if You RELY on Each Other.
How can you fully respect someone you love if they need you to DO for them. After my divorce, this AHA! moment smacked me in the face. I almost wanted to go back and try it over again, as an independent woman, just to see if it would work.
It wouldn’t have.
We had built the foundation of our long marriage on my reliance on him. He thrived on my inability to believe in myself and his role was my savior. If I would have gone back into our lives, and thrown my independent wrench into it, it would have crumbled like a weak tower, over time. We didn’t share the same respect. He may have respected me in his own way, for being the helpless, weak link in our marriage who needed constant reassurance, but I would have fought back and messed it up. Alternatively, I could have sunk back into that weakling, just to appease him. It would have been doomed, once again. My respect for him, during our marriage, was as my go-to guy to help me out of binds. I no longer needed that in my life.
BE YOURSELF. MAKE YOUR OWN CHOICES AND DECISIONS. LEARN YOUR OWN SKILLS.
Take accountability and learn how to survive on your own, and to LIVE on your own, without being someone else’s product or project.
That is what it takes, in order to succeed with a partner beside you. A strong couple is TWO INDIVIDUALS staying true to themselves, not created by each other.
Build your own capacity as a human before you allow your love for yourself to be shared with someone else.