I really wish somebody had told me that it was safe for me to maintain my individuality while being in a relationship. So that’s what I want to talk to you about today. This is definitely what we were taught by media and culture; when you become married, you should just spend all your time together and have married friends that you do things with and enjoy the same things.
And that’s, unfortunately like most things from the media, really harmful for relationships because if we do anything else, we think we have a really crummy marriage or there’s something wrong with us or we don’t have a good connection or a good vibe. Also, movies rarely go beyond the wedding. Let’s just be realistic. Usually romantic comedies are about the pursuit of the romantic relationship rather than the actual getting down to business, learning about one another, navigating the rocky moments, learning how to mature together, how to have a sophisticated relationship. I’m sorry that happened and you were taught the wrong thing. But today I want to share with you my journey.
Marriage isn’t about becoming one
And what I’ve really learned is that marriage is not about becoming one. It is about learning how to be unified, but it’s not an enmeshment. It’s not becoming the same person. It’s a partnership. It’s when you are help mates and intimate friends who are very concerned about each other and want to care for each other, but you’re not expecting each other to be the same person.
This is how this unrealistic expectation affected my marriage. In the beginning, my husband was really into outdoor things. We were living in the mountains of Canada and we had access to basically every sort of outdoor pursuit that you could wish for. Also, going along with it, the dangers of those outdoor pursuits.
So when we first got married and we really had this belief that we had to do everything together we climbed up a rock face without any sort of gear with literally rocks falling down and us having to dodge it. There were mountain goats on the side of the mountain struggling to get up. I was terrified. We canoed down a glacier fed lake with very little beach front, so if we had tipped over, it would have been literally impossible to save ourselves and we probably would have froze to death. Then on that same trip, we camped and I was up all night thinking about cougars and bears and that literally no one knew where we were. We went rock climbing and that was terrifying.
I did it because I thought that’s what good married people do
We did just a lot of things that caused me incredible amounts of anxiety, but I thought that when you get into a relationship, you just need to suck it up and do the things that your partner enjoys. Otherwise, it just means that you don’t have a great relationship. On the other hand, I felt a lot of disappointment and sadness and ultimately resentment that my husband didn’t necessarily love doing the things that I loved as well, like dancing.
My parents were really into ballroom dancing and Salsa, Merengue. I used to go dancing with them and then I got married and I was like, “Let’s continue it.” And my husband tried, he put in value and effort just like I had put a value and effort in with the outdoor stuff, but ultimately he doesn’t like dancing. He doesn’t enjoy it and feels really incompetent and embarrassed when he tries.
This type of reliance can be harmful to your relationship
We’re really looking at creating a unhealthy pattern of perhaps anxiety and disappointment and resentment as well as a lack of reliance on self or a higher power, God, whatever term you want to use. Because if we’re looking at our partner to fulfill every single need, every single wish, be there all the time, then we’re not relying on ourselves to get us out of maybe disappointing situations or resentment. We’re stuck always looking for that, a partner to fulfill that need. And also we’re not looking for other sources of comfort and nurturing and trust and safety and faith, which can be too much for each other. So now we navigate it by doing things separately while still doing some things together.
I’m not saying you never do things together, but you can’t expect yourselves to be joined at the hip all the time. It’s just not healthy. You also have nothing to talk about. So now we do some things separately. My husband still likes his outdoor pursuits and he’s really into fishing right now. He goes off into the wild oceans of West Coast Canada. He’s got buddies that he goes fishing with. He sometimes goes on overnight camping trips with guys and he gets to come home and I get to ask him questions about his trip and learn something new about him.
And there’s a wonderful kind of freshness to the relationship when this happens. I still dance. I don’t ballroom dance, but I do Jazzercise. Which really fulfills my need for cardio and a good sweat, but also for dance and rhythm and moving my body and being with other women who enjoy the same thing.
We also do things together. We like to have beach fires. We love to do fun things with our kids, like go to the mountain and walk around and watch them go snow tubing. We tried snowshoeing altogether as a family, but that was just never going to work. We do snowshoeing alone without the kids, or we go on trips. We like to travel quite a bit or go on road trips. We like to watch movies together. We do volunteer work in our community. We run a junior youth spiritual empowerment program together. So there’s lots of things that we can enjoy together. But again, maintaining that individuality is really incredibly important.
And I’ve only just skimmed the surface in terms of individuality, mostly focusing on hobbies and interests, but there’re so many facets to your personality that can be complimentary to your spouse and they do not have to be the same. So I really encourage you to think about how you might maintain your individuality, or you might start to embrace this as something that’s really safe and really healthy to do in a relationship. Have fun with it!