Friday, June 8, 2012

My View On Relationships: A Collaboration Of Two Individuals

The following is a quote by the Catholic writer Henri J.M. Nouwen. I will add my own thoughts afterwards:

"Human relationships easily become possessive. Our hearts so much desire to be loved that we are inclined to cling to the person who offers us love, affection, friendship, care, or support. Once we have seen or felt a hint of love, we want more of it. That explains why lovers so often bicker with each other. Lovers' quarrels are quarrels between people who want more of each other than they are able or willing to give.
It is very hard for love not to become possessive because our hearts look for perfect love and no human being is capable of that. Only God can offer perfect love. Therefore the art of loving includes the art of giving one another space. When we invade one another's space and do not allow the other to be his or her own free person we cause great suffering in our relationships. But when we give another space to move and share our gifts, true intimacy becomes possible."

Three key things happened as I grew up which discoloured my view of relationships.

  1. I grew up in a continuously verbally and emotionally abusive household mostly coming from my father.  This left me feeling poor and emotionally needy for many many years to come, and as far as relationships were concerned, I started to look for someone who would heal my deep wounds and make me feel all better.  Essentially though I didn't realize it at the time, I was looking for a therapist-type relationship that would make me happy. I remember being this way from as far back as early childhood. I was probably in the first grade and one of my friends was having a birthday party and a bunch of us decided to play a game of pretend.  Some chose to be the mother and the father. I chose to be the family dog, because I wanted a cute classmate of mine to "pet me," essentially, to take care of me.  This neediness is something that I have worked on with the help of therapists, etc, but it's still something that I work through to this day.  It is not anyone else's job to heal my pain and no one - no one - can completely fill my many needs.
  2. I grew up in the evangelical church and the main thing that I was taught about marriage was that "two people became one."  I thought that something magical happened when two people had sex, that they ceased to be individuals, but instead became a sort of symbiotic entity.  I have long since come to see this as a complete lie. It sounds nice. Hell, it would make for great Hallmark cards, but marriage is not two individuals becoming one entity, but I believe it should be about two individuals who have enough in common that they want to come together, but still respect each others individuality.  Perhaps you've seen the chick-flick Runaway Bride. In it, Julia Robert's character Maggie Carpenter bolts from the altar several times before finally settling down with Richard Gere. But in the course of things she also finds her individuality and at the end of the movie her and Gere's character ride separate horses away from the ceremony together.  I'm not married, but I believe married couples or people in relationships should never forget that they are involved with a whole other individual and that individual must be respected and celebrated. This leads well into my final point.
  3. Chick Flicks! I love them! Sit me down in front of the TV with a Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, or Sandra Bullock romantic comedy, give me some ice cream, and I'll be one happy camper.  But it would do myself, as well as many others well to remember that not all relationships are such fairytales. There are  times of strong disagreements, times of compromise, and a lot of communication is the key, especially before entering into a serious relationship.
In conclusion, I would just emphasize again that the driving force for a relationship should not be need. Yes, we are all needy to an extent, and that's ok, but if we expect another person to ease all our pain, the relationship will be burdened down and perhaps fall apart.  Also, mutual respect for one another's individuality is essential. We should not be envious when the person we are with takes up a hobby that we have no interest in; rather we should encourage them in it.  A relationship in a way is a front-row seat to the unfolding of another individual's life progress.  Finally, sometimes in relationships we come to painful times when we have fought the good fight and should no longer hold onto something that has long ago deteriorated and faded away.

I have lost many good relationships over the years, mostly out of my emotional health and my extreme need. I look forward to a day when I have learned my lessons enough to have a healthy relationship between two individuals.

Mark Andrew Alward

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