Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Lie We Tell Ourselves

You know, I am spending a lot of time feeling blessed lately, like Charlie winning the golden ticket.  Only my chocolate factory is a gratifying future. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you are supported and embraced. For many years, I felt like the ideal platform to showcase my independence was to overcame, to persevere even when I found resistance from others.  And yes, I am very proud of my accomplishments despite the obstacles which stood in my way.

But one of the greatest obstacles, one I never wanted to acknowledge was my ex-husband who supported the efforts which benefited him most. I never wanted to see it, to believe it or to acknowledge it because I was collusive in the lie which said, “We do our own thing and that’s good.  He pursues his interests and I pursue mine. And I don’t need anyone to be successful.” 

See, my generation in particular has been taught that as women, we should seek independence as a badge of honor, that marriage and family were early on career suicide having been raised by amazingly overworked mothers who were sold a bad bill of goods with the supermom myth. I never really believed that career and family were mutually exclusive however I did believe that it was understandable to have a partner who did not actively support my interests and endeavors because I was an independent woman and I was in love. All I wanted was to have him in some small part of my life and to immerse myself in his.

Here’s the trick though, the thing about love that kind of sucks. Just because you love someone and they love you doesn’t mean you are good partners. You might even be good companions, we were brilliant travel buddies, compatible in many ways. But for me, the biggest problem was until I was in a relationship with a true partner, I didn’t understand the difference. Because we don’t approach love and marriage like we approach business; it’s unromantic, it’s unchivalrous, it’s uncivilized. Or so we’re led to believe by the fairy tales and the magazines.

Funny thing is, I’m very business-minded and practical in most of my life; always have been. Always had a can-do attitude. I just had a blind spot for love. So my solution when I got resistance from the one person who should have had my back was to just do it all myself. Which I did. For a long time. And to my credit, pretty effectively given the circumstances.

But, here’s the big reveal…removing that caveat, “Given the circumstances”, I have accomplished more in a year alone and in two years with a partner than I did in ten with a spouse because I stopped fighting an uphill battle and instead starting working on a level playing field. It’s still a lot of ground to cover, but there’s a lot less standing in the way and two people conquering the obstacles together.

So should you approach marriage like you approach work? Maybe, maybe not. But I do think that once you have a partner, where it isn’t just about him or her supporting you or you supporting him or her and instead you spend time with someone sharing mutual respect, understanding, sacrifice and support, it is amazing how much more you can accomplish. We learn this in kindergarten, “work together”, “share”, “raise your hand and ask for help” and yet so often we short change ourselves in love and in life because we put the other person’s needs and wants so far above our own. Sacrifice is not the enemy but it has to be mutually beneficial. Eliminate the obstacles, work together and you become a force to be reckoned with. You don’t have to be the same, but you should be a compliment. And on this point, don’t compromise.  

Check out the definition of a relationship: “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected” and “the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.” But a partner is “a person who takes part in an undertaking with another.” Don’t we want to stop settling for romantic relationships and instead strive for life partners, someone who takes part in the life of another. How awesome would that be?

How awesome would that be, you ask? Well, give me time, I’ll tell ya!

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