I have been thinking a lot about relationships recently. For the first time in my brief history on this planet, more of my friends are in relationships than are single (unless of course you count eighth grade when everyone but me had a boyfriend). And as I thought about these friends and their relationships and talked to other friends (and sometimes my mom), I started to see a common theme. Well, I didn't really see it as first. It was more like I could feel there was something there that I was missing. Like looking at one of those 3-D pictures they have at the fair. You stare and stare and you know you are suppose to see a sailboat, but you just don't.
Until you do.
I was going over a recent conversation I had with one of my few remaining single girlfriends. We were talking about a mutual acquaintance and his relationship and she said, rather cynically, “I doubt that is what he signed on for when he joined Match.com.”
I’m sure she was right. I’m sure when he pictured in his mind the sort of relationship he wanted, the one he was currently in didn’t spring to mind. At the same time, our mutual acquaintance didn’t seem the least bit bitter. Quite the opposite – he is happy and excited. And why shouldn’t he be? He is in love, I argued with myself. He has found an amazing and wonderful woman that loves him and wants to spend the rest of her life with him. So he will be a little inconvenienced for a bit. Is that really worth giving up all the rest of it?
That is when it hit me – like an apple falling from the tree that I was resting under – maybe the only way we can fit together is if we are all willing to adjust. And by all, I really mean me.
Now, I have long given up on the whole idea of a soul mate – that there is one perfect person out there for all of us. Until that moment, though, I did believe there was someone out there that was going to love me just the way I am. That he was going to fit perfectly into my lovely little life I created and I was going to fit just as neatly into his.
As I typed that I realized my silliness makes looking for one’s soul mate seem practical.
We have all heard countless times that you can’t expect to change someone. This is typically given to us as advice when we are annoyed or frustrated with a partner. Sometimes, as if often the case with my mom, it is given more as an I-told-you-so. Either way, we have heard it so many times we have all accepted it to be true – and who are we kidding? It is true. But somewhere along the line, I got to believing that the inverse was all true. That so long as I don’t expect to change someone, I won’t be expected to change. However, I’m beginning to understand that I got this bit wrong (and algebra has once again failed to serve any practical purpose in my life).
I’m still working through all the details and consequences of my realization. For instance, what are things that I am willing to change? What are things I am absolutely unwilling to change? (I imagine this list will be quite a bit longer). How much change can still be called “good change”? My guess is it comes when you wake up one morning and no longer recognize yourself in the mirror (or worse, no longer like who you see staring back at you). Or maybe it goes back to that list of things you are absolutely unwilling to change. If you find yourself compromising on more and more of those items, your change has gone bad.
Of course these are just theories as I have never bent on anything in a relationship. (Insert bad joke about bending over plenty of things here if you must. But keep ‘em clean folks, my dad reads this blog).