“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” – unknown
Relationships are hard. Relationships are life. Push and pull; give and take. And when you talk about marriage, there is even more at stake. An agreement to build an entire life together and to love someone unconditionally. That can be a lot of pressure. At the very core of this ideal there are natural contradictions in play.
After all, life is important. It is where we get all of our external stimulation. Life is where you get born, bored, drunk, fucked-up, fucked, old and ultimately die. We demand much from this life including self worth. So many expectations. So much pressure to get it “right.” But can you win at life… if winning is
In many of these life worth scenarios, we can only look to ourselves. If you want it, you need to deliver in order to feel the feedback that is modern day successful. That is the American myth. That is the pressure of success.
The inner desire to be successful is usually stimulated by the decisions of your peer group, societal family pressures, and what we’ve been taught it means to be a sad, successful cog in the machine of capitalism. These pressures bombard us every day when watching TV or having a quick harmless chat with mom. Usually, these external voices are coupled with the internal dialogue that’s telling you time is slipping away… are you doing enough?
And what role if any does partnership fill in these endeavors? There is no doubt that no one does it alone. Let me repeat that – NO ONE DOES IT ALONE. Support structures are the only way a person can get through this world. When you see those structures break down crime, poverty and violence follow. It is that simple. Those with support win. Those without lose.
So, the question of support leads to more questions. Support networks usually start large… if you are lucky anyway. You win the birth lottery and you have mom, dad, granny, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters that are all there. Picking you up. Tearing you down. Picking you back up again. As we age we rely less on our initial structure and start to build a support system for ourselves. This is very American. Time to fly the coop and give it a go on your own.
At this point in your personal journey, our traditional support elements go from foundational to taboo. The college grad that needs to call momma to help him decide what’s for dinner is a momma’s boy. The perky co-ed with a Greek lit degree from Penn that moved back in with mom and dad is a lost soul with a wasted education. If she’s lucky, maybe she will find a nice hedge fund manager who is looking to trade in his 1971 model for something from the early 90s.
The other reality during this transition is this is when you start building your own team and making your own path forward independently. Initially, your support structure shrinks. You hear the cliché at weddings – today our family is getting larger or we are combining these two currently independent support structures to rally behind this family. Theoretically, that is true. Families have been combined. But the roles have surely changed.
It is at this time where we get to reframe the relationships we have with our primary support structure. Those that will join us on our collective journey. Those that will help us build our life. Continue traditions and start new one. Repeat the mistakes of the father or aggressively head in the other direction. Some look for a replacement of their parents. Some look for the exact opposite. Some look for financial security. Some look for looks. Some look for love. Who looks for support?
Is your partner there to help you chase your dreams? Should they fill your balloon? Do you burst theirs? Do you take without knowing? The first person perspective is almost always clouded by ego. If you are there to take, is it ever enough.
Someone recently told me that negativity always wins. They told me that when you have a positive person and a negative person… rarely do you see the positivity outshine the negativity. What happens more frequently is that the negativity has capability to infect. Shit gets sour. Nice has limits.
Now, in the context of what you’ve planned to be a long and successful life that stacks up to expectations, this can be especially demoralizing, but it is OK to be sad in the world of success. It is OK to want more in the world of inequality. Not being satisfied doesn’t mean you’re broken. Life doesn’t come with a satisfaction guarantee.
We’ve been told that personal sacrifices are what successful and happy relationship requires. In many ways it is the removal of the self and the expression of the ego that causes the most internal conflict. Countless selfless hours spent working to help support your partner. But why do we do it? Is this love or manipulation? That is the question I need to answer.
When you choose to break the mold and build a plan for your life. The life you’ve chosen. Not the life of your past. Not the life that society has told you… you need. When you want your life, does that mean we have selfish reasons at the core of our duties? Is it really a game to get what we want? What are we asking for in exchange for our love and our time? Maybe we are just filling holes in ourselves and in our life.
The crazy part is that these decision, these choices and your partnership is life. For my life the goal should be happiness over productivity. Peace over prosperity. Understanding over demanding. Forgiveness over fortune. Is that what we expect from the person we love the most? Is this how we measure the most important partnership we have ever created?
Probably not, but how do we turn off those external pressures and voices of support structures past? How do we give ourselves permission to be happy without our imagination taking a chance to show us the path to more, better? How do we open our eyes to the sins of the father and mother before it is too late to avoid their pitfalls? How can we face our own mortality in an effort to find internal peace?
I am not sure there is an answer, but the human mind is focused on the future. Choices today that will become the failures, regrets and successes of tomorrow. In my quest to find happiness and give love unconditionally, I want to enjoy the journey because the journey is the only certainty. But to me, my wants feel like conditions. Maybe I should stop keeping score… because even if I win