I am often approached by singles who are dedicated to the idea of marriage. When an actual opportunity with great potential arises, however, they begin to panic, worry, and have misgivings, many of which have nothing to do with the man or woman they are dating.
I’m so used to making my own decisions, spending money how I like, using my time and resources in the manner I see fit. If I marry, all of that will change and that is scary!
What if I’m not a good mom/dad? Am I ready for the responsibility of marriage?
My decisions and time won’t be my own. Will I will lose myself in marriage? What if I don’t like who I become or get bored of my partner?
Dating and relationships are a journey during which we grow from one into two, and from two into one. This is not a process that happens overnight. Each day, we can change, mature, and evolve. In this way, we are never really bound to the same person forever; each day lends itself to new goals, new growth, and new possibilities. This takes mental flexibility, openness, drive, and the ability to accept the influences of another. By only entering into serious relationships with those who can bring out the best in you, fulfill your needs in a relationship, have similar goals and values, and have your best interests at heart, you’ve already given yourself the key ingredients for a solid relationship future.
If you break down the Latin root- of the word “decide,” the literal translation is “to cut off.” It is the same -cide you find in pesticide, homicide, even suicide. When we decide to choose a life partner, we are killing off the opportunity to build that relationship with anyone else– but is also the greatest compliment: I have chosen to dedicate my life to you, and nobody else.
As they say, you can’t win if you don’t play, and playing to win in our context means you must be willing to journey away from the safety of “I” to the uncertainty of “we.”
Does that involve growing pains? Most certainly, yes. Yet what is the alternative? If you have confidence that this person is worth building with, then you have exponentially more to gain together than apart. If you learn that you are not with a partner with whom you can build, painful as that might be, it is better to learn that up front and move on.
It takes different lengths of time for each person to feel safe and embrace interdependence. Here are nine examples of steps in letting go of the “I” and embracing the “we”:
Sharing thoughts and feelings you may not share with anyone else.
Willingness to confidently take a risk with this person.
Trusting that this person will have your back in a time of need.
Developing together as a team to create a partnership.
Being vulnerable without worry of judgment.
Accepting the influence of another and showing openness to navigating in an unfamiliar way.
Willingness to put the greater needs of the relationship before your personal needs.
Looking at how your differences can be complementary.
Beginning to think like a couple, keeping the other constantly in mind.
If we look at our proudest successes, we will see that they were all built on hard work and perseverance. Relationships are no different. It is always easier to take the easy way out, to just say no and walk away. It may be easier, but is it in the best interest of your future?
May we have the inner strength to stretch outside of our comfort zone, pushing the limits of who we are individually so that we can become together, and travel the uncharted seas from “I” to “we” for the shortest route to your longest relationship.
NEXT TIME: From “We” to “I”: Navigating the end of relationships
By Rachel Burnham