“Do you and your boyfriend tweet at each other a lot? I see some couples do that and I can’t help but laugh.” I am at a wedding, and making small talk with dozens of people, the only attendees I know being the bride and my boyfriend. I have just shared my love of all things “new media” with someone.
“I do too!” I share a laugh, “but no. He’s not really into social media. He’s more private than me.”
“Oh…” she trails off, nodding. “Well, it’s a good fit then, you two together?”
I think, and nod as I say, “Yes, yes it is.”
When I was a young, like most moon-eyed teenagers, I assumed that whoever I ended up with would be just like me. We would like all the same movies, we would have the same hobbies. We would agree on everything, and love would be easy. It shouldn’t be too much work, right? When you loved someone enough? “Love is all you need,” yes?
Most of us who have been in a serious relationship now laugh at those starry-eyed dreams. We know now that love takes hard work, effort, tough choices, a deep commitment to stand by someone, even when they are at their lowest.
Still sometimes, in those low points, I used to try and measure my relationships based on those initial affections and mutual interests, worried they would somehow be “not enough.” Did it matter that we didn’t share all our hobbies? Did we “fit” right?
And sometimes, things aren’t enough, and they end. I used to think of all my breakups, in aggregate, as all cases of “all the things he would never be able to give me, or me to him.” I used to see my failed relationships as these long tapestries filled with rips and patches that just showed how we never quite fit into each other correctly, the fabrics and thread never really working out. Eventually, the piece was so threadbare, the thing unraveled.
I realize, now, that deficit thinking of not only myself, but others, has been more hurtful than helpful.
Now, I know that it isn’t about fitting INTO each other so much as BEING with each other. I never needed someone to complete me, nor did my exes, nor do any of us.
Instead, what we need is the ability to navigate the world in similar spaces alongside each other, even when it is hard. We need someone who sees us as our complete selves, and shares space with that identity, instead of trying to fill in false notions of “gaps.” In the end, no matter how many spools of thread you try and wrap around each other, you cannot force very different people to share very different spaces.
I see this now so clearly.
Other men have treated me well, but what I have now is more than just mutual respect and caring. What I needed is someone who stands right next to me in those difficult spaces. There is a deep, cultural, gut understanding of who I am not just in likes or dislikes, but as a person.
Yes, I could probably find someone who treats me well and/or likes all the things I do, but how many people in the world are going to see every part of you– marvelous and terrible in its humanity– hold your hand, and say, “I’m here. I got you. I love you,”? How often do you find the person who not only sees who you are, but can see past it to all the other stories that created the space you now inhabit? How rare is it to find the person that can read and understand those past stories as well as you do?
I am a firm believer that I better understand my present by reflecting on my past. I have long forgiven and forgotten frustrations I had with past relationships. I don’t regret most things; they don’t hurt. They read like old chapters building to the next part of the story.
I understand I don’t know the future, but what I do know is how learning from this past makes me feel so lucky to have the present. I see how much the universe has worked to push me to this place where the only person I am asking to complete me is me. Where the question I ask my partner (who, yes, is the bees’ knees) every day is not ‘am I enough?’ but one that I feel confident gets me the answers I need:
Will you share this space this me, even when it’s hard? Can we share our stories? Do they matter to you?
That sounds like a good place to begin.