There was a time I believed being as alike as possible to someone was the key to romantic harmony. I considered becoming a single entity the goal of a long term relationship. Two beings, very in love, forming an unbreakable bond in which they lose sight of any sense of self and become one. Having the same friends, hobbies, tastes, schedules, and opinions. Nothing one does is unknown to the other, and this means they are soul-mates. Or . . . you know, Borg.
And of course, this is how I was programmed to approach romantic relationships by the society I live it. Supported and encouraged, even!
My perspective took a detour some time ago. While having similar goals in some areas is conducive to harmony, having all the same goals and experiences is a bit stifling and can lead to a sense of monotony.
In long term relationships where people do most recreational things together, have a mostly shared group of friends, and consume all of the same media, there exists a shortage of new, exciting things to share with your loved one; they already know everything about you and you about them. Is it any wonder it’s also considered normal to stop having much interest in your life-partner? Or an attraction to, or much affection for. . . which is odd for soul-mates, yes?
Geez Louise, it does not have to be like that.
While this commitment to growing together as a single unit may be part of our dominant narrative, I maintain it’s critically important to explore growth as an individual regardless of your relationship structure.
When I think about meeting someone new, one of the most exciting things is discovering a new person in general; getting to know their passions, their theories on the world around us, the unique components of their individuality. Even if all we share together is a single date, I get to spend time delving into the newness of them in relation to me.
Having an individual identity is what makes folks attractive to others, and I’m not just talking about being attractive to new potential partners. I’m talking about being attractive to the people you already love and are familiar with. I’m talking about independent self-discovery and the pleasure of sharing those discoveries while becoming further enamored of your partners when they share about theirs.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have things you do together, not at all. I watch a local sports team’s games with a partner and we try not to miss any. I cherish our tradition and so does he! We have several mutual interests and enjoy a wide variety of activities in each other’s company. But, there are a ton of things we each do on a regular basis that the other one is not involved in, and those are equally important.
It’s wonderful to get to hear about those experiences when we reconnect and to watch my partner learn new things outside of our relationship – both about the world and himself. I’ve always enjoyed the way his brain works, but if I witnessed every experience he had first hand I wouldn’t get to appreciate it as much because why would he go on and on about the very cool thing we both just did together at the exact same time? And I get just as excited to tell him all the things I’ve seen and learned while out doing my own thing.
I’m leaving soon on a two week vacation out of the country with a long distance friend and I am ridiculously excited about it. In my absence, this partner of mine, (whom I live with), is excited to have the house all to himself for the first time since we bought it last year, and he can’t wait to hear all about my adventures abroad! There was a time I would have struggled to even consider taking a big, important vacation without him, but omg I’m so glad I did – now I can’t imagine missing out on this amazing opportunity to travel with my friend!
Separate activities are not a disconnect but an opportunity for a more robust connection. You can share a life with someone and still lead one independently. Wanting to experience the world on your own or with others does not mean you’ve lost interest in your current relationship(s), it means you’ve successfully dismantled one of the dominant narrative’s most codependent tropes.
It also means you have the opportunity to experience one of the best parts about being in an emotionally intimate relationship: falling in love with each other all over again.