Several months ago I read the most interesting article in The New York Times. In it, Tara Parker -Pope explored the notion that it’s no longer enough to stay married and that couples today are in search of meaningful and satisfying partnerships that help them grow.
My immediate reaction was: Of course! Would a person consider any different?
Arguably I’m not a relationship expert. Ten years into a very happy marriage, I genuinely have no idea what any other kind of relationship would be like. In fact, I married my high school sweetheart, the only man I ever seriously dated. So relationships experience isn’t something that I have a lot of. But I do know that he’s my soul mate, and the perfect partner. I’m a lucky woman.
I do however, believe (perhaps naively) that our generation, and presumably those from our parents generation (and all those in-between) wanted the same. I realize that historically speaking marriage was not what it is today.
We’ve certainly come a long way in recognizing marriage as a partnership between two equal individuals and the importance of love and commitment. We now have the “Michelangelo effect“, a term coined by Caryl Rusbult, a former researcher at Vrije University in Amsterdam, that suggests that “close partners ‘sculpt’ each other to help one another attain valued goals.” I googled the term; apparently I’ve been under a rock because I’d never heard it before. If you search it, you’ll find countless blog posts and other web documents that explore the issue.
To be honest, I think it’s a very apt description of my own relationship. I’ve been with my husband since I was 15. This fall we’ll celebrate 19 years as a couple. That’s a very long time. We’ve truly built our lives together, as partners. He understands me completely and accepts all of my faults and limitations. No one knows me like he does. Frankly, he probably knows me better than I know myself. It makes for a powerful bond, one that I cherish and rely on.
At the same time, he fully supports who I am outside of the relationship. He recognizes that I have personal goals that help enrich my life and contribute to my happiness, and by extension our happiness as a couple and family.
So I understand the idea described in Parker-Pope’s article that “individuals experience personal growth through their partners in big and small ways.” For goodness sake, we literally grew up together.
My husband celebrates my individuality and helps me nurture it. But our bond is strengthened by our commitment to our marriage and how we live our lives together. A true partnership is not about me or we, it’s about a perfect blend of both. A subtle, but important distinction that recognizes the strengths and importance of honouring ourselves as individuals and partners .Image: ‘19th Sept: 5 years of marriage‘ by scribbletaylor via a Creative Commons license.