Friday, November 27, 2009

Is you is, or is you ain't my baby?

This morning I had an interesting conversation with one of my best-friends. She has recently started to “hang out” with a new man. She is enjoying the beginning stages of a relationship, feeling the anticipation of him call or texting, and generally glowing as she reflects on all of his positive qualities. As I was listening to her speak, I recalled all the times that I had started seeing someone knew and how exciting it was. It was as if the “new” person was flawless.

As I was listening to her continue about her excitement, I couldn’t help but start to ask her questions about the experiences she was having with this man and how it connected to experiences in her past. I really wanted to know what she was carrying into this situation that was different than her prior dating experiences. I was curious to know if her past relationships had created any transformation in her, that would now allow her to attract a different personality, and hopefully create a long-lasting successful relationship.

She told me that she was not trying to define this relationship (as of yet) and that she was trying to stay in the present moment. She stated having that mind-set removed a lot of anxiety and made it easier just to enjoy his company. She even shared a conversation that she had with him. Recalling that he had asked her, “what are we…are we dating.” Her response was, “we are at the just getting to know each other stage.”

I thought to myself, “wow-she must really look attractive to him, and not a desperate woman looking for a man”. Then I thought to myself, “how long will she be able to go without wanting to define the relationship.” I guess this goes back to the question, “what stage of the relationship are we in?” Certainly the “getting to know you” stage is exciting and a time of investigation, to see if you want to enter into a deeper relationship with that person. So we discussed further the issues of values and long-term compatibility.

Is it possible to be compatible in certain phases of the relationship and less compatible in other stages? Take the player…he is a great “phase one” master, but has no emotional or commitment muscle for the long-term. Or perhaps the “family guy” isn’t always the best at dating and may be a little nerdy in the beginning, but becomes wonderful if you give him the chance. It seems as though each stage of a relationship is unique and requires its own set of rules. Generally if a relationship continues it gets redefined through these many phases.

As my friend states she’s in the “hanging out” stage, the first stage in getting to know each other. Then there is the “dating” stage, which may or may not be exclusive. If you miss the non-exclusive stage and move right into exclusive dating, then you will eventually enter the serious commitment of engagement stage. This is also another definition of who you are to each other and who you both are to your social community. Then the ultimate stage of commitment would then be a public acknowledgement, whether it is a ceremony of union or marriage. Once again, this redefines the relationship with each other and to other people. So, I wonder how long my friend and her “hanging out” partner will go before he asks again…”is you is, or is you ain’t my baby?”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Separation and the GARDEN of Eden

Today I am out of town, and I am missing my “better half.” So I started to ponder what is it that makes us ache and long for our romantic partner, when we go out of town? I have always loved to travel, but never give too much thought to my interpersonal relationships that are plutonic (the exception would be my child). I may perhaps think about the people I care about, but what makes our romantic partner different? Sometimes I think that my single “unattached” days were easier. I didn’t have to deal with the aches of being away from the one I love.

What is it in us that makes us long for that person to be with us? Is it the fear of loss? Is it the fear we may never see each other again, or clutch a warm embrace from our beloved? The most primitive story that I can think about relating to separation is the story of the garden of eden. If we pull out the morals and read between the lines of this story, it was during the separation that the “fall” occurred.

What exactly was the fall? Only God really knows, but whatever happened it was a turning point in how they related to each other. Turning points can be positive or negative. We frequently hear of the spouse who had a job that required travel, and while gone they led a secret life. They had their families at home, but their “extra curricular” activities on the road. This is incredibly painful for the faithful partner, when they learn of these ordeals. Frequently marriages break up after this. However, some couples choose to work through it. Never the less, the relationship will never be the same. It has to evolve or regress, but it cannot stay in the same place.

So what about the positive turning point? As related to my personal story, it was after I took a trip out of town that my partner realized what his feelings were for me (we were friends prior to this). When I came back from the trip, he decided to pursue me romantically. I’m glad he did; it’s been great.

When we enter into a romantic relationship and maintain a romantic relationship, we are always balancing our need for independence and commitment. I know for myself that this has been a struggle of mine. It has nothing to do with my partner, it has everything to do with me and my free spirit. Though not all would admit it, everyone struggles with balancing these needs from time to time.

So separation…where am I going? Being separated on this trip has reinforced to me how special my relationship is, and how sad I would be if he was not in my life. The separation has refreshed and deepened my appreciation, for the one I spend the most time with. It has also reinforced that I do have independence too. The best of both worlds…having a partner that respects my individuality and a partner that loves me and is committed to me. This is another “mini” turning point.

So in conclusion, separation from our romantic partner can serve as a measure for where your relationship is. It is also a great way to reflect on what you have, and decide whether you want to continue to invest or move on. For me? I think I will invest!