One of my friends has just broken up with her boyfriend of 6 months and I couldn’t be more jealous. To clarify, although Adam does sometimes make me want to pack it all in because do I really have to explain why sleeping on a mattress in the back of your cube van isn’t camping? I am still happily married. He keeps me on my toes but I also adore him in a way I can’t express without sounding deranged.
No, I’m jealous because my friend is currently undergoing the most wonderful metamorphosis, ladies you know what I’m talking about. The blissful stage beyond a breakup when the tissues and heartbreak have faded into the rear view mirror and you decide “Fuck it! These last 6 months were bullshit, I’m going to get back to ME!” and like a diva, all conventions are thrown off, all desires are made known. The future peels open, unknown and exciting.
“I got stuck in this little domestic rut” She says, “But now that I’m single I just need to stretch, I need to push myself out of my comfort zone.” and I think to myself “Ohmygod, she feels like this after 6 months…I’ve been in a relationship for almost 10 years…what the hell does this mean for me?”
If you are single and searching or haven’t been in a long term relationship in a while and yearn for one (I am qualifying these descriptions because I know that there are blissfully happy single people out there who have no desire to couple off like dumb animals on Noah’s Ark- and to them I say “Please share tales of your incredible life without 3 separate boxes labelled ‘Cords and Wires’”!) , it’s easy to forget the drawbacks of being in a relationship and I feel it’s my duty to share the “cons” to give a well-rounded view of the situation – it’s not all spooning and long walks holding hands.
Let me preface this by saying that for me at least, the benefits of being “coupled” far outweigh the costs and I would wager that this is the case for most people in relationships, otherwise they wouldn’t still be there, right? But that being said there are aspects I struggle with almost daily and these things that cause the wistful envy for my newly-single friend.
The first and the biggest struggle is Compromise. Capital C. This may be a bigger issue for me than it is for other couples because Adam and I are both extraordinarily opinionated and pig-headed, convinced that our way is the Right Way and almost pathologically unwilling to see others side (also known as the Wrong Way, Jackass). I have to admit that I out-jerk Adam in this department. Yesterday we were trying to create a line graph to represent sales trends and I was so offended by his suggestion that I reverse the axis that stomped off and made him do the whole thing by himself. It’s hard to have a second opinion on everything from what to buy in the grocery store, to what to do on your one day off, or whether to keep the dog on leash or off during bike rides through busy streets. The big decisions are fine, they are when I am so grateful for his input and his contributions and I respect his opinion above all others but in the million minuscule daily decisions I just want to do it by myself thankyouverymuch.
The second difficulty, is that obviously I haven’t gone through that single-girl-getting-back-to-me stage in forever. And maybe I need to, just without the break-up part. Is that even possible? The first thing my friend did was create a Bucket List for the summer, she decided it was finally time to do all the things she’d been putting off because her boyfriend didn’t agree with them, or didn’t want to do them. Her list includes things like bungee jumping, starting a dance class, biking the Seawall in Vancouver.
“You should do one too!” she said excitedly when I told her what a great idea I thought it was, “I totally should!” I replied, and then I realized I have no idea what I’d put on it. It feels like there’s nothing I really want to do, but that can’t be true.
What do I want? Who would I be if I was just me, not us? This is something I think about often, and I think that in some small ways you do have to sacrifice yourself, subsume yourself in a relationship. There some aspects of what I would love to be doing (traveling the world, unencumbered and unimpeded) that are just impossible and indeed unfair when I consider that my husband would be stuck here tied to a failing business without my help. We’re a partnership, a team. I would want his help if the situation were reversed.
But this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a bucket list. Even within – especially within- relationships there needs to be growth. The realization that I have no idea what I want to do is a signal to me that perhaps I have sacrificed too much, I still need to exist as me. This is the third struggle, the balance between individuality and “we”.
Suggestions for the list, anyone?