The danger of a loving marriage is losing sight of love for one’s self. True love is understanding how to be independent, together.
Perhaps that surprises you. The most often heard mantra for a happy marriage is to put yourself second because as the common advice goes, when you start caring for your spouse more than you do for yourself, you’ll be a good wife or a good husband. It’s the major theme of romcoms: make your spouse the center of your life; the person you are married to should be your utmost priority.
Typically, early in a relationship you want to share everything, do everything together. Gradually, as you grow comfortable with your partner over the long-term, your personalities “merge” and you become known as a “couple,” committed to each other. And indeed, when two become one, there’s beauty in that. But there is risk as well, losing sight of where you end and where your partner begins.
When the line becomes blurred you may begin to grow resentful of ceding the traits that made you, you. It’s a wake-up call for sure when you’re introduced as “this is so and so’s husband/wife.”
None of what I’ve said is new. But the familiar catch phrases take on deeper meaning as you age; when you’re officially ‘old.’ You’ve probably never used the word “totter” in the first sixty years of your life, but as you stumble, stagger, teeter and lurch your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you sure as hell know what it means.
Now it is more important than ever before to have a strong sense of your self-worth and a deep seated self-esteem. Do not wait until the walker with the tennis ball gliders is parked in the hallway and getting in and out of the bathtub is comparable to scaling El Capitan, free solo.
Know in your heart and mind that your independent self is not obliterated by the physical realities that accompany aging.
Most importantly, have an answer for the existential question, “Who am I?”
Be secure in the knowledge that it is not about the number of push-ups you can do or your frequent-visit discount at the dermatologist or the size of your income and balance sheet. It starts with knowing and appreciating your ideas, your personal preferences, habits and skills and hobbies.” Self” becomes embedded when you look inside and find clarity in an innate sense of fairness which distinguishes what is right from what is wrong and guides your behavior accordingly. A deep reservoir of compassion is there to draw upon when the cruelties of the world find your doorstep.
Know, when your loved one is propping you up and helping you up the stairs, know it is not pity that motivates him/her, it is recognition that you are a valuable human being worthy of love. You must believe that; you must think, feel, and believe that about yourself.
Don’t put it off any longer. If you feel like you’ve lost yourself in your marriage or closest relationships, the time to find yourself is now.