Marriage often gets a bad rap because too many people buy into the myth that it requires you to sacrifice or compromise yourself out of existence. The truth is that if you stop being you, the marriage won’t make it. What marriage requires is a balance between being you AND being part of a couple.
The challenge is that many couples start out like a character in the comic strip Zits. It’s actually two teenagers who are so wrapped up in each other that you don’t know where one stops and the other starts. They are never spoken of as Rich and Amy, only RichAmy. Couples in the initial throes of love are like this–spending every free moment together; wrapped up in each other’s lives and arms. There is nothing wrong with this, in the short term.
Over time, though, this intense other focus is unsustainable. You each start to come off the “in love” high but the pattern of always being together has been set. You each have given up some of your own activities and self-focus. This is okay if these things aren’t really important to you. The problems start if you realize you have stopped doing something that really matters.
Now the dependence/independence dance starts. The push/pull of time together and time apart creates tension and arguments. Add in the popularly accepted idea that marriage requires compromise and sacrifice—it’s no wonder couples struggle.
The choice isn’t between remaining completely independent or smothering each other. Like anything else, togetherness in a relationship is a question of moderation. When you come together as a couple, you don’t stop being yourself. The things that make you feel good about yourself, the activities that feed your soul, need to continue to be part of your life. These things that make you you are part of what your partner found attractive.
It’s important for each of you to maintain individual interests. Modifying how often you engage in these activities may need to be addressed but giving them up entirely is never a requirement. Continuing to grow as an individual and bring ongoing energy to your relationship is important to keep it alive and healthy.
Again, it’s critical to put your focus on the relationship if you want it to thrive. Managing the balance between individual pursuits and complete togetherness is one of the best ways to navigate this potentially tricky relationship dilemma. The truth is that the long-term health of both you and your marriage depend on it.
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A version of this post was previously published on TheHeroHusbandProject and is republished here with permission from the author.
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