The basis of identity is a definition. Identity is how we define ourselves by our beliefs and actions based on those beliefs. We draw boundaries we refuse to cross, effectively marking our territory. What happens when someone else makes those boundaries?
Someone had to lay boundaries for us when we were young. These were the people who raised us. The ‘rents were busy with their rules and religions to set goals and safe zones for us to have some semblance of a carefree childhood. Successful or not, they had our best interests at heart.
As we aged, we challenged those boundaries, broke some and replaced them with the boundaries which were appropriate for us. Occasionally, we set our boundaries inside those others had set for us. Many times we set them far beyond what others thought would be prudent for us.
We learned. The School of Hard Knocks graduated us with the scar-laden diploma of learning some of the boundaries we laid really were not prudent. Whether emotional or physical, we found our pain thresholds: the upper limit of what we could withstand without exsanguinating.
Or so we thought.
When Mate entered the picture, we practiced the art of compromise, wittingly or unknowingly. Boundaries which did not exist based on our parental units or our own SHK discovery paths proliferated. We reined in some of our baser instincts; we accepted new responsibilities beyond our mere self-preservation; and we accepted the boundaries had changed.
Or did we?
How many people give up their own boundaries and accept Mate’s merely to keep the peace? How many trade their individuality to join the ranks of the attached? Who are willing to trade their souls to banish bachelorhood and spinsterhood?
All of Them
This sweeping generalization is true. In very few relationships does one partner, much less both Mates, maintain their individuality at its maximum with boundaries in tact. One immediate example is the self-governance of our time. There are two sides to the hourglass coin.
The splitting of duties in a relationship frees up time for both Mates. More hands lighten the load. Having a Mate to take some of the mundane tasks allows more time for other pursuits. Time you would have spent paying the bills is now open to pursue hobbies or continue to court Mate to sustain the relationship in much the tender state it began.
Time Mate would have spent doing yard work is now split between both to draw double duty for the relationship by sharing the time and the responsibility or is filled with education.
Both examples are healthy alternatives for the free time manufactured by the sharing of stressors and chores.
The alternative is the set of Mates where one maintains all of the responsibilities as though still single while having to care for Mate’s responsibilities in addition. This extreme adulteration of the give-and-take relationship has Giving Mate giving without the contribution of the other and/or Taking Mate creating addition drag by introducing new stressors:
- Unchecked financial irresponsibility
- Egocentric emotional responses to joint situations
- Failure to invest emotionally in the longevity of the relationship
Instead of both Mates giving and taking in some form of equity, they split give and take between each other.
No one wins the coin toss. Giving Mate loses identity to become the sole support for the relationship. The task of caring for all things financial, physical and emotional leaves no room for self-reflective and conscious-expanding pursuits.
Taking Mate may seem to be operating within completely self-determined boundaries. In fact, Taking Mate can only realize self-endeavors to the extent Giving Mate can afford the investment in them.
Both Mates have choices. They can choose together to create the boundaries which define the relationship and its reference to themselves. Individually, they can choose to engage the relationship or forego it in their individual pursuits. They can choose to be active participants in their own lives or not.
By choosing not, they are martyring their own identities for the trappings of a relationship, which in its state of ill health is poisonous to them.
To do otherwise is a recipe for depression, divorce and dysfunction which radiates to friends, children and family.
Do you and Mate choose together? Do you abide Mate’s choices as absolute? Do you define your own boundaries both with and without regard to Mate? How can knowing these choices in advance lead to healthier relationships and marriages?
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© Red Dwyer 2013
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