So many people think of their wedding as the climax of their fairytale— a celebration of finding ’the one’. But that view, while romantic, isn’t always healthy. Researchers are worried that we’re putting too much pressure on our partners— that our high expectations are actually ruining our relationships, putting us behind the eight ball before they even begin. Because we think that there’s one perfect person, a soulmate who will make our life complete. Maybe it sounds nice in a superficial way, but when you look it it more deeply it’s really worrying.
The idea of soulmates is very new. The idea that one person should give us everything is a modern one— and the idea that one person should complete us is downright terrifying. We need to feel comfortable being our own person, a strong individual, before we commit to anyone else.
But more than that, on a practical level, it’s damning for relationships. If you set the bar at ‘this person will make my life complete and totally different than anything I’ve ever known’ then how is your partner not going to fall short of that? No person can make everything OK. No person change your life for you. And if you’re waiting for them to do it, then your relationship is doomed. But that’s the fault of your expectation, not your partner’s behavior.
This weekend I attended my first ever Quaker wedding. I loved it. Not just because the ceremony was so different and so much more personal than many of the cookie cutter weddings I’ve been to, but because one of the readings presented marriage in a way that we often don’t think about. It was from the inspiring work The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. It read, in part:
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and Dance together and be joyous, but each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow
not in each other’s shadow.
Having separation from your partner doesn’t make your relationship weaker— it allows you both to be stronger. We need to stop thinking of relationships as being two halves coming together. We need to stop thinking one person can fix us. We need to fix ourselves. And, to be in a happy relationship, we should take on the responsibility for our own happiness. So if you’re finding yourself unhappy with your relationship, take a moment to think about your expectations. Make sure that you’re not making it impossible for your partner to give you what you think they should— and start to think about making yourself happy.