Will I Marry Me?
When my ex-partner and I separated about three years ago, I spent many months afterwards replaying and analyzing each critical moment in our six-year relationship, trying to identify the cause of the break-up. Self-preservation at the time called for a strong sense of self-righteousness and denial; so naturally, I blamed him for all the unhappiness and misery in our relationship. He was the culprit who started all the arguments; he alienated me with his never-ending stream of criticism; he smothered me with his emotional neediness; he comes from a broken family so he was prone to leaving during troubled times; and the list goes on. But when the self-righteousness and denial wore off, and after a period of therapy, support groups and obsessive reading of self-help and relationship books, I realized that the happiness of any relationship starts with the individual. It starts with me.
As I mentioned in my last article, I lacked vision when it came to relationships and without a vision, I was not an active participant, being more involved in my career than my relationship. I was the consummate capitalist and workaholic: working sixteen-hour days, jet-setting around the world, selling my soul to corporate America. At home, more time was spent with my laptop and blackberry than my partner. The relationship was just one of many projects I was working on, so in truth, my partner was an “accessory” (a term he often used when we argued about my lack of participation) to all my other projects. I was naive and ignorant then, believing that a shared bed and residence, joint finances, weekend outings and my personally-guaranteed presence in his life was enough. So after a long bout of deliberation and self-reflection, I had to accept that there was very little I contributed to the relationship that would compel my partner (or anyone else for that matter) to stay: I wasn’t exactly the image of a loving and attentive partner that one would want to fight for.
When thinking about happiness or longevity in a relationship, we generally think of it in terms of whether or not our partner is someone we want to share our future with, or ultimately, someone we want to marry. We look at them in terms of how he or she contributes to our individual happiness and well-being: security, companionship, comfort, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, sex, admiration, love, etc. Instead of asking what we, ourselves, contribute to the happiness and well-being of the relationship, we ask “Will that person make me happy?” But just as one’s happiness in life starts with oneself, one’s happiness in a relationship starts with oneself as well. So rather than “Will you marry me?” we should perhaps start by asking “Will I marry me?”
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