After having some time to reflect after "The Bachelor" finale, I think this is the perfect time to put this article out there. In this article, I want to offer you a different perspective on how to view relationships. I want to challenge you to defy cultural assumptions of what romance is and shine a light on how codependency can squash your happiness.
The puzzle analogy
In wedding vows or proclamations of love, we often hear the phrase, "You complete me." We compare finding our person to finding the missing piece of the puzzle in our lives. Once we place that puzzle piece in the empty hole, we can finally see the beautiful and complete picture. Without that piece, we would be in a frenzy, searching all around under the kitchen table and on everyone's chairs to see if we find it. We desperately hope the dog, or the baby, hasn't eaten it. We hold out hope.
This comparison, as I have found, has created quite an issue in our modern day society. We are so obsessed with finding that missing piece in our lives to complete us that we often search in the wrong places or live in unending frustration. Sometimes we find a perfectly wonderful person, but they seem to lack everything on our checklists of what we have deemed as the perfect missing piece, so we let them go. If you are one of the lucky ones who has found a person who fills the void in your life, you often try to shove them into the puzzle as hard as you can and force them to fit. You need to be filled; you need to have the beauty of the final picture — without it, how could you ever be completely happy?
Where did I go wrong?
I was riding along in the car with my boyfriend when I realized we had hit a rough patch. We are a long distance couple — going to separate colleges four hours away from each other — but we only live two minutes away from each other when we are back at home.
I had never had a boyfriend before my second semester of senior year. I had always been very independent. I moved a lot, which meant anytime I got close to dating someone, POOF, there I went. But, this time I had finally stayed and found an amazing guy — my best friend.
When I was single, I was the queen of relationship advice (as we all are when we are not blinded by rose-colored romance). Finally being in a relationship made me realize how easy it was to fall into habits that I had always scorned others for. I began letting this relationship affect me in ways I never even suspected it could.
Don't get me wrong, this was not his doing at all. My boyfriend is the sweetest guy I know. He is always lifting me up and supporting me to reach my dreams. While we both struggle with anxiety and depression, we have found a way to always put our individual mental health first. My boyfriend had dated people before me, but I had not. This altered expectations of what this relationship was supposed to look like for each of us. He knew what mistakes to try to stay away from, while I was still trying to figure it out.
How to reframe your perspective in relationships
Regardless of my background, I think I have stumbled on the most amazing way of reframing perspective in relationships. Once I started changing the lens on how I looked at our relationship, we started bickering less and I became so much happier.
Here it is: your significant other is your COMPANION, not your COMPLETION.
Of course, you should feel happy and enjoy when your partner is around. They should treat you with care and make you laugh, but they should not be the person filling the empty piece of your heart — that isn't their responsibility. They should not be the ultimate source of happiness that makes you feel emotionally whole. This perspective is extremely unhealthy because people are fickle and we make mistakes. We screw up . . . all the time. Our culture loves to use the phrase, "You complete me." It sounds extremely romantic. However, it can be so problematic.
Now, when I spend time or communicate with my boyfriend, I see it as a lucky bonus we get after we both have spent time improving ourselves that day. When I text him, I don't expect him to reply to me immediately — even though I still wish he would because of the need for instant gratification, let's be real. I know that he is going after his dreams by working as hard as he can to make a life for himself. As a girlfriend, not only should I commend him for that, but I should also give him the space to do that. Likewise, I should go after my dreams and work as hard as I can to achieve them.
Your partner should be the fun blanket you have on top of your comforter. You would be just as warm without the blanket and still get a good nights sleep, but the blanket is still really fuzzy and gives you extra joy and you can wrap it around you while you are watching tv. And, if it is a really cold and stormy night, perhaps you snuggle up with your blanket and hold it tightly for a little extra warmth and comfort.
I am a believer in God, and I believe his holy spirit makes me whole. Regardless of if you share this belief or not, I think we can all agree that we are all supposed to walk through life together and lift each other up. If we expect to put our happiness and worth on the shoulders of one person, then that relationship is going to crumble. Why would you want the person you love most to crumble? I certainly don't. I want to be able to look my partner in the eyes and say, "I love you and I want to stand by you when you need me. When you don't, I will be okay because I am still whole and fulfilled".