This chapter preaches the importance of giving for the sake of giving and not keeping score in a relationship. That I really get because, if you think that your partner has to do something for you because you did something for them and I cooked tonight so they should tomorrow, wouldn’t it be easier just to stay single? Woodward talks about the importance of creating a “we” in relationships rather than having two “Me”s that coexist- which might be really hard to wrap your head around if you happen to live in an independent and autonomous culture. Of course this happens much more effectively the better you know yourself. People that are scared of relationships because they fear that their partner’s need might overpower them are usually the types of people that haven’t yet created a strong understanding of who they are, what they need and what they are okay compromising.
“Strong relationships allow for the individuality of each person. People are free to express their needs, their wants, and their feelings. Those expressions are met with respect and with love. They are then taken into account in all subsequent decision making.”
I really quite liked that definition! Today’s practice exercise required me to answer yet another set of questions and I wrote on most of them below. So, here ya go:
- What is my attitude toward marriage?
I want to say that marriage, to me, is an institution that still holds great meaning despite the high divorce rates in many countries. And it does, it matters, it’s nothing to take lightheartedly. Yet, before my departure from the States, everyone- from friends, to my Lyft drivers, to colleagues (Yes, half of American now knows that I really really didn’t wanna move back)- simply said “Just get married to someone!” And after hearing it often enough, it turned my perception of marriage from this great promise between two people to work on maintaining a healthy, rewarding, thriving relationship for the rest of their lives into an act of convenience. So, I do think that my attitude towards it is not manifested at all and changes a lot depending on the phase of my life I am in, who I am with and where I want to be. Overall, it’s a positive attitude though.
- What is it about marriage that I want?
Marriage, to me at least, means that someone means enough to me to make all the other options out there seem non-intriguing . And, vice versa, it means that I matter enough to someone to make them want to wake up next to me for the rest of their lives. I want that. I want that union and that mutual dedication to one another. To matter so much to each other that you are willing to weather the inevitable challenges and downfalls and to walk towards the sunset together.
- What is it about marriage that I fear?
The letdown if it doesn’t work out and that I’d lose myself. I am capable of so much on my own, everyone really is. Most big things in my life I have accomplished on my own. Well, with the help of my friends. But the longer you are in a serious relationship, the easier it is to forget how capable you still are on your own. If I already observe this in relationships that ended after just under two years, not twenty years, a house, two cars and two kids later, how hard would that be to recover from? Marriage in itself is a nice but also very scary concept.
- What different communities am I part of? (Job, friends, family, spiritual, etc.)
My family in Germany, my marketing team at work, my 2+3 friendship group, my college dorm friendship group, my San Francisco friendship group, my roommates in San Francisco, my protestant church (at least on paper and according to my tax statements), the zen Buddhist community in San Francisco (at least a little bit) and I feel like I’m forgetting something here.
- For each community, answer: Okay, not doing this for everything. But, for the sake of the exercise, let’s take the Happy House community I used to live in during my two years in California. The “Happy House” are four women- 51, 29, 24 and 16- and one noisy and incredibly sweet dog:
- In what ways do I take care of others in this community?
I listen to their problems despite the distance, I try to stay updated on their lives, check in on each of them regularly, leverage all different social media tools that each one of them prefers to use and try to find common activities to partake in together long-distance (like reading this book). And I hope they know I’m here for them. Like, literally here for them. Not there for them. Here. But anyways. #Support.
- In what ways do others from this community take care of me?
They remind me of the things that really count and when I’m really sad and homesick and text them, they do what they used to do when we all still lived together: Not give me the solution to my problem but enough food for thought to look at the issue from new angles. They ask the right questions to help me find solutions on my own. And they remind me that it’s okay to not always be okay and to never get overwhelmed. Always one step at a time.
- Do I give more, or less, than I take from this community?
Hm. I wanna say I might give a little more in frequency of support but we all give equally much in meaning. Quantity vs quality. I miss them a lot and so I text them a lot and I check in on them a lot and nudge them constantly to skype. Which neither one of them just don’t really do. So, I feel like I give them more presence of myself in their lives while they, once they do reply or skype or email back, give a lot in depth. And so it balances each other out.
- What do I criticize and complain about regarding this community?
That they often go with the flow of life, especially when big changes are coming. That leads to them being slower in replying to anyone and planning ahead to schedule a FaceTime session. This then sometimes makes me feel like they have forgotten about me or are phasing me out. Which I know they don’t but I sometimes wish the frequency of calling or texting was a little higher from all sides.
- What actions, if any, have I taken to correct these perceived shortcomings?
I become more serious about really needing to hear their voice in my texts to them and so we ended up having a looong call the other day and I was very honest about these feelings of being forgotten or ignored. Not to create feelings of guilt but to explain how I perceived the situation and how we could go about it in the future and we ended up feeling really good about having it all out on the table and will (hopefully) schedule a group call soon.
- How committed am I to this community, and to what lengths do I or would I go to ensure its success?
Very committed, just as I am to all of my core friendship groups. Each one of them means the world to me, has supported me throughout life in different ways and shared an important chapter of my life. And even when that chapter is over, we stay in each others lives. Loosing any one of them would mean loosing a bit of myself, so I’d go to great lengths to ensure that that doesn’t happen. In this specific case, I’m planning on coming to see them in May. Fine, it’s really not a great length for me to go to because I’m dying to go back to San Francisco. But we can still count that, right?
- In what ways do I take care of others in this community?
So, I’ll go and write on the other communities in my offline journal or else this post will become the longest one in history. Happy Friday everyone!