When did romance and independence become mutually exclusive? I can’t be the only one who feels like, for women in particular, society tends to put these two ideals at opposite ends of the spectrum. And I can’t be the only one who balks at the idea of needing a partner to give my life any sense of meaning or purpose. I’d like to think I have a lot more going on than just that.
To be fair, though, the flip side of this issue is important, too: the ability to be emotionally vulnerable and develop genuine intimacy with another person. Having someone help you to unpack your baggage can be a bonding experience that shapes the entire tone of your relationship by making honesty and kindness a top priority. The tricky part is making sure you’re the one doing the majority of the unpacking, with your significant other playing the role of cheerleader, personal trainer, and therapist.
This healthy balance is something too often overlooked in day-to-day references to relationships, particularly on social networking websites or in movies. We’re constantly being nudged towards holding dependency as the ultimate ideal in romance. (I’m looking at you, Disney.)
While it goes without saying that we can’t be all strong, all the time, sometimes it’s important to question our own knee-jerk reactions to common situations. Why does having experienced any kind of emotional difficulty call for having someone to “put you back together”? Any relationship comprised of a mish-mash of two people’s broken parts is sure to end up just the way it started: broken.
In fact, relying completely on your man to fix up your emotional hang-ups can set the scene for serious difficulties later in the relationship. Consider this: casting someone as the perfect hero who magically puts you back together imposes a huge expectation on another person who, ultimately, is just as human as you are. What happens when your knight becomes the one in need? And what happens when you notice a couple of chinks in that suit of armour which looked so shiny from afar?
We’ve all got enough pop psychology smarts gleaned from daytime television to know that a healthy relationship is one built on a solid foundation of self-acceptance, self-love and self-respect. If you’ve taken the time to focus on your own emotional development as an individual, achieving this is pretty straightforward and allows you room to focus on other areas of the relationship that may need attention – like, for example, your significant other’s inability to put down the toilet seat.
When it comes down to it, the emotional landscape of each relationship we are part of is something we create through our own actions and reactions. That’s why I detest the idea of being “rescued” by a man – or anyone else, for that matter. Playing the damsel in distress can blind us to the fact that, if we’d only open our eyes, we’d see that everything we needed to save ourselves was just a few steps away. I definitely think it’s time I get fitted for my own suit of armour.