24 Jul Together Yet Separate
I met my spouse 19 years ago. At our wedding ceremony, a friend read the following poem:
On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
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 let 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.
Partners become bored, complacent and/or resentful when they only identify as a couple, not as individuals. In sessions, I’ve heard, “I don’t have any individual hobbies, we do everything together” or “I feel smothered by my partner” or “I feel guilty going out with my friends because my partner doesn’t do anything without me”. Sometimes, one partner will report a mid-life crisis and question everything about their relationship and wonder, “Who am I?, What have I been doing all of these years?”.
Often the culprit to these uncomfortable questions and feelings rests in your togetherness. You both created a life without separation from each other. Somewhere along the line, you gave up your own interests. You spent less time on your own and became more dependent on the presence of your partner.
Tom, a previous client, frequently reported on the various activities he did with his partner. All of the activities were her interests, her friends, her hobbies. Over time, he stopped doing for himself, by himself, with the exception of work. Not surprisingly, his partner claimed to feel “smothered”, “annoyed” and less attracted to him sexually. What happened to the man he was before he met her? Where’s the mystery? How does he now bring anything new to the relationship?
The initial phase of a relationship, often referred to as the “honeymoon phase” draws it’s power from what each does not know about the other. It’s the newness of your partner that feels exciting. The newness creates the spark, the giddyness, the anticipation of meeting again. How do you keep that going in a long-term commitment? How have I managed to do this successfully for my 19 year relationship?
Kahlil Gibran’s poem served as part of the foundation for our marriage. I love my spouse with every breath and cell of my being AND I also value our time apart. In fact, I need that time – whether it’s with friends or on my own. When I have separate experiences, I am more in touch with my individuality. I bring my experiences back to the relationship. As a result of these mini-separations, I miss my spouse when we are apart. I look forward to our togetherness.
So how do you begin to embrace your individuality within your relationship? Notice if you or your partner struggle with the feelings listed above. Are you bored? Angry? Resentful? Smothered? Do you feel any mystery in your relationship? Do you only go out as a couple?
Talk about making time for individual activities. Plan outings with your friends. Take on a new hobby or leisure activity. Pursue your own interests. Notice how these changes shift how you relate to each other. Notice if these changes create anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity. If so, these red flags indicate an unhealthy dependency that needs correction.
Be together yet separate. Flourish individually within the embrace of your relationship. This might be one of the healthiest decisions you make as a couple.