If there is one factor that is essential to establishing and maintaining a healthy, meaningful marriage or relationship, it is the ability to live independently. It may seem a contradiction, but I’m strongly suggesting that, in order to successfully co-habitate in a loving manner with another individual, you first need to be able to live with and love yourself. That means, being involved in activities, a career and hobbies. It also means finding time for friends and expending effort and energy to socialize, celebrate, mourn and to lift up or lean on others. Even more importantly, you need to be able to enjoy an evening at home alone, reading a good book or trying out a new recipe, etc., but not because you’re hiding from social or interpersonal interactions. Your ability to spend time alone can also aid you to value your own company. It can provide an opportunity to learn something new about yourself, in that it may open your mind to your fears and emotional quirks and provoke new thoughts and insights into yourself and your behaviors. Even more importantly, it creates time for you to be honestly introspective, to recognize, accept and own your reality, i.e., to see the games you play, the manipulative ways you may, on occasion, interact with others, and to be aware of the contradictions and lies you sometimes live. Lastly, but equally important, it’s time you can use to learn to be financially accountable, to develop your own tastes and to create a home environment that allows you to say, “Every night when I return home, I look around and feel at peace with me and my world.”
The irony is that most of us are unable to do those things. We have to either fill our world with noise and sound, people, activities, obligations and responsibilities, or close the curtains, shut the world out and feel sorry for ourselves. Many of us use conflict, upset and excessive crises to avoid looking at ourselves and to hide from the pain of our realities. Others of us require meaning and understanding that we garner from philosophical concepts and spiritual beliefs which allow us to cope with a world that is often incomprehensible. A world that can include contradictions, wars and needless suffering. The reason we do so stems from our need to find a way to understand, explain and/or control whatever is out there, that is foreign to us, difficult to swallow, or doesn’t seem fair.
The tragedy is that, in most instances, we hide from our insecurities and fears. Thus, we rationalize and view our search for understanding and need for parameters as positive reflections of our curiosity and desire to know more. The alternative might be to consider the possibility that we will never fully comprehend our universe and accept that we are only very small cogs in a very large world. One that expands far beyond our imaginations and that, in truth, we have little or no control over. That acceptance could help us to see that all of our excessive behaviors and emotional reactions are only little sound bytes in a far larger acoustic arrangement. The realization and acceptance of these concepts might be the truest form of humility we can experience. It might even allow us to see that we can’t and don’t have to know everything to be perfect, or be stressed and preoccupied by our every mistake. It might also help us to realize that we’re fortunate to have the brief but finite time we have been given to live in the world. Then, rather than waste it or fill it with depression, conflict and petty upsets, we can appreciate and enjoy the gift of life that we’ve been given.
Please recognize that I am, in no way, attempting to stifle or mitigate human curiosity, scientific investigation or intellectual inquiry. But I am saying that, in our rapidly developing world, yesterday’s facts frequently become today’s myths. For example, when we threw virgins into volcanoes, we thought we were controlling and appeasing the gods. We believed that we had discovered the secret of successfully stifling evil and catastrophic events. Today, we say, “It’s astonishing that anyone could have believed that.”
All that being the case, I’d like to suggest that our primary goal in life should be to come to peace with ourselves and the world we live in. We have to recognize that we do have choices and shouldn’t be afraid to exercise them. No matter what we do, in the end, we’ll only cause little ripples in a large ocean. Which, months from now, no one will care about and most will have forgotten occurred. In light of that, we need to be more forgiving of ourselves and search for people who accept us. Those who can’t, or continue to feel hurt and resentful over our misbehavior are only trying to guilt or manipulate us and relinquish responsibility for their behaviors. Think how many times you’ve heard someone say, “If you hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have acted that way”, or, “If mother could hear me now, she’d turn over in her grave”, or, “If I get a divorce, it would kill my parents, destroy my children and forever affect their lives.” And it’s true, you reacted to his/her statement, mother wouldn’t have liked it and divorce can be a cataclysmic event in the lives of children. But it needn’t be, in the lives of adults. In fact, many of us benefit from adversity and learn that we needn’t replicate dysfunctional behavior. Even more, that we can change the way we act in relationships by virtue of our awareness.
Living alone successfully can significantly aid you to develop that awareness. It will reinforce the fact that you can accept responsibility, pay your bills, establish credit, do your laundry and make decisions on your own, without consulting parents or friends. It’s not a case of divorcing yourself from others or never asking for help. It is a way of realizing that you can care for yourself, make it on your own and never need to stay in a bad relationship or marriage out of fear. It’s then and only then that you can successfully sustain your relationships out of desire for a partner you truly love.
To learn more about Dr. Reitman, read more of his articles, or to obtain copies for family or friends, please visit his website, dredreitman.com.