I believe that if you review your life, you’ll find that for every gain you’ve had, you also experienced a loss. It starts early in childhood, when a mother says, “If you stop screaming, I’ll give you a piece of candy”. It becomes even more evident when a child is afraid to give up the security of his parents’ home and spend a week or two at a sleep-away camp. His fear causes him to cry. Two weeks or a month later, when you try to retrieve him from camp, the same child who was reluctant to go, hugs his playmates and cries once again because, although he’s going home, he’s losing the companionship of his newly acquired friends. It’s the same for graduation from elementary school, junior high, high school and college. Every step you take in life opens a door that can provide access to new opportunities, challenges and joys. But, in order to gain them, you have to give up a portion of your past. You lose something secure, something known, in exchange for an unknown, possibly frightening future, which provides no guarantees, but includes many possibilities.
Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than the step you take going from being single to being married. It’s difficult to count how many times, even before your wedding, that you will be advised of the responsibilities, obligations, commitments and loss of freedom you’ll experience in the future. Not very long after the ceremony, you’ll also discover that he/she likes it cool, but you like it warm, so you argue over the thermostat and temperature. She may be a morning person, you may be an evening person. You like the lights bright, he prefers them low. You like spicy, she likes bland. He thrives on carbs, you try to eat healthy. There are losses and gains, capitulation, giving in, sometimes even giving up. But, in exchange, there can be companionship, love, nurturance and someone with whom you can share your thoughts, dreams and hopes for the future.
It’s all a part of the ongoing process of growth that people experience. It’s as simplistic as going from a size twelve to a size eight, which requires you to give up your old wardrobe for a new one. It’s no different than the transformation a college student, whose life before graduation was filled with sorority and fraternity parties, beer busts and passionate relationships, later experiences when he assumes responsibility for self in a world that requires him to pay his own way and only partake of those behaviors in moderation. He’s lost his stipend, but he’s in a position to gain a sense of independence, freedom and self determination
When it comes to marriage, however, there is one very important distinction. In most instances, you initially crave the relationship. You thrive on the attention, care, concern and love you derive from your new partner, but after the rice is thrown, things change. You can make that individual your surrogate parent and live with them, with the same resentment, rebellion and hurt that you experienced early in life with your parents. Two, you can loose yourself by totally modeling your life according to what is politically correct. That means, do what’s expected of you, buy a home, have children, go to PTA meetings, take family vacations, trudge off to work every day, do dishes, plan meals and become a chauffeur for little tykes, all the while experiencing growing resentment, which you don’t express because you don’t consciously recognize it. Consequently, you continue to behave as you think society expects you to and hate yourself for being weak, resent your spouse for controlling you and see yourself as trapped. Three, you can flaunt society by doing your thing. Thus, you have affairs, live according to your own egocentric desires and live in constant conflict with your spouse. But, no matter which of the three behavioral patterns you display, you blame your actions and feelings on your belief that you lost your freedom to your spouse. In most instances, however, you never had it to lose. Even before your marriage, you didn’t feel free to be who you were, or honestly share your thoughts and feelings. So, you didn’t have anything to lose. You were still a child, controlled by all the rules, admonishments, criticisms, guidelines and politically correct rules you were taught in childhood.
There is a fourth alternative. Recognize that, in exchange for the joy that a good relationship or marriage can provide, you must be prepared to freely give up some of your habitual, ingrained attitudes and actions and become aware of and sensitive to your own emotional needs. To do that, you must first find you. That means you need to become an emotionally independent adult. Someone who feels their thoughts and feelings are valuable and worthy of being listened to. Someone who knows that you can’t take adult steps without first becoming an adult, a person who recalls what happened as a child, when he or she first tried to walk in father’s boots or mother’s high heels. You looked awkward and often fell or tripped over yourself. It’s the consequence that occurs when you attempt to act grown up without truly being a grown up.
When you truly are an adult, you are no longer afraid to risk rejection or to experience conflict because of your views and opinions. You are, instead, a human being who can not only stand up, but can also give in. You understand that life truly is a process that includes potentially wonderful gains that don’t come free, but require certain responsibilities and obligations to yourself that you’re willing to accept, because you know that a person has to lose a little to gain a lot.