Monday, December 1, 2008

Single (the second in a series about relationship...)


(image from: uic.edu)


I'm finally adjusting to being single. Woo hoo!

Now, you can lower those raised eyebrows-- I'm not talking about my marital status! I'm talking about my sense of self. You see, unlike most people, I did not come into this world alone. I am a twin-- I have a twin brother. Since my first cell divided I have been with another. My first night sleeping outside the comfort of mom's womb, I was not alone. I was never just "me" in school-- I was "one of the twins" (kinda like "Seven of Nine"… ha!) So, it has shaped my sense of self in an unusual way.

When I first started dreaming of falling in love and getting married, I assumed that Mr. Right and I would have such a close bond that we would effortlessly know each other. I think my vision of a mate went beyond the typical best-friend and soulmate ideas, because I already knew what living as part of a pair entailed.

My brother and I were always together when playing. We helped each other throughout development. He made me laugh when I got frustrated. I pushed him around on a wheeled giraffe when I was first to walk. He fixed broken toys for me, I helped him with his homework. We often finished each other's sentences. And, to the frustration of my sisters, we frequently communicated nonverbally across the dinner table, laughing at unspoken jokes.

As we grew into the teenage years, we drifted apart, had different friends and different interests. I developed a strong, stable, healthy individual self. But my vision of a soulmate was already formed.

To make matters worse, I am an "Idealist" personality type. As Keirsey says in Please Understand Me II, Idealists are unique in their approach to mating. The other temperaments are realistic-- they assume their mates to be fallible. But Idealists look for "more than life partners in their mates-- they want soul partners, persons with whom they can bond in some special spiritual sense, sharing their complex inner lives and communicating intimately about what most concerns them: their feelings and their causes, their romantic fantasies and their ethical dilemmas, their inner division and their search for wholeness. Idealists firmly believe in such deep and meaningful relationships-- they will settle for nothing less-- and in some cases they try to create them where they don't exist." (Does this sound familiar those of you who are also Idealist types?)

Yep. That's what I did. But as I'm growing and experiencing life, I'm learning that such idealism does not lead to true intimacy. It can be taken too far. As much as an idealist would love to have a mate who fits their vision exactly, it is not reasonable or realistic. An idealist's vision of how things should be, can frustrate or even stifle others in their lives.

I've learned that for two to become one, they must first be two complete individuals. The early stages of a relationship feel like oneness, but that is fantasy. When a couple first falls in love they lower all internal boundaries and experience the feelings of merging with each other. Lovers often say that he/she "completes me". But this is not true oneness. True oneness can only develop over time. And the prerequisite is two complete people, each able to do all that relationship requires (according to Drs. Cloud and Townsend in Boundaries in Marriage ): give and receive love, be responsible, be independent and self-sufficient, live out values honestly, have self-confidence, deal with problems and failures, live out their talents, and have a life. My initial vision of a soulmate looked more like the merging of two incomplete people (very romantic, but not healthy!)

So, for the first time in my life I'm drawing boundaries around my "self" so that I can assess where I need to grow to become a more complete individual. It's exciting! I'm rediscovering the core of my self that is independent of any connections or relationships (a rather large task for me-- see part one). As I strengthen her, I will have more to give to others. And that is the basis for a true soulmate relationship!

19 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've always wondered what it would be like to be a twin. I think I'd have a hard time imagining it because I was such a loner as a kid.

Catvibe said...

I am an idealist as well, and no one ordinary person could possibly meet the challenge. Thank god there are many people out there! Well done on drawing the boundaries for self definition. I imagine that finding your individual self within the marriage bond would be difficult, and yet extremely rewarding.

Sarah Hina said...

That core in you is already strong. But I look forward to seeing what she becomes. :)

You're right about all of this, of course. Completeness sounds dreamy--it's the vision we so often see, and feel our hearts beat wild to, in passionate books and movies--but those works tend to end before the hard work begins. ;) The headiness of that soul connection is wonderful, until we realize that the cost is unhealthy enmeshment and a greedy, sucking need. Then any cracks in that coupling becomes compounded and exposed as a disillusionment, and the drifting apart can seem torturous, because who are we if we're not part of that other's completeness we sought all along?

Really fascinating post, Aine. Especially in light of your twin connection! That sense of intimacy you coveted must have been so innately driven. But independence is a beautiful gift we can give ourselves. I'm glad you're sharing its healthy benefits with all of us. :)

JaneyV said...

I used to dream of being a twin when I was a child and as an adult I often wished to have twins of my own. I had twin dolls and often when playing 'house' I had two babies. The reality is that I would've found coping with two babies very difficult but that longing was always there!

What you write is, as usual, very incisive. Being part of a large family it was very important for me to establish a sense of self before being able to be part of a successful relationship. Group identity forces you to adapt to the wishes of the strongest personality. As I tend to be a peace-keeper I struggled with feeling lost in the group. I think my inability to be successfully single was the cause of the demise of my first serious relationship. I was too much of a chameleon emotionally for that relationship to prosper - instead of offering a whole, separate person I mirrored the person I was with. It was a wonderful journey discovering who I was (often painful but always worthwhile) and I am still on it. I feel very lucky to have found a soulmate who compliments rather than completes me.

Great post Aine.

The Quoibler said...

Aine:

This is a very thought-provoking subject, as I think many people (both men and women) are taught there is a "soul mate" out there for them.

Personally, I believe there are many people who could be right you. Not to take away from Jason, but I believe that if you had, say, decided to move to Australia in your late teens that you would have met someone there.

My husband, who is more of an Idealist in some ways and is absolutely more romantic than I, finds that thought a bit disturbing.

Okay. That was a scattered response. My apologies! Coming down with a cold and I think my head is a bit crazed. :)

Angelique

(Word verification: hypsaty. I wonder what that could be? Perhaps a sitting hypocrite?)

Aine said...

Charles~ Mostly it was like having a regular sibling, but being the same age (and stage of development) led to greater closeness. One of the best parts was how he complimented me. I was painfully shy and he loved to talk. I could rely on him in social situations. I probably would have been more of a loner without him.

And, as a twin you have to share the attention on your birthday (and your cake...)
:P

I've always wondered what being an identical twin would be like.

Catvibe~ It's not so difficult when both partners are working on self-growth. And Jason (unlike many men) is always open to talking about difficult emotions, etc. I'm lucky to have him!

Are you an idealist "type", as in the Myers-Briggs personality types? (If you don't know and are interested, check out my post on personality theory. I'd love to hear what your "preferences" are!)

Sarah~ Well said, and thank you! Untangling an enmeshed self is scary (I'm so grateful for supportive friends.) Thankfully I do have a core self already established. Why can't romance be as easy as the movies?...
:)

Janey~ Thanks!! I actually wanted to have twins, too. I always thought it would be easier to go through the stages once with two children instead of dealing with different stages concurrently. And, hey-- one pregnancy= instant family (sign me up!) But, like you, I realized how much harder it would've been for many other reasons.

Thank you for sharing your history-- I feel encouraged that I'm heading in the right direction!

Angelique~ Hi! Yes, most people are taught to have idealist views in romance (thanks in no small part to movies and novels). What I find most interesting about your comment is that you, like Jason, are a Rational type (you are ENTP, he is INTP) and he believes the exact same thing! And yes, like your husband, I too always found it a bit disturbing. But I'm learning to think from a different "type" perspective.

I hope you feel better soon!!
:)

Catvibe said...

Aine, INFJ, The counselor, that's me in a nutshell.

Catvibe said...

BTW: I took this test for the first time when I worked with New Dimensions Radio, all of us did it, it was cathartic and revealing. I just took it again online and the results were pretty much the same. I'm enjoying reading the online materials, it's kind of a relief to understand what it means to be an 'idealist', methinks I'll have to look into this deeper.

jason evans said...

As much as being a twin shaped you, I believe being an only child shaped me. Intriguing how those two world views came together. The twin reaching out in the desire to assure that someone was there with them. The only child wishing for another who was never there. At first, they seemed so much in harmony. But when the fuels are different, the essential natures of them are also different.

The hard lesson (and the growth) is learning that we are not a twin, not an only child. We are out in the world and free to form much fuller identities. But the children are hard to let go of.

Vesper said...

Aine, how interesting…

Although I don’t remember having scored as an Idealist in the personality tests (or have I?), your description of what an Idealist looks for in a mate suits me perfectly. Unfortunately I’ve become quite disillusioned and even cynical…

I guess I’ll have to follow your example, and “grow”…

Aine said...

Catvibe~ INFJ is my preference too! We can speak the same language with ease.
:)

I find the whole theory very valuable in understanding myself and others. And the best part is that these ways of thinking are just preferences (kinda like being right-handed); we can choose to learn how to think in other ways and grow (even though our preferences will always be our strengths)! Understanding the other ways of thinking (ways that aren't our own preference) make it much easier to understand and communicate with others.

I'm having fun applying this knowledge to parenting. Maybe I'll blog about that soon....

Jason~ That's the beauty of acceptance and understanding. We can learn from others (and each other) new ways of experiencing life. If we only had one way of seeing things, we'd never grow. With just one lifetime to live, I'd like to understand as many possible experiences/perspectives as I can. Despite the discomfort of non-preferred or less familiar ways. Having a bond of acceptance, trust, and love gives us a "safe" place to learn and experience.

Vesper~ I looked back at the archives-- you tested as an INTJ... but you would need to confirm that by taking several tests, and more importantly, reading the descriptions to find the one that best fits how you think.

If you are INTJ, then you are a "Rational" type. Women who have a T preference feel pressure to develop their F preference in our society due to gender stereotypes/expectations. That could explain the resonance you feel with "idealist" views. However, I believe the "idealist" views regarding romance and mating are strongly encouraged by movies and books. So people of many types have been taught to value or think in idealistic ways when choosing a mate. That said, when you read Keirsey's descriptions of mating from the perspective of other temperaments, you may find that your views are actually closer to one of the other descriptions.

Disillusionment and cynicism begone! ;) There are strengths in each way of thinking. We just have to be careful to not overdo it. Find balance from the strengths that the other perspectives offer. I took idealism too far by believing that my mate could complete me, that he would become one with me (d'oh! why would I want to live with another me?!). But believing in a soul connection, one that provides love and understanding and acceptance is a good thing.
:)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

If you have learned that in order for two to become one - the "two" must be complete and separate entities, then I would say that you have progressed already.


Staying true to ourselves helps us become more complete as individuals and consequently, more ONE with our partners. And, by having our own opinions and expressing them, by pursuing our own interests, standing up for causes we believe in, enjoying a little "me" time and by doing those things that bring us individual gratification- we are actually allowing for our partner to appreciate us more, thus creating a healthier connection. Unless, of course, there is jealousy involved - but, that's another chapter.

You have the best ideas and greatest topics for discussion, Aine. Thanks for always being so open and honest. K

Aine said...

Kaye~ Thank you! Despite all of my interest in personality "typing", I really do believe that our commonalities as humans outweigh our differences. So being open and honest feels natural to me. Why feel that there is anything to hide, since I'm certainly not the first nor the last to deal with such issues.
:)

And you are so right about how we must be complete individuals. I believe I have been doing many of the things you mentioned (expressing my own interests, having "me" time, standing up for my values, etc.), but my vision of a relationship involved too much enmeshment. So when my mate wanted something different than I wanted, I had trouble accepting that without feeling hurt or scared that it signified a disconnect.

I greatly appreciate your wise insights. Thank you for being there in cyberspace to listen to and discuss these topics!!

Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

You have stated this wonderfully. So many people are unhappy in relationships (not just in the romantic sense) because they are looking for someone to complete them. We are all afraid of being lonely to an extent, but, ultimately, we are alone in life insofar as being ourselves go. This is not a melancholic state of being, but rather, simply how nature has made all life. Though others may be empathetic to what we endure, no one truly knows the reality of another (i.e. tose who commented on the theme of being a twin and the uniqueness of this).

We are social animals, but relationships are aspects of our life that assist us in knowing ourselves better.

To become whole, we must have that reflective time. For me, it's when I do Yoga and meditate, write, go for a run, etc. This is when I incorporate my experiences, conversations and other aspects of daily life into my worldview, and when I chart my course in life.

We need to do things for ourselves - like tending a delicate orchid or bonsai. Mindful of those around us, but also with who we are within our selves.

I look forward to part II.

Om shanti

Aine said...

Minister~ Thank you. You hit the nail on the head: simply how nature has made all life. It is something that I must embrace more fully in my sense of self. I did not come into life alone, but I will leave life alone. Thankfully it's not something I fear. I just need to readjust my sense of self so that I'm not restricting others by trying to keep them within my boundaries (where my twin once resided).

(PS-- This was part 2... part 1 is here.)
:)

Chris Eldin said...

This really is a fascinating post. Developing boundaries..that's hard work. I've been trying for a couple of years (took me a long time to recognize I had the right to do this). And it's a constant struggle. I get pathologically upset if someone is mad at me. It plagues me and I obsess over it constantly. So I am a people-pleaser. But I don't want my children to become like me, so I'm trying.
Kudos to you and your single self!

And LOL@ Quoibler.
;-)

Aine said...

Chris~ It is a struggle. The frustrating thing about creating boundaries, is that it feels like you are being cold or less caring. Sensitivity and compassion are wonderful traits, but they must be kept in balance. It's hard to not over-compensate when learning to separate yourself from others feelings. I wish you all the wisdom and strength you need to do it! (I believe in you, Chris! You can do it! -- I wasn't a cheerleader for nothing, ya know...)
;)

Strangely enough, though I've always been a victim of the "good girl syndrome" my people-pleasing tendencies have remained within very healthy boundaries. It is only in the context of mating that I struggle with boundaries.

SzélsőFa said...

You are right about that in your last paragraph - the more you konw and love your own self, the more you can give to others, too.
And yes, my eyebrows did raise...
*sighs*
It came out just fine :)

Aine said...

Szelsofa~ Sorry for the scare. Got your attention though... ;)

Yes, all is well with us!