(aka Me – US – You)
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
– M. Markowitz
“Never leave the person you love for the person you like, because the person you like will leave you for the person they love.”
“The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender; because this kiss already has within it that surrender.”
– Emil Ludwig
In our culture, persons who are paired up are generally afforded more social status than those who are not paired (it also depends on age and circumstance). But generally, we Americans tend to take the idea of pairing up very seriously. Look around you, how many of your friends and acquaintances are either paired up, or are trying to pair up? The bar or club scene in America isn’t experiencing any slump. Nor will it experience one in the foreseeable future.
There are no shortages of people who attend social functions with the specific intent of pairing up. Even wedding ceremonies typically include an event in which the unpaired males are provided a venue for earning future relationship status. After they are all assembled on the dance floor, the groom throws the bride’s garter. A wives’ tale says that the man who catches it will be the next to get married.
A similar event occurs at weddings in which the unpaired female celebrants are then expected to get out on the dance floor. After they are assembled, the bride throws her flower bouquet into this group. A wives’ tale says that the woman who catches it will be the next to get married. Sometimes there is pretty stiff competition for either the garter belt, or for the flowers.
A common phenomenon that occurs with new pairings is that once the two pair up, each one of them may surrender the better part of their own individual social identity to that of the newly-formed paired social identity: the couple. You hear this type of talk all the time, “We did this together … we did that together.” Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with placing a significant emphasis on your paired social identity. In fact, doing so can be healthy and enjoyable.
The problem, however, is when the paired social identity of the couple becomes so lopsided that it overshadows (or overrides) each of the partner’s individual social identities; or the couple’s shared identity eclipses their individual identities altogether. Then again, one of the partners may nearly surrender his/her own personal social identity to that of their partner. I have a female friend who always takes on the identity of her partners by researching his distinctive characteristics and then trying to become just like him. Eventually, she comes to me complaining how he is insensitive to her needs.
In my experience working with people who seek out my advice on this matter, I’ve noticed that in the rush to be socially validated by society, many couples hurry into a pairing and forget to keep a part of their former pre-pairing social identity intact. In many cases, this involves a general cutting off of family, friends and others from within their already established social network.
We all know a friend who has met someone, paired up with them, and then ended up neglecting their primary social network. Then, once this person begins to experience some type of trouble in his/her relationship, they want to instantly reintegrate back into their former pre-pairing social network as though they had never left in the first place.
The people still involved in the pre-existing social network that managed to sustain their own intimate relationship, and continued to keep in touch with its members, may not be so quick to welcome back the “straggler.” And why should they? After all, if the person engaged in this type of behavior this time, who is to say they will not do so again in the future?
My suggestion is that both partners should keep part of their pre-existing social relationships intact. Each partner should have some personal/outside interest(s) of his or her own (don’t keep all your eggs in one basket). Moreover, each of the partners should also have their own personal space within the relationship structure.
If You Move in with Her, Be Sure to Get Your Own Room
One sunny summer afternoon, my friend and I were hiking in Boulder Canyon in Colorado. Our main topic of conversation that day was the progress he was making with his new girlfriend Cindy. After about an hour of informally discussing his budding relationship, my friend said that he needed to ask me a serious question. That request immediately caught my attention.
My friend asked me if I would give him a completely honest and serious answer to what he was about to ask me. In full anticipation of what could be so important, I agreed. My friend told me that he was entertaining the idea of moving in with this new girlfriend. “What do you think?” he queried. I told him that I needed to think about it for a little while before I could give him an honest answer. I didn’t want to give him any sort of rushed answer. Remember, he had invoked “serious” and I didn’t want to let him down. As we were climbing back down the mountain, I had thought about his question some more, and thus, was able to gather my thoughts on the matter. Now I could give him my honest assessment.
After we got back to the car and began our drive out of the canyon, he asked me whether or not I had come up with an answer to his question. I looked at him in the eye and said, “Get a two bedroom apartment.” He quickly countered with, “That will cost more. Plus, you know we’re going to sleep in the same bed.” I told him that I had taken that into consideration, yet I still insisted that they rent a two-bedroom apartment.
My friend was obviously perplexed by my answer, so we talked about it at some length. I said, “Bro, you need to have control of something you can call your own space. You also need to let her have her own space. You two can also have a common space, like the living room and the kitchen, but get your own space.” I explained that he needed to have a place where he could go to be by himself. In that designated living area he could hang up whatever poster or pictures he wanted, and he could decorate it to his own liking. I also mentioned that in the case of a fight, he would have somewhere to go and gather his thoughts. I told my friend that if he didn’t have any available privacy to call his own, he would probably also feel somewhat uncomfortable in the common space during a spat. The key to this advice was that if at all possible, he (and she too) should have exclusive rights to some space in the apartment: period.
His insistence on having his own space in the house didn’t mean that Cindy could never enter into that room. That would be silly. Nor does it mean that she isn’t welcome in it. “The point,” I told him, “was to have a space to call your own.” This way, even though they were living together, a part of his own identity would be kept intact. I explained to him that this was a mistake too many couples make in the beginning stage of their relationship; they only share common space (remember the logic of saturation?). I also told my friend about how eventually, older couples tend to establish their own personal space, “Men have a workshop of softie sort, or a sports room. Women, on the other hand, have a room for a hobby like quilting, sewing or oil painting.”
Since my friend also knew my girlfriend, I told him about a time after I underwent a major spinal cord operation. After that, I spent a few weeks confined to my bed recovering. Because of my condition, my girlfriend must have realized that I was having a difficult time keeping my personal space clean. So, after three weeks of not cleaning, doing wash, or the like, she came to me in a very enthusiastic mood and commented, “Babe, I’m going to clean your room for you!” Upon hearing that, I said, “Sorry sweetheart, I appreciate your concern for me, but I’ll clean it myself when I get better.” The smile on her face faded as a scowl quickly replaced it. “Sweetie,” I said matter-of-factly, “I need to be in charge of that space. Believe me, I really appreciate your offer, but you have your space and I have mine. Thanks.”
From the bed, I motioned for her to come closer to me. At first she was confused by this gesture. Her face was asking, “Are you mad?” But really, all I wanted was to give her a hug and a kiss and let her know how much I appreciate her kind gesture. But I stuck to my guns. My reasoning was simple: if she took over my space, even temporarily, then in the future I stood the chance of her wanting to have a small amount of control over it even when I wasn’t bedridden. I made sure to positively reinforce this decision with a liberal amount of affection and empathy; but my space was, after all, my space.
Waking Up Early for the Gun Show Causes Suspicion
After being discharged from the military, I began frequenting the local gun shows in the city I moved to. Although I was no longer required to be proficient with any sort of weapon, I still enjoyed target shooting. Not too long passed before I returned to college. While there, I met and began dating a woman I had met in one of my classes. We hit it off, ended up seriously dating, and eventually we moved in together.
Little did I know that after my girlfriend and I became roommates, she began to take note of my social routines. One thing was certain; she knew that I generally disliked getting up early in the morning. I suppose my military days had turned me into a bona fide night owl. After being rousted out of bed on a daily basis, I came to hate the early morning.
One early Saturday morning, my girlfriend noticed that I was already up eating breakfast. She gave me a weird look and inquired, “What are you doing up?”
Half asleep, I told her, “I’m going to the gun show.”
“Oh really now?” she quipped as she went in the other room to fold the
Soon after this exchange, she came back into the kitchen and began to ask me questions about the gun show. “So, who even goes to those gun shows? What goes on there?” she inquired like a veteran FBI interrogator. Her behavior made me wonder what she was up to, and I asked her why she suddenly had an interest in what happened at the gun shows. She avoided my question and continued with her line of tough questioning.
Finally, above the fray I asked her, “Why all-of-a-sudden do you care?” Her answer took me by surprise. She said that I hated to get up early for anything she wanted to do (e.g. like going to visit her parents). She mentioned that even on vacation we never hit the road until noon. So my odd behavior made her suspicious about what she thought actually happened at the gun shows.
In an attempt to quell her suspicion, I told her that the gun shows weren’t anything for her to worry about. I said that the gun show was just a bunch of good ol’ boys and vets playing with their grown-up toys. She shot me a look of disbelief, put her hands on her hips, and commandingly asked if she could accompany me to the show. What could I say? “Sure babe, let’s go.”
During the drive to the state fairgrounds, I could tell my girlfriend was still expecting to find something amiss at the gun show. Perhaps she was imagining bikini-clad strippers working the ticket booths or selling food at the snack bar. Perhaps she imagined free massages given by attractive women in camouflage.
I didn’t know for sure. Plus, I’m not one to talk much in the morning. So, because I wasn’t answering her questions, her imagination must have been running wild. I could see her gears turning. The closer we got to the county fairgrounds, the larger her eyes grew in anticipation.
My girlfriend and I arrived at the gun show at about 9AM, parked the car, and walked to the entrance. We paid our entry fee, and once inside, we began walking down the aisles full of gun-related merchandise. Now I was wide awake!
We had been walking no longer than twenty minutes when she began to get bored. By this time she could see that her suspicions were unfounded, and that there really wasn’t anything mysterious about the gun show. She commented, “Babe, I don’t see anything I like here, so I’m going to go wait for you on the bench where we came in.” This was a veiled hint for me to hurry. Since she was bored, she wanted to make me feel sorry for her. I kissed my girlfriend, told her I would meet her at the entrance, and continued combing the aisles looking at the variety of gun-related products. I did feel bad for her however, and found myself walking a bit faster than normal.
I began to skip seemingly not-so-important tables and in an attempt to hurry, I was overlooking any items I wasn’t that interested in. Then something suddenly dawned on me. I asked myself, Why was 1 hurrying? Hadn’t she asked to tag along? So I decided to slow down the pace a bit. I decided that I shouldn’t purposely slow down any more than usual; that would be malicious. However, I shouldn’t have to hurry either. After thinking about it, I proceeded at my normal pace.
Anyone who has attended a gun show in any major city knows how long it can take to view the entire venue. Although I did end up skipping a number of tables, it took me better than an hour to complete my rounds. When I finally made my way back to the bench where we had entered the building, my girlfriend was sitting there fuming mad. “What’s the matter?” I asked trying to act as innocent as possible. She verbally chastised me about making her wait, and complained that she was sore from sitting on a hard wooden bench for such a long time. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “You’re the one who wanted to come.” That comment earned me a smack on the back of my head.
All the way home my girlfriend kept insisting that I had purposely made her wait. Of course I denied her allegation. My girlfriend was still acting upset and was just sitting in her seat quietly waiting for me to apologize to her. Like that was going to happen! Thank goodness for a CD player. I was just glad that my girlfriend was never one to hold a grudge. After a day or so, the issue never came up again.
On an early Saturday morning three months later, I was up early eating breakfast, getting ready to go to another gun show. My girlfriend came into the kitchen, sat down and asked me if I was going to the gun show. I answered in the affirmative and asked her if she would like to accompany me. She looked at me and began shaking her head from side-to-side. Then an insidious smile formed on her face and she commented, “No way! Those gun shows are booorrriiinnnggg! I’m going shopping.” After that, every Saturday that I got up early to attend another gun show, I would invite her along. As long as we were a couple, she never took me up on any of my offers to go back to a gun show.