“Two roads diverged in the wood, and I took the one less tweeted about” -@artnotfound
When I married my partner and was handed the package to change my last name, my husband and I pushed those papers into a drawer and never spoke of them again. I was born Ms. Beard and I will die Ms. Beard. Most of my friends and much of my family refer to me as simply Beard. This is who I am. It was not some radical act of feminism, I just like my name.
Naturally, some traditional friends and family wrinkled their noses at this decision. I didn’t find this reaction offensive. I believe tradition is important and sharing the same name is one way to create a family connection. Despite not sharing my husband’s name, I am no less his family. We all have to do what feels right for us.
This was the best fit for me but is not the best fit for every married person. I think one of the hardest thing for millennials to navigate is how to maintain ME in a WE connection. As a relationship therapist, I know the importance of maintaining the ME in WE in terms of sustaining the WE.
How do I stay Me in the context of We?
1) Be honest, even when it’s scary.
When some people partner they may make it a habit to defer to the other partner to make decisions. This often leads to resentments. Each person in a relationship has an opinion and a voice even if they think they don’t or they shouldn’t. If one person is more agreeable than another, I am suspicious that resentments are building and eroding away at the foundation of the relationship. It is essential to be honest from the beginning of a relationship. For example, if you hate Wheel of Fortune tell her now or you’re going to have to hate watch that show for a long time.
Even the most highly emotionally intelligent among us are not mind readers. Tell your partner the truth about who you are from the beginning. And as you grow and change keep them updated on the things they need to know. Being honest about who you are is the only way to live a happy and fulfilling life.
If you ain’t got trust, you ain’t got nothing in a relationship. You never own the other person even if you do get married. So, both of you should feel that it is always a choice to stay in the relationship and a choice you are glad to make everyday. If something comes up that threatens the trust in the relationship, please refer to point 1 and be honest with your partner about what’s going on.
3.) Keep your friends.
One of the worst decisions couples make is to abandon their previous connections and focus all their attention on the romantic relationship. We need someone else to vent to when our partner is driving us bonkers. It’s healthy to call up your friends and blow off some steam once in awhile. However, it’s impossible to do this if you have not maintained your connections. Make time to keep the friends you had before the relationship and make new friends during the relationship. Basically, it can’t just be the two of you (and maybe some kids) living in a bubble. That will get weird and unhealthy quick.
4). Do things separately once and awhile.
It is true that couples that play together stay together. But, it is essential to spend some quality time apart once in awhile. Take a weekend and spend some time with friends. Go on a day trip by yourself. Just make it a habit to know how it feels to exist without the other from time to time.
5.) Keep learning and keep growing
Some couples and families get stuck in a rut and by the looks of their hairstyles and wind breakers I can see that they’ve been in that rut for at least a decade. This stagnation leads to impulsive and sometimes adulterous decisions. Remember not to take each other for granted and to encourage each other to set individual goals and move towards them on a daily basis. It’s good to have goals as a couple but the couple and family are only as healthy as the individuals involved.
6.) Remember who you are.
Finally, remember to focus on yourself. Don’t forget the music you like or the movies you prefer. Don’t lose sight of your individual goals. Take time each day to reflect on where you are in your life and where you want to go. When you partner with someone you don’t get absorbed into some blob of a shared person. Be who you are and keep growing into even better versions of yourself. I see so many people that only identify as a husband, father, wife, or mother. Those are all important roles but who are you when you step out of those roles. This is important information to have at all times.
“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.”