When one becomes two, and you and me becomes romantic we, or when baby arrives and two becomes three, or when one joins many in a group to create a new us, the challenge is not to lose the “I” in relationship or the “U” in group. It’s the delicate balance between autonomy and community. As Lily Tomlin said, “We’re all in this together, by ourselves.”
Seinfeld’s George Castanza faced this challenge when he started dating Susan. He gave a hilarious monologue in Jerry’s apartment about Relationship George and Independent George. Relationship George is the cautious and fearful persona he adopts with Susan. Independent George I carefree. Independent George includes Movie George, Coffee Shop George, Liar George, and Bawdy George. Independent George is the George that Jerry knows and grew up with. George worries that if Susan starts socializing with his group of friends, his two worlds will collide, and Relationship George will kill Independent George. He sums up his tirade by paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, “A George divided against itself cannot stand!”
He’s right about that, but wrong that Independent George has to die in the cause of unity. The problem for Independent George is that he is already divided and Relationship George scares him because it shows up his insecurity. He doesn’t know what he really wants or needs from the relationship.
If Independent George, or independent anyone, is healthy and whole in who they are, in who you are, then a relationship will only enhance and strengthen that identity. In fact, when you are healthy and whole in who you are, you can either be in a relationship or not because you aren’t expecting to be completed by another person but if you choose to be in a relationship, the other person can enhance who you already are.
The same is true for couples. If a couple has a secure relationship, then outside friendships enhance, rather than threaten, your relationship. Comedian Wanda Sykes describes the relationship between single friends and couples.
I don’t go out with my single friends — not at all — because I never have a good time, never have fun. We go to a club, a guy comes over — ‘Hey, can I buy you a drink?’ They’re like, ‘No, she’s married.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m married, but I’m thirsty. Why don’t you shut the hell up, and let me have a free drink?’
Nice humor, but not good advice. DO go out with your single friends because they have something unique to offer you. When you’re secure in who you are or as a couple, other people, other friendships, new perspectives don’t unsettle you. They enrich your life. You can enjoy ALL sorts of friendships; friends with history, friends with no history, single friends, introverted friends, extroverted friends, friends of like mind and others who see life from a new perspective. The broader your friendships, the richer your life. Every friend adds something important to your life.
The basis for friendship is the same as the basis for healthy belonging- BEING. Think of it like concentric circles, circles with a common center that get larger as you go out. In the centre is you in your BEING, perfectly whole and complete in yourself. Add a circle and you become more of who you are. Expand it out as far as you can, to include people known and unknown, and even other species, even the earth. Nothing is ever taken away from the core of your being. You just create a rich labyrinth of connections.
Best of all, when you see your being as whole and complete, you don’t need everything around you to be perfect. Other people, and organizations, don’t have to meet some impossible standards of perfection. Wholeness has nothing to do with perfection. Wholeness is about acceptance and potential, being and becoming. There’s a nice example of this in another old TV series; West Wing. The Chief of Staff in a Democratic White House is trying to garner support from a Republican congressman who happens to be gay, to oppose a bill prohibiting same sex marriage. The gay Republican won’t support him. He says,
I agree with 95% of the Republican platform. I believe in small government. I’m in favor of individual rights rather than group rights. I believe free markets lead to free people and that the country needs a strong national defense. My life doesn’t have to be about being a homosexual. It doesn’t have to be entirely about that.
It’s an interesting comment. I’m not wanting to get political here at all, except to address the issue of how much you need to agree with some one or some group, or a political party in order to support it. Is it enough to like 95, 90, 85% of someone’s personality to start a friendship? Is it enough to agree with 95, 90, 85% of what happens in a church, group or movement to support it?
When you’re whole in your being, you don’t need things to be perfect in order to give you security. You’re not looking for security or group think. You’re looking for a person or a group where you build each other up and inspire the best in each other. From a place of wholeness you forgive quickly, give and take easily, and find the higher purpose beyond the differences. You realize that you have to make an investment in the relationship or community if you want to enjoy a return. Each takes responsibility for their own stuff, takes nothing personally and accepts that everyone is doing their best in each moment.
Author Tom Robbins sums it up nicely,
When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on–series polygamy–until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.