Oh, gee, thanks for pointing out the obvious, Nell. Because no one is perfect.
I guess what I mean is that you don’t have to wait until you’re totally amazingly the best version of yourself before you’re ready to commit in a relationship. I was only 26 when I got married and thought I was in pretty good shape. AHEM.
I had experienced heart ache and heart crush. Breakups that changed me; relationships that I outgrew. I had attended college in at a huge state university and found my path there, and law school at a tiny Catholic one that helped form me in totally different ways. (Less clawing through lines to get registered, more running around volunteering and bringing people cookies.)
Here’s what I didn’t know. And why I wasn’t in great shape.
I didn’t know that it’s not about being married when you’re the best version of yourself. I thought that my experiences and sheer will power had crafted me into a pretty rocking person who was ready to commit for a lifetime with another person because being ready meant being “perfect” in a sense. Otherwise how could I say I was ready to be married if I hadn’t already gotten to this state of great self-assured knowledge myself?
But for me, and maybe it’s different for you, being married now over seven years means I’ve had to adapt and change and truly become different on a molecular level (yes, that’s part of biologically being a mother) for the person I actually married.
I’ve adapted to him. Not to becoming more me, or a better me, but a more me-better-me to suite who he is. And it’s a continuous adaptation.
The tricky part is he’s doing the same thing. We’re in this symbiotic relationship of mutual growth and change to accommodate where the other person is. When we stop adapting for each other, our relationship will die. Or be stunted. Or be outgrown. Or be crappy.
We didn’t always live marriage like this. I spent years not understanding why he didn’t really care about my lavishly selected gifts, or why he wanted to spend hours by himself running. It took truly paying attention to who he is now to realize what kind of gifts he cares about. It took being willing to be unselfish (secretly selfish because I reap the rewards of his happy athleticism) and sacrifice on my measly part for him to be happily training for another marathon.
People say “don’t expect your partner to change in marriage.” And I think they’re wrong. They’re not inaccurate in the sense that you shouldn’t think you will successfully force a change upon that partner. But they’re wrong in that your dude or dutchess will change because it’s part of the human condition. They’ll grow despondent in their work place; they’ll face health issues; they’ll sometimes not love every stage of having small kids. They’ll get to know you better; they’ll struggle less in the small annoyances of sharing a bed.
To wrap back to my original point: I think when friends feel held back in going deeper in relationships because they think they have to be perfectly crafted and honed before the plunge, they’re missing something. Yes, get therapy! Get aroma therapy! Get God! Get deep inner peace! All those make a huge difference on the delight and joy you spark in yourself and subsequently, in your relationship.
But if you think, as I did, all that crafting will be the end of the road, I’ve been shocked to realize that I’m perpetually open to making conscious changes in our life and in myself due to the changing needs of my spouse. My adaptation is to him, to our actual life as it is, not as I think it will be or should be or was going to be.
And if someone can love me, just the way I am, as I struggle and flounder to adapt and be more giving, more loving, I promise that your person is out there too.