The Value of One

07Feb10

Thursday nights are rough for me post-work seeing as how there are three television shows I’d like to all watch at the exact same time.  Because of this I have to make a tough decision, choosing one over the other two.  Sometimes one is a repeat, or even two, making the decision easier, but this is a rare occurrence.  One show has pretty much been sidelined, and another takes priority for some freak reason I cannot explain.

Tonight I decided to catch up on my Grey’s Anatomy and found the episode to be about average for what it is, hospital drama.  But there was one part at the end of the episode that got me thinking, where one of the character talks about giving up pieces of herself in the past until she wasn’t herself anymore and how she would have kept giving because she loved the man.  But how this time around, even though she loves this man more, she can’t start losing herself again, and in that she can’t give him these little pieces.  I summarize things poorly, so if you’re curious you can see the video here (and I recommend watching it, as it is very well executed).

This got me thinking about relationships as a whole, and if this is how all of them work.  Do we slowly give pieces of ourselves to our partner, a little at a time, until in the end we barely resemble the person we were when we met them?  I decided to poke C’s brain about it to see what she thought on the matter.  The end result was a pretty interesting exchange.

The best example I can come up with to explain this behaviour is how most people are with friends once they enter a relationship.  Usually at the very start things seem  normal, they spend quite a bit of time with their new partner but still talk to friends in order to gush about how great things are.  But as time progresses, like time being spent with their friends, the frequency of conversations begin to decrease.  Making plans with your friend gets harder and harder, and pretty soon you all but lose touch all together.  You find out this isn’t something with you specific, but has been happening with all their friends.  You chalk it up to them being sucked in the great relationship void, assuming they’ll return eventually following a trail of little bacon bits back to your doorstep.

So let’s throw out the notion that they aren’t just falling into a void, but over time they are naturally sacrificing things in their life.   When I asked C exactly how far she’d be willing to give up something for a partner her reply was nothing she’s close to.  But in my view friends are something you are close to, something important to you, and yet people frequently drift away from their associations when they find a partner.  Does this mean that people don’t value the price of friendship these days, or that the value of friendship diminishes over time?

Looking back over past relationships I can see how I’ve sacrificed parts of myself for whomever I was with at the time.  I’ve been guilty of falling into the new relationship void and almost completely abandoning most of my friends.   And I’ve made some pretty stupid decisions based on what I felt my partner wanted from me, whether they said it or not.  I think that once we start the ball rolling, once we give that first piece when someone asks it of us, we’re helpless to stop what will come next.  And what will come next will be giving up something else, and then something else, until in the end of things you almost seem like a different person.  You might not look like a different person, but you feel like someone else.

In an ideal world we would come to accept the people in our lives for who and what they are; we would not ask them to change a thing and would accept their flaws and imperfections as characteristics that make them unique and treat them as being qualitative.  In the real world humans are not perfect, and in our imperfect state we tend to be less forgiving of everything around us.  Don’t get me wrong because there are some things that should not be tolerable:  rape, murder, abusing children/pedophilia, etc.  But I feel at times like we expect too much out of people, and once they show that one little glimmer of flexibility in what they value or consider important, once they discard and sacrifice that first item, we become greedy and we keep taking until we’re satisfied with what is left over.  And it’s possible the other person won’t even realize what they’ve given up until later, when it’s too late to regain what’s been lost.   Even if what they’ve lost is themselves, essentially.

I think the irony of this situation is that it tends to roll both ways.  It’s not typically one partner doing all the taking and the other doing all the sacrificing; it’s a mutual sacrifice.  We give, they take; they give, we take.  It might not be a balanced 50:50 distribution, but there is some form of duality to the scenario in which the actions are reciprocated.  And maybe that’s part of why we expect partners to give things up, because we do with a somewhat liberal stance.   Going back to the friends analogy it might start with one person, but then it becomes two, and then maybe five.  Then people you normally spoke to daily have become weekly aquaintances, or maybe once or twice a month.  Quarterly?  Perhaps permanently exiled by that time.

This is part of why I hesitate so much in putting myself out there for a relationship.  The idea of being in a situation where I have to give up parts of myself again is just .. not something I feel ready to do.  It seems like I’ve spent the last two years rebuilding myself, getting back to where I was before my last relationship had begun.  I know I’m still not the same person I was then; I’m fatter, have longer hair, wear more make-up and buy more heels, play more video games, and have lost a certain amount of my wit over time.  But at least I feel as if I am a reasonable facsimile of who I was six years ago, enough of a substitute that I feel comfortable in my skin again.  Two years ago when I came out of shock and looked in the mirror I hated who I was looking at, whom I had become.  I wasn’t a bad person, but I didn’t feel like I was myself anymore.   Knowing I have a submissive personality and natural instinct to pleasing other people I carry this inherent fear that the next relationship I fall into will result in the cycle kicking back into gear.  All it will take is one thing, and then it will be all downhill from there on out.  You can’t fight nature; history has proven this time and time again.  I have proven this, time and time again.  And it scares me.

The very essence of instinct is that it’s followed independently of reason.” — Charles Darwin

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