Jack and I had our first romantic interlude on the 4th of July. Back in college, going out with someone usually meant deciding to end up in the same place, so I wouldn’t have called it a proper date. We met at Boston’s Charles River Esplanade, watched a couple bands and some fireworks, then Jack leaned over and said, “I dig you.” The rest was history.
Over the years, I’ve come to believe relationships are meant to teach us how to relate authentically yet continue to be our most genuine selves. Some folks need to learn selflessness, others intimacy, and some just need to learn to put the toilet seat down.
Kicking off my relationship life on Independence Day with Jack was hardly an insignificant twist of fate. This first real love set me off on an endless quest to learn the meaning of freedom. See, Jack already had a girlfriend. Thus, our year-long liaison was an education in giving someone the space to have his own life outside of our shared life together. However, I was too naïve to realize “space” might include time with the boys and creative pursuits, but probably shouldn’t include other girlfriends.
After Jack came a mostly happy marriage, until I discovered I’d built my world around someone else. The whole enchilada was sure to crumble unless I made life more my own. But the more fulfilled I became as an individual the less this particular person seemed to fit me. Much as I loved my guy, I had to break free to survive.
After marriage, I wanted nothing even remotely close to a relationship. I formed flimsy emotional bonds then backed out once things got too close. To this day, I feel sorry for the poor fella who tried to hold my hand across the table on a dinner date only to have me freak out about feeling trapped.
Of course, I soon started wanting connection again but only came across sexy commitment phobes and men with life agendas that didn’t include me. The subsequent disappointment always forced me back to self, where I had the choice between blubbering about lost love or making my own world even more interesting. Choosing the latter may have been lonely. But it also created a more enticing life for someone else to slip into or one to inhabit solo.
Maybe true love really is unconditional, maybe wanting someone to be fulfilled with or without you is the key. If your woman or man needs to follow a path you’re not on, why not love ‘em anyway? If love is real, you couldn’t stop anyway if you tried. Nothing wrong with hoping the path leads back to you.
I’m thinking it’s not only me who needs to learn this lesson. Maybe the next step we modern gals need to take is learning to balance drive and self-discovery with connection. And maybe dudes need to learn to dig women’s independence. Most importantly, we all have to learn to appreciate how much a relationship benefits from sharing it with someone who’s got a frickin’ life.
Happy Independence Day!