As I’m sitting here typing this at 9 pm, Eric is out with a friend. There was a time when I would have pouted and sulked about this fact. I would have felt snubbed and excluded. I might not have said anything out loud but inwardly I would have been thinking something like, “Why would you rather hang out with him than me? I’m the one you said you wanted to spend the rest of your life with!”
I would have thought these things because back then, I thought being in love meant being each other’s everything. Not that I wanted to give up my own friends, of course. And I didn’t want him to give up his in theory, but that theory broke down when he actually needed someone other than me and I was left bored and alone.
But over the years I’ve come to face facts: I simply can’t fill every single role in Eric’s life and frankly, I don’t want to. Sometimes he wants to talk for hours about theology or philosophy and all I want to do is shut him up so I can make popcorn and watch Netflix. Sometimes he wants to go to concerts that give me a headache. And sometimes (like tonight) he really wants to play a hard and fast game of tennis and I never did catch on to that sport.
The bottom line is that just because we love each other and yes, do have a lot in common, doesn’t mean that he is walking around on this earth to be one big reflection of me. There are things he loves that I simply don’t, and it doesn’t make sense for him to lose them completely just because I don’t want to tag along. Love means releasing Eric to be his truest, most passionate self and to do that he often simply needs another person to take part in his interests with him. It’s not a rejection of me, it’s a sign that he is a healthy, well-adjusted member of society.
In the beginning of our relationship I often felt like such a martyr for “letting him” hang out with a friend. But what I’ve learned along the way is that when he spends time with other people who meet his needs in different ways, we both win. He gets to engage in something life-giving to him, and I get to avoid an activity or conversation that feels like drudgery to me!
Certainly there are times when we should make sacrifices, and its important to recognize that reciprocal give and take in a relationship in order for it to flourish. But letting one another get healthy needs met by spending time with friends has really freed us up to offer the best of ourselves to each other. So now when Eric tells me he’s going to spend time with a friend, I honestly don’t feel jealous or resentful at all. I know that when he comes home I’m going to get a happier, more whole version of the guy I love. And that’s a pretty good deal to me.
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