What does it really mean to “lose yourself” in a relationship?
Let me say right from the start, I don’t have the answer to this question. What kind of “losing of self” are we talking about?
No, I don’t mean the kind that you do when you close out the rest of the world and immerse yourself in enjoyment with a new lover: that heady, exquisite submersion into lust, greed, hunger, indulgence. If you have been there, you know it’s warm and magical. If you’re honest, you also know it’s transient. Although I have to say that queer women are so very reluctant to admit this. That’s another story.
What I mean is what I hear women say when we talk and tickle around the edges of fear…of relationship.
There. You know it’s true. I know it’s true not only of lesbian relationships, but dear god, I hear this so often that it makes me want to scream. Lots of us are just plain afraid of relationships. Of commitment, obligation, being gay, accountability, boredom…fill-in-the-blank. And instead of naming the fear what it is, we wrap it in this big justifiable cautionary statement: it’s okay just as long as you DON’T LOSE YOURSELF!!!
How can you lose yourself? Are you not in command? Did you abdicate? What do we mean?
Let me try a few:
• I can’t wear my hair the way I like
• She hates my clothes (friends, politics, family, cooking, music…fill-in-your-own-blank)
• I can’t decorate the way I want
• I can’t talk to my ex without her getting crazy
• I can’t go skydiving
• She hates cats
• She won’t come to country line dancing with me
• She hates parties, I can’t stand to sit at home and read
• I have to check in before I stop for a drink after work
If these are your giveaways, what is it that you’re losing, really? Your alone time? Sports? Drinking, politics, movies, dancing… Does it mean that if I’m with you I can no longer do these things? Do I have to give away my pets? Or do I need someone who shares these things with me because I cannot do them alone? If I swallow my needs without speaking them, will it breed the kind of strife born of resentful close proximity? Will I become…voiceless?
What if I’ve landed with someone who hates everything I like???? (You ask)
Fair enough. What are you doing together if you have so little in common? Stop for a minute — I don’t mean for this to be a rhetorical question. Stop and think: why have you landed where you are? Why have you chosen her…what drew you, what captured you… and why do you remain?
Your answers will illuminate the dilemma. Or, at least, they should.
Next question — if your list of good-partner criteria is accurate, conscious and important — are these the things that define you, that draw the perimeters around your life and experience? What would happen if you tried something new…would you find you have a taste for it, does it mean you could never go back? Is this what you’re looking for in a partner — a clone of yourself?
Or does it mean that when I’m in a relationship I must learn how to examine, evaluate, and then communicate what is meaningful to me…and does that make me vulnerable beyond belief? If I tell you that when you are impatient with me it makes me feel indescribably, unbearably like hiding in a closet, will you use that knowledge to hurt me someday? If I ask you not to make me feel guilty for spending an evening with my daughter, will you bully me in some small, ugly way? And if you hurt me like that someday, will I recover? Or worse — will I just stay?
If you hurt me like that someday…will you diminish in my eyes? What then?
I believe that our fear of relationship is grounded in as wide an array of causes as there are participants… but I contend that not one of those things is really a danger of losing ones’ self. Our taste for dancing, foreign movies, gambling, travel, staying out late, Thai cuisine, travel, short hair — these things are preferences, nothing more. They are pieces of our personal landscape and you can’t ever really lose them.
You can give those pieces of yourself away — and giving is always a choice. If I remain in touch with choice, with resentment, with release — even with the idea that there is enough of me to go around…until there is not…there is never “no going back” to what and who I was before I “lost” myself. It’s just complicated, tangled, messy, expensive, (you get it…another blank you can fill in) to get out.
And regardless of the cost of exit, there is always you to be re-found…and reclaimed.
Forgetting yourself… well, that’s a whole other story.
What’s your story?