I read something from a book the other day that has really stuck with me… The quote goes:
“Marriage brings out the worst in you. It doesn’t create your weaknesses (though you may blame your spouse for your blowups) – it reveals them.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because it feels the exact opposite of what I’ve always thought. I think as we get older we realize that marriage isn’t always a happily ever after, and even the happily ever afters take a lot of hard and sometimes exhausting work. But, at the bottom of us, I think most of us who want to get married are doing so with hopes that we will get that happily ever after.
What really stood out to me about the above quote is the part where it says that marriages doesn’t create your weaknesses, it actually reveals them. I think this happens in any kind of relationship, whether it’s with a partner, friend or even family member. This means that the things I want to blame my boyfriend for are actually things I’m insecure about, and have been insecure about way before I ever met him.
I feel like we put a lot of expectations on other people to fulfill us. We expect that being in a relationship with someone or forming a friendship with someone means that we complete each other. It’s true, many close relationships with people are because you feel like you complete each other, but it’s unfair to put your entire value, identity, and feeling of completeness into another person.
We do it a lot, or at least I do it a lot. Everyone I’ve ever dated I’ve dated because they’ve somehow made me feel complete. Or at least they did at first, and then as time went on and the butterflies faded I’d realize I still had the same old issues I always had, and that the person I was dating was not actually right for me. Being in a relationship can boost our self esteems. Being able to say we are with someone is in a strange way our way of saying: I’m important and special enough for someone to be with me. They love me, they find my interesting, we have this connection, they make me feel good about myself. A lot of comes down to me, me, me.
But then, as basically all of our relationships do except for that one relationship that will actually last forever, they fail. Our relationship fails and we feel lost. We feel incomplete. We feel inadequate, worthless, ugly, boring, whatever else it is we feel.
The thing is, we should have never put our feelings of adequateness, worthiness, beauty, brains, whatever else, on that person. We can’t expect people to fulfill us at all times because people will constantly let us down, even the ones who really love you and would do anything for you. Those people will let you down, too. If you put your self identity and purpose into that person, when they aren’t meeting your every (let’s face it, unrealistic) need, you’re going to feel let down and unfulfilled.
It took me a long time to realize this. I’m a fairly independent person and so never thought I was the type of person to put my fulfillment in others, but sure enough, I have. And every time this person has let me down because of something I am insecure about, I feel terrible about myself. The thing is, even when those people aren’t in my life, I still feel terrible about myself when it comes to the things I’m insecure about.
And so it’s up to us.
It’s up to us, as individuals, to find our personal fulfillment in others. We can’t find fulfillment entirely in others. We never will nor should we try and find that. Life is going to continue to happen and things are going to really hurt. It’s inevitable. So you have to be okay on your own. You have to do whatever you can to make yourself a whole person without anyone or anything else. Then when things do get really hard, you won’t blame others for problems that are actually your own. When things get really hard, you won’t feel like your world has ended and you’re useless when someone walks out on you. But also, when things are really good, you’re going to have relationships that are that much more intimate and exciting because you’re going to be a whole person sharing bits of your beautiful self with someone else without letting insecurities and fear affect your relationship.
Marriage, relationships, friendships, they can bring out the worst in us. They can bring out the worst in us when we put our entire fulfillment in them. These relationships don’t create our weaknesses, they expose weaknesses we already had. If anything, they help us fix and heal these problems. It’s easy to ignore insecurities and weaknesses on our own when they don’t influence anyone else, but when someone else is in the picture, we suddenly can’t ignore these issues because now they affect someone else. What better opportunity then to let these relationships reveal our weaknesses so that we can overcome our weaknesses.
But also, don’t rely on these relationships to fix you. Find fulfillment in you, in the things that make you you. In your hobbies, passions, faith, and yes, other people, too. Just think of yourself as a puzzle. There are lots of different pieces that make you up. None of them are the same or only one thing. Fulfillment comes from many different things. Most importantly though, I think fulfillment comes from within ourselves.