Back in the day, girls were sent to college to find a husband. Once they did that, their entire lives revolved around taking care of their husband and their families. Their identities became grouped with their husband’s and they never really had a chance to develop their own identities. Flash forward 60 years to the “Me Generation.”
Today, girls are told to go to college and then wait a few years post college before settling down. Those who “rush” into romantic relationships are looked down upon. When I talk to a lot of my friends in LTRs, they tell me that older people tell them it’s a bad idea to settle so soon. Even in my own line of work at trade shows, I often come across people who find out that at 22 I’m in a LTR relationship who ask me why, who tell me I should take this time for myself. This unsupportive societal view stems from a culture afraid of the real work of love, afraid of intimacy, and afraid of themselves. Thus the mind trap of “finding oneself” is born.
But what exactly does that mean? Finding oneself? Aren’t we always finding ourselves? It isn’t as if we wake up one morning when we’re 25, 26, 27 and go, “Okay! I’ve found myself! Now I can go out and find the One!” It doesn’t usually happen like that. Usually Love comes when we least expect it, sometimes when we don’t feel entirely prepared for it and building a relationship that works over time is hard no matter if you’re 18, 22, or 35. As you get older, it is true that you probably have more skills and it is also true that some people need more time for themselves before settling down, but having to “find oneself” before being in a relationship isn’t a good reason to wait or leave a relationship.
I’m not saying it’s easy to work on yourself and work on a relationship simultaneously, because it’s not. It’s so easy to give to another person, especially in times of crisis and forget to give back to ourselves. This is dangerous ground for relationships because one or both people end up losing themselves, which leaves only the relationship to hold those two individuals together. Relationships like that cannot hold you, your partner and itself- those relationships fall to the ground.
But the truth of the matter is that we’re always changing. In fact, we are different from moment to moment (though most don’t realize that sudden shift) and so to play the relationship game is to recognize that the painting of the relationship will always be changing, both subtly and dramatically as Life calls it to do so. It takes incredible strength of will and a will to take care of ourselves in order to bear witness gracefully to these changes and just accept them as a part of life.
So whether you’re single or in a relationship, know that Life is always about finding yourself- one day at a time. The true mark of the soulmate is that they accept you as you are no matter what stage of life you’re in, no matter if they agree with you or not. So don’t be afraid in your relationships to keep looking for yourself- for that is the game of life- to Love Oneself and to Love Another.
Anastasia Strgar, a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a B.A in journalism, has been writing about love and relationships for several years. She has written short stories and romance novels, penned the love and sex column in the school newspaper and wrote several blogs. As the eldest of founder Wendy Strgar’s four children, she has been inspired by watching her parents’ marriage and strives to put those lessons to use in her own relationship. She believes that teaching her peers early on about how to maintain healthy relationships is essential to creating a future generation of loving partnerships. She currently works as the Director of Public Relations and Magazine Editor at Good Clean Love.