Maintaining Your Individuality In Love
by Paul Mauchline
What is the distinction
between mature love and a common misconception of what love is: the
symbiotic relationship? Mature love is stable, a union of two people
who respect themselves and each other. Symbiotic love is needy and dependent.
Symbiotic relationships demand that one person has power over another.
This results in the loss of the integrity of both partners. Mature love
means that both individuals in the partnership have room to be themselves,
even while being together. In the symbiotic relationship, one partner
is driven by need and fear that the other partner will leave. In mature
love, each partner is free and whole, choosing, rather than being driven,
to give love to the other partner.
Send this page to a friend
Mature love requires giving your love with no strings attached, with
no expectations. Many of us have learned from society that to give means
"to give up" or "to give away" -- in essence, creating
a deficit in ourselves. Further, we learn to give only as much as we
expect to receive in return, lest we end up feeling cheated by giving
more. Giving, as it exists in mature love, is quite different from these
types of messages we have received. Rather than being seen as a sacrifice
or an investment in future returns, giving in mature love comes from
a desire to give and an ability to do so. In the words of Erich Fromm,
author of The Art of Loving published in 1956, "Giving is the highest
expression of potency... more joyous than receiving, not because it
is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression
of my aliveness."
In a symbiotic relationship, one partner gives up a significant part
of himself or herself in order to maintain a peaceful relationship.
This individual, ruled by a fear of being alone, will sacrifice parts
of his or her identity for the sake of keeping the relationship intact.
Short-term conflict is avoided, and the status quo is maintained. In
the long run, though, there is a price to be paid: the loss of one's
individuality. If one partner idolizes the other and is willing to sacrifice
himself more completely, then the other partner has more power and control
over the relationship. When the balance of power is unequal, the relationship
becomes unsatisfying for both partners; almost inevitably, it ends.
There are a lot of people willing to give up an awful lot to avoid being
alone. They are willing to give up who they are, what they are, and
what they want and need. They are willing to sacrifice their individuality
for the love of another.
Any person who is willing to make such a sacrifice lacks self-love,
and thus is incapable of maintaining a mature, loving relationship.
Self-love is where love for others has to start. Giving up your individuality
will eventually come back to haunt you; you will end up feeling anger,
resentment, and/or regret. The outcome of one partner resenting the
other is the deterioration of the relationship. People need relationships,
but they also need to be fulfilled within themselves. When you give
up your dreams for the sake of your partner's, you do so at the cost
of your own individuality and personal growth.
When you enter into a relationship, it does not mean that your personal
life stops. Your life does not totally change because you are with another
person. You have to maintain your own individuality. You have to have
your own personal goals. You need to maintain the friendships, hobbies
and interests that you had before you met your partner. If you give
these up for the sake of your relationship, you are giving up your life.
When your partner first met you, they were attracted to you as an individual.
It's important that you keep your individuality-- that's what attracted
your partner in the first place. Maintaining your individuality will
enable you and your partner to build a mature loving relationship.
fail today because one partner has given up too much of themselves for
the other. You have to love yourself first, before you can love another.
If you enter a relationship and give up all the things that define you
as an individual, you are not giving yourself the love that you need.
Sooner or later, if you lose your identity, if you stop giving to yourself,
you will be unable to give to your relationship.
not to confuse identity and individuality with flexibility in your relationship.
Individuality is about the things that make you who you are. Flexibility
is about compromise. Compromise will always be necessary in any relationship
that you have. In order to compromise, you have to be committed to honest
communication of your feelings and needs at all times. In building a
life together, problems will arise.
through honest communication is the key to building a mature, loving
relationship. Neither you nor your partner should give up anything that
makes you the unique person that you are. It's up to you and your partner
to find the balance that you both need to succeed in a rising loving
Copyright © 2000-2001. All rights reserved. Paul Mauchline