Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Rose By Any Other Name? Well... Depends on the Interpretation.

I was thinking the other night while I was in the shower.

For the record, I do think in other places, but it just so happens that the most profound or interesting thoughts that make it through the random idiot stuff tend to do so:

a) in the shower (no bloody notepad to write that down)
b) just before I fall asleep (causing the "OMG! That's a FANTASTIC idea for a book. Must get notepad and write it........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" phenomenon)
c) in the car (no fricken notepad to write that down)
d) in my dreams (I'll just write that down in fire ink on my magic notepad floating in front of me, while I defeat the spy sent to destroy me with my free hand.....)

But, I managed to remember this thought.

Some background first, though:

A few weeks back, I took Kate along to a "Work's Do" and introduced her to all and sundry as "My partner, Kate".

Later, Kate said she wasn't so sure that she liked the term 'partner'. "It just sounds so clinical. I could be your business partner for all they know. Or your gym partner," she said.

So I churned out the alternatives: wife? "No - that might upset people." Girlfriend? "I am more than your girlfriend." Lover? "Yeah - that would really upset people." My personal sex slave? "Now you're just being stupid."

"Right," I said, " YOU suggest something."

"How about you introduce me as your 'other half'? That explains who I am in your life AND it's not offensive."

OK - other half it is.

But now we fast forward a few weeks to the thought I had in the shower: Other half. That kind of implies that neither of us are whole without each other. And that is not a particularly happy thought. It has a slightly co-dependent ring to it.

My ideas regarding relationships have changed enormously over the years. There was a time when I did feel you needed another person to complete your life. What works for me is the belief that both my partner and I are whole individuals, with our own desire for space and privacy - which Kate and I are good at accommodating for each other. When we are together, we enjoy each other as individuals.

I learned the hard way not to see her as part of this thing called a relationship and how she relates to me. The problems I faced taking this view were insane jealousy (her time was MINE damnit!), misunderstanding (but she HAS to think the way I do!) and disrespect (If I could just get her to come round to my way of thinking on how socks are to be folded...) Needless to say, viewing her as this extension of me (this other half, if you like) didn't work particularly well in our relationship. As you may imagine.

Then, I had an epiphany (far more profound than a thought in a shower, although it probably occurred under one of the circumstances listed above). I do not own the rights to Kate: not to her body, her mind, her thoughts, her individuality. Just because I have committed myself to her doesn't mean she belongs TO me, it means that we have chosen to share our lives in a loving relationship. This immediately brought a sense of compassion and loosened the hold of jealousy (let her enjoy her computer game), brought about understanding, (I like the way she challenges me) and respect (who cares how the socks are bloody folded).

I began to see Kate, and our relationship, in an entirely different light. When I shifted my view from Kate being a part of my life to Kate being in my life, I began to respect our differences more. What I thought were big issues (see above re: socks) were silly, and realistically, they were my attempts to control the relationship in some way.

Noting that within our relationship, I could see that many issues we faced were my attempts to control another person's thoughts and actions, and ultimately, that was not loving her.

I shifted my attitude and now both of us are happy. We both have room to grow, we appreciate each other more. I am not relying on Kate to fulfil my needs or to be the sole source of my happiness. I am responsible for my own happiness. With the pressure off her, Kate feels better too. Our love has deepened as a result.

I highly recommend The Mastery of Love by don Miguel Ruiz. It was useful in helping to alter my perception of my relationship.

It's interesting to observe - within my relationship and those of others - how one person wishes to exert control and dominate the relationship. I have been in a few of those relationships in the past too - not very comfortable. This occurs to a greater or lesser degree in every relationship with one extreme being domestic violence and the other complete apathy. A middle line is something to aim for.

Or rather, viewing your partner with respect and compassion, rather than focussing on the points that niggle and are unimportant (again, see note above re: socks). This way, when it comes time to discuss something of importance, or to express our feelings, the atmosphere we've created is ripe for dialogue and understanding rather than screaming at each other and throwing tantrums. More grown up too. (Did I just use the term 'grown up'? I am getting really old.)

So... I think I will suggest to Kate that perhaps I won't introduce her as my 'other half', but rather as 'my other whole'.

(Hopefully all this makes sense.)


  1. Makes sense to me too. But, here's a thought, if you need to call her something, why not "spouse"? It's more than "girlfriend" and not as sexually charged as "lover". It's gender-neutral, but not as dry and clinical as "partner" (I'm not a big fan of that term either).

    You had a commitment ceremony a few years ago, you share a home and a bed while also driving each other crazy. Sounds to me like she's your spouse. ;)

  2. Hmmm. I will suggest it to her.

    This is my spouse, Kate.

    OK. Let's find someone to try that out on.

  3. Oh, Tanya darling! This is why.
    It's the 'amazing' and the 'grace' all in one post.