As I tapped away at my laptop last night, developing one of the characters in my upcoming novel, it brought back memories of KL and me when we first started dating. In my novel, after ending a long term relationship, the character recognizes she has lost much of her personality which people were most attracted to and she attributes it to trying to appease her ex who had a wavering ego. In our "Making Marriage Cool Again" seminars we discuss what it is to make healthy sacrifices for the sake of the relationship and for yourself and how to recognize when you are losing your identity in the process.
I remember when KL and I first started dating I laid down some ground rules. 1) Men are attracted to me, so check your ego at the door. I know how to handle myself and if I find someone who is not respecting boundaries then I will take care of it. 2)I'm a social butterfly. When I go to parties I'm usually the first one on the dance floor. I am not the one holding up the wall while everyone else is having a good time. 3) I talk with every one. I dance with everyone. That means if we go to a function together don't expect that you will be the only man I dance with.
KL full of arrogance figured "Who does she think she is? Women are attracted to me too." Of course that went without saying, however he didn't stop to think of what I was actually telling him. I was letting him know that when we went out I wanted him to enjoy himself too. I didn't want him to feel uncomfortable about dancing with someone else and think that he had to be tied to me at the hip, and also I was absolutely comfortable with him dancing with other women if the circumstance was presented.
The first time KL and I had the experience of going to a party together was in celebration of my twenty-fifth birthday which was only three months into our relationship. He being nine years older and beginning to show a seasoned salt and pepper beard he was often mistaken as my father, uncle, or older brother. The small lounge had about a hundred people there by the time we arrived and it didn't take time for me to greet my guests, take off my coat, and head to the dance floor.
During the night one of the guys I was dancing with asked who I was at the lounge with. I responded my fiance. He said, "Really, where is he?" I pointed to KL who had been standing off to the side talking to some friends.The guy then asked, "He doesn't have a problem with you dancing with other people?" I said no he doesn't.
Later on in the evening a woman whom KL had been dancing with said to me, "You are a really cute couple. At first, I didn't realize that you two were together. I like that you dance with each other, but don't have a problem dancing with other people." I told her we're here to have fun and I wouldn't have it any other way. She said, "A lot of women need to be as secure as you."
Often, I watch couples lose their individual identities and seem to be afraid to be themselves around their partner. I find it humorous because it's as if their personality was taken hostage as soon as their mate walked into the room. They begin to put checks and balances on themselves in an effort to avoid anything that could be misconstrued as a move toward infidelity. They also begin to expect that their partner should react the same.
Take the party for instance. I have had people tell me, "I don't dance with other people because I don't want my partner dancing with other people" or "I'm not dancing with anyone else so my partner shouldn't dance with anyone else." In many cases, the partner follows suit. Not because they want to, but because they feel obligated to as to not disregard their partners feelings.
This can begin to strain the relationship. Insecurities begin to cause you to feel and make yourself uncomfortable. You make your partner feel uncomfortable and neither one of you are actually addressing any issues of concern. You are avoiding and hiding them under the guise of being a "good" partner.
It's not easy to find a comfortable balance of what you are willing to cede in a relationship, however it's always important to recognize whether you are transferring your own feelings of insecurity to your partner or are you allowing their insecurities to be transferred over to you. How much of your sacrifice is because you put checks and balances on yourself due to your own insecurities? Where do you draw the line on how much you allow your partner to influence your actions? -Tiffany Braxton Belvin