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Dating & Relationships

I’ll be your dream, I’ll be your wish I’ll be your fantasy. I’ll be your hope, I’ll be your love be everything that you need.
~Savage Garden: “Truly Madly Deeply”

We hear it all the time: singers, celebrities, characters in movies and novels always say it. They insist that their significant other is everything to them: a best friend, confidant, a hero or heroine, a partner in crime/comedy/sports/debates and board games. 

I call it the Myth of My Everything.

And as with most things in our culture, it makes me suspicious. While it’s a beautiful thing to find someone to fill that void in our lives, we shouldn’t be made to feel that they will fill every void. That’s a world of pain just waiting to happen.

Hoping for someone to fill every void in our lives sets us up with unreal expectations. This is most acute when we are single; it makes it seem as if finding someone will solve all our problems. But it will only add problems if we think all our problems will be solved!

When our significant other can’t meet our every need, we face a tremendous amount of disappointment and, worse, disillusionment about what relationships are. The longer we go on believing the Myth of My Everything, the more we place our hopes on something that doesn’t exist. The more we hope for it, the harder it is to accept that it doesn’t exist. And once that realization hits, it could get even more painful.

Expecting your match to fulfill all your wants puts an awful lot of pressure on the person you’re with. It must feel so stressful to feel responsible for all those needs.

Imagine if someone looked to you to be a partner, sibling, parent, child, best friend, confidant, sounding board, creative inspiration, caretaker and workout buddy; all the while being the one to take you to dinner every Friday. Talk about pressure!

But the biggest problem is that it places too high a premium on dating. As I’ve said before, if we prioritize relationships over everything else in our lives, we diminish the things we love to do, our friends and our relationship with God. Once again, our culture sends us the message that nothing, nobody and no area of life is as important as having someone to take us to dinner.

Getting flowers on Valentine’s Day is more important than giving flowers on Mother’s Day. Really? I think they’re both important. I also think it’s far better to go hang out with Mom, flowers in hand, on Valentine’s Day than to sit around lamenting the flowers you didn’t get from the date you didn’t have. Why torture yourself?

At the end of the day, we would do well to put things into perspective. Until someone is our spouse, we can’t depend on our dates to be our everything. Even when we do marry, we should have some perspective: our best friends are our best friends. They should remain so. Our siblings are our siblings. No one will replace that familial love. Our confidants were there for us before, they should remain there.  

Our spouses are of course important and do play a central role in our lives, but not at the expense of our best friends and workout buddies. Truly developed and evolved relationships, after years of marriage, may very well fill voids in our lives that marked our single lives. But expecting that too early and depending on it is asking for trouble.

I think about the term “significant other” quite a bit. It’s an apt phrase and does the job of describing a relationship. But remember the second word in the phrase: “other.” The term wasn’t coined as “significant only.”

Let’s turn off the radios and television shows that tell us our paramours should keep “The Myth of My Everything” alive. 

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5 Comments

  1. Naomi-825244 May 17, 2013

    Much as I would like a strong, tall, dark, and handsome man swooping into my life to rescue me from all the frustrations and sorrows therein, I know that a big part of that seeming void is supposed to be filled by Christ, and if Christ is not there “I am a clanging gong” incapable of being an other to another. It’s definitely a good thing to remember, as I think it because easy to think “if only I had met my husband already, this wouldn’t be happening.” It is important for singles to cultivate a rich life in the way of faith and friends so we don’t sit at home feeling sorry for ourselves. Speaking of which, I’m off to the family house!

  2. Michele-969087 May 19, 2013

    Sad to say, I made my husband the center of everything in my life. He walked away and became the ex but still was the center of all my thoughts and actions. I took a long 4 year journey back to learning who I was before I met him and working on a relationship with Jesus. I have friends and family that make up my world and my faith is the center of all that.

  3. Omo-881322 May 21, 2013

    This is a very interesting article for me. I’ve always been told that one’s spouse should be your best friend and confidant and everything. From this article, it seems to be that its okay to maintain pre existing filial relationships and not expect one’s spouse to be all in all. I actually can still keep my friends and confidants, even within marriage so long as we are not working against each other.

  4. Sara-329369 June 11, 2013

    Interesting that there are only 3 comments on this terrific post, and they all seem to be from women. Yet I read a man’s comment today saying that “a man is not a man” without a woman in his life. This would seem to imply that men have this problem too. It IS an unreasonable burden to have to be all things to your partner…and maybe this expectation is a big part of why we rush into relationships. Thanks for an excellent post, Cate.

  5. Katherine M. June 27, 2013

    “Our Hearts are Restless Until They Rest in Thee” St. Augustine
    The love we seek is God’s love. We look for it in men. We want a man to fill it, but they can’t. Every Catholic knows the best mate is the one that will help us get to heaven, instead of the other place. The world will never comprehend this fact.

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