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.