Yesterday, I was thinking - probably as I was trying to get my fair share of blankets (or mattress, or sofa) - that marriage is a constant balancing act of trying to merge and, at the same time, defend one’s territory. Once upon a time, when there were princesses and castles and stuff, wasn’t that sometimes the point? To enlarge one’s kingdom and/or to defend it through strategic marriage?
As it is with land and bedsheets, so it is with souls and self, in a way, although it’s different for men and women. It seems to me that young women are far more anxious to merge than men. (Not in a physical sense, as we all know that men will merge whenever they can.) What I mean is they are anxious to “become one” in that marital blissful fairytale. (Not that I make light of that ideal, but an ideal it is.) They get married and absorb themselves into their new relationships and wake up at age 30 and wonder what the hell happened to their self identity.
Young men, and this may be stereotypical, I realize, prefer to defend their territories at first - keeping their “boys nights out” sacred and resisting the urgings of their mates to spend each and every waking moment together. It’s only when his mate starts to pull away to reawaken her identity that he tightens his grip on his chattel. Not that any man really thinks that way, but there’s a certain territoriality in relationships - as in, “she’s mine!” - that prompts a man to become defensive when his previously overly attentive wife tries to define herself as separate and apart.
Weird stuff, relationships are. All relationship are like this to a greater or lesser extent, I think, but family relationships in particular are all about pushing apart and pulling together. It keeps changing, like taffy.
Like cells. Even as cells divide, they don’t drift apart. They remain part of each other. So the struggle is normal. And by struggle I don’t mean drama - although that’s sometimes a part of it - I mean growth. Have you ever seen a baby being born? A plant emerge from a seed? Anyone who has kids knows that growth is struggle.
But growth is good, too. There are rewards as a result of struggle. Sometimes, kids grow up to be nice people. Another is longevity of relationships and as long as that’s mutually satisfying overall, that’s a good thing. And if the person you’re with feels the same way, you’ll get a little more share of the blankets at night.