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Relationships vs. individuality

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Relationships vs. individuality

Here’s the big problem: while in business there are objectives that can be clearly formulated, which basically come down to “make a maximum profit”; there’s no such thing in relationships, there is no clear and measurable goal to set; relationships are about feeling happy and passionate, and making it last; but happiness and passion are not concepts that you can quantify or rationalize.

Similarly, when you’re shopping for a good or a service, unless you’re a compulsive shopaholic, generally you have a clear idea of what you expect from it, why you need it and what the criteria are for it to match your specific need. But relationships are not about goods and services, they are about persons and guess what, you never know what to expect from anyone (and sometimes even from yourself, actually) no matter how well you know them, because we’re evolving, changing, aging in ways that are mostly unpredictable, not even mentioning our moods that can make us react differently.

As far as love-life is concerned, my motto would be a paraphrase of JF Kennedy: “Ask not what a relationship can do for you, ask what you can do for the relationship.” If you want a relationship that works, you must be able to value selflessness over individualism, you need to be someone that enjoys giving over self-gratification (or maybe finding self-gratification in the act of giving?).

It must be a generational thing, but our beloved Community Manager Lyz and I had a heated argument commenting this article. While I advocate changing oneself to make a relationship work, Lyz is a proponent of the principle that “a good relationship gives you the space to be "fully yourself."” Actually, I don’t fundamentally disagree with that statement: indeed, in a relationship it’s necessary to manage a supra-privacy (personal) within the couple’s privacy; it’s necessary that you have your personal space and not be totally “eaten” by the relationship.

But then she adds: “Sure, sometimes people need to change but no one should ever change for anyone else. Change needs to come from yourself and for yourself.” And that’s where I’m not comfortable with her vision: her wording is focusing on the individuals (“anyone else”, “for yourself”) while, in the debate my point is about changing for the good of the relationship.

Transitioning from being single to be in couple is in and of itself - I’m stating the obvious - a change. Not just a change in the way you live, your schedule, your concerns and your status but, more importantly, a mutation of your identity. You’re still yourself but with something huge added: you’re part of a team; you’re invited to think and speak more in terms of “we” than in terms of “I” and “you”.

I’m under the impression than the current generation of young adults has a hard time accepting this idea that a relationship necessarily induces an alteration of individuality (or they understand it, therefore they prefer remaining single). This seems to be confirmed in Kristine Gasbarre’s text I cited above, when she refers to Jean Twenge’s work on “Generation me” and “Narcissism Epidemic”.

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