Finding a Relationship: self sovereignty

By Marc Felix and Kathrin Seitz | Sep 25, 2010

Marc's perspective

Self sovereignty. Doesn't the word have a certain glory to it? A fully independent self in charge of one's self, ruled by no one but oneself. Such a person might say things like, I have myself, I'm my own person, I know who I am and I know what I want.

America has been described as a culture of "rugged individualism." We value our independence. Psychologists are apt to point out that it takes two independent people to make a healthy relationship. Two dependent people, lost in their neediness, will create a codependency if they get together.

This is the strange irony of relationship. We want to have space to be ourselves and we want to be together with the other.

Rainer Maria Rilke said, "I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other."

Despite being rather independent, I have always highly valued the merging and blending aspect of relationship. I love to experience the sense of oneness.

The great spiritual traditions are always reminding us that we are all one, that our separateness is an illusion. Psychology is always reminding us to individuate and become our unique separate selves. Quite the paradox. In relationship this paradox gets played out in the dance between closeness and separateness. Too much separateness and we can feel alone or lonely. Too much closeness and we can feel afraid of losing ourselves.

I believe the solution is that we must be willing to both be independent and to blend together. This is one of the cycles that relationships move through. There is a healthy pulsation between closeness and separateness. When we spend time apart we have a stronger sense of wanting to be with the other. To do this dance you must have a strong sense of yourself.

How can you tell another person who you are if you don't know yourself? How can you bring yourself to a relationship if you don't have yourself? Self sovereignty is a requirement. But so is the willingness to surrender yourself to the oneness of deep relationship. The mystery is that if you have a strong sense of self, you can merge with the other and then re-emerge. Often you will re-emerge with a renewed sense of who you are, and who they are, and who you are together.


Kathrin's Perspective

I love the idea of the perfect relationship, merging and reemerging as self, ready again to return to the perfect union. As Kahlil Gibran said: "...Let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."

But this picture leaves out, what, for most women, keeps them from developing their own relationship with themselves, not to mention the ideal merging, un-merging, and emerging kind of relationship. Between the demands of children, partners, work and family, it is often hard to find time to develop the self, no less figure out when to partner up with someone else and when to cuddle up with oneself. No wonder Virginia Wolf wanted a room of her own!

I know many women who are successful careerists who have opted out of relationship. When I was a busy single mom with career, travel and friends, I chose not to have a relationship. I needed a bit of time alone to take care of myself. Many women I know have been married or in partnership and now, once alone, are happy to keep busy with grown children, sometimes grandchildren, careers and travel. Without a relationship. Perhaps they are, at last, finding the time to get to know themselves. And, maybe, once having done so, they will emerge to find a partner with whom to merge. I know many of these stories.

As well, because women tend to be caregivers and compassionate, we often find ourselves torn between being the good caregiver, be that as a wife, mother or friend, and a need to develop our own creativity and gifts. Does any of this sound familiar?

Sarah Ban Breahnach talks, in "Simple Abudance," about a "privacy deprivation syndrome," a term psychologists use to talk about the group of people (women?) who "don't spend regular time alone to rest and recoup."

The resulting symptoms might sound familiar to some of us: increasing resentment, mood swings, chronic fatigue and depression. What to do? Opt out of relationship, commit to finding time for oneself, choose to wait until the demands are less so you do have time for a relationship? Margaret Mead talks about the different stages in women's lives. Maybe it is when we are older, children grown and parents gone, that we have time to get to know ourselves and then, once there, find that partner who will stand guard over our solitude and step towards us when we are ready to merge.


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