Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Oil and water

This is an old essay of mine, but I think it's still relevant. :)

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I've been considering how there are two types of people who often struggle in romantic relationships. This isn't meant to be a generalization--just about all of us have struggled in our love lives, and there are far more than two "types" of people who are plagued with romantic problems. But I'd like to discuss a phenomenon I've come to recognize. It's a pattern which seems to effect two specific groups of people. The pattern follows them from one relationship to another, much like an STD (though luckily, it's not contagious).

The two kinds of people I'm describing are as follows: those with weak personalities, and those with personalities that are very intense and dynamic. When a person with a bland personality finds a vivacious partner, it's a toxic combination. This is why.

A dull person has very few opinions or interests. Every idea they express is borrowed from someone else. It's an adopted brainchild, rather than a biological one (so to speak). Some argue that there's no such thing as a truly original belief, because all of our views are influenced by others. While this is true to a certain extent, I think that originality does exist. I've heard plenty of people express unique ideas. However, I'm talking more about consistent beliefs. When someone has a weak personality, they have no core beliefs or passions that are central to their identity. They take on the hobbies, beliefs, and interests of whoever they are currently dating. They become their significant others' shadow. (When I say "shadow," I don't mean that they follow their partner around. I mean they take on the basic blurry form of their partner, but are not an exact replica. A "shadow" partner can't become an exact replica of you because that would require them to genuinely believe what you believe and to genuinely care about the things that are important to you, rather than feigning it. Also, I call this type of person a shadow because they cannot exist independently of you. They exist independently, but their personality does not. When the relationship ends, they shed their identity like yesterday's clothes, and change into a new persona that will match their next romantic partner's.) This is a parasitic kind of person. They may not mean to be that way, but they are.

Relationships with shadow people may seem like a dream come true in the beginning. The first few months may be filled with moments where you say, "Wow, we must be soul mates! We BOTH have liberal arts degrees, vintage cars, and oral herpes! It's amazing!"A person with a strong personality can't last for very long with a partner without one, though. If you have your own hobbies and interests and beliefs, you want a partner who does as well. Any conversation gets boring if it becomes a one-sided diatribe and the only response you're hearing is, "Me too!" And bland people can't adapt to meet their partner's needs, because it requires mental gymnastics and their brains just aren't that flexible.

People with strong, larger-than-life personalities also tend to struggle in relationships. This is because it can be hard for their partner to keep up with them. It's easy to feel eclipsed by someone who's so passionate and energetic, if you're a more low-key type. It's an obvious truth that we often forget: We can only be happy when paired with someone on the same emotional and intellectual wavelength.

I've also noticed that about 99% of the time, relationships fail if one person is emotionally unstable while the other is not. It sounds obvious, but many overlook this when getting to know each other. I've been the stabler person in a relationship. I've also been the less stable one. It didn't work out either time because nobody likes to feel wholly responsible for another person's well being, unless he or she a control freak who thrives on that sense of power. The idea of "rescuing" someone may seem appealing at first, but it rarely works. You can save a stray dog, but it still might turn against you (though, unlike a person, it's less likely to steal your credit card).

So, anyway, those are just some thoughts that have been floating through my head. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this, too.

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