I confess...I have lots of theories. Many of them are about human behavior, perhaps because I've never been the most social person so I spend a lot of time observing and processing. I've had a difficult month with various issues piling on top of my "normal" ones, but it brought one theory to the forefront of my mind.
I think this is the type of thing I knew a long time before I had the words I wanted to express it. Honestly, the words came during one of the tougher periods in my life, which probably isn't all that odd since those moments make people take stock in a unique way. The words were also sparked by a random sound-bit on a television show (I'd give credit if I knew what it was).
Here's the big picture summary:
Marriage, or a committed relationship of the same sort without the legal stamp, is about putting "Us" before "You and I."
I think any sort of relationship involves the creation of an Us, an entity separate and apart from each individual. The romantic Us (for lack of a better way to frame it) is particularly important for many. Ideally, the Us is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. When you fully commit to an Us (focusing on the romantic Us, although another Us can still be utterly beautiful), you put that new entity first. You make decisions with Us in mind, from little ones to big ones. Sometimes valuing the Us is as simple as going to the restaurant that A is craving when B doesn't care as much. Sometimes the Us IS valued by choosing A's wish over B's, especially in the smaller things, when A cares more at that moment. In bigger decisions, the Us goes beyond that. The Us is why A moves for B's job, not for B's own interest but because the move ultimately benefits the partnership as a whole and not just A or B. A is not really "giving up" anything "for B" but rather prioritizing the Us above A him/herself. A doesn't resent B for this, it is simply part of A's commitment to Us and the belief that valuing Us is the right choice for both A and B.
Us does not replace either participant. A and B remain. They remain their own selves with their own identities. They have value, great value, beyond the Us and they should never forget that. A and B are always distinct and they never lose themselves in Us. Committing in a way that eliminates the self is just as toxic to a relationship as never committing at all. Putting Us before You and I does not mean valuing Us over You and I, a concept hard to put in words but a real one nonetheless. A must still commit to and care for A. B must still commit to and care for A too. Still, both are fully committed to the Us.
Preserving the Us does involve work. It should be easy much of the time, it shouldn't always be a battle, but there will always be moments when it is hard. Sometimes it means retreating a bit, biting your tongue to avoid words that might devastate the Us, words that are more dangerous than just those said in a fight that may anger A or B. A strong Us can come back from slip-ups, but not from forgetting the basic commitment.
There are Us-es (that's not an easy word to pluralize) all around. A's relationship with every friend and family member each forms a unique, important Us. For some, another Us may involve a relationship with a Higher Power. Still, there's something special about one particular Us. Not having that Us does NOT make A any less. I know several people fully realized in themselves and their other Us-es who do not need a romantic Us. But for those who want it, there's nothing more beautiful.
(I have my mini licensing notice on my blog but want it more on this piece -- This piece is my intellectual property. Unauthorized use or reproduction in any form without my express, written permission is prohibitted. Hyperlinks to this post or Confessions From a Rambling Mind are welcome. Copyright © 2012.)