My husband and I recently saw “The Big Sick”, an elegantly conceived and executed movie about an ancient story: two young people are born into families with different backgrounds. They fall in love, but to be together, they need to find a way to transcend resistance to their relationship — especially from their own families. Sounds like the subtext of Romeo and Juliet, or “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, or my own love story. So much of my memoir, Miracle at Midlife, covers our struggles to deal with our different cultures and to find ways to make others we loved a part of our new world, the one we began to form when we fell in love with each other. The challenges were amplified by the fact that we were middle aged and so our closest loved ones were our adult children, rather than our parents.
At any age, when a close romantic relationship is formed, a couple faces the task of getting to know each other’s friends and family. The last thing they want is to abandon those they have loved so far, even as they are forming the circle that will become the support system for their couple. In “The Big Sick”, both the man and the woman appreciate the roles that their families and friends play in their lives and insist upon honoring them — but not at the expense of the relationship itself. Discovering ways to expand the circle of their love to include others is an indispensable way for two people to show love to each other.
What needs to be done to expand the circle?
- Acknowledge the importance of others. Even though the hormone rush of new love can leave lovers fully focused on each other initially, they still have people who have cared for and about them up to that point in their lives and who most likely will continue to care. Sometimes they have children they love. Their adult children may have families of their own. We often hope to stay connected and to share our lives and theirs as they unfold.
- Act out of respect for your beloved. Whether or not you agree with your beloved on the qualities and influences of others in your life, you do need to respect his or her need — and right — to relate to them both as part of a recognized couple and independently.
- Be direct. When you are affected by the relationship between your loved one and someone else, you need to communicate your own needs clearly, state your reactions directly, help identify problems or concerns honestly, and work together to find solutions that work.
How can issues involving others be addressed?
- In “The Big Sick”, the hero finds a unique solution (no spoiler here) to his predicament by examining what he wants and needs and taking charge of that which is within his control to realize. He acknowledges that others, too, have the power to act according to what they want — but by refusing to be bullied or to accept unnecessary consequences, he liberates himself and eventually his love relationship.
- Consider the kinds of contacts that nourish and those that can damage your new or current love relationship. What type of activities are you involved in with the friend or relative? What demands do those activities make on you? On your loved one? How often do they occur? How long do they take? A visit to the racetrack or a museum twice a year is different from nightly phone calls filled with crises and drama. Does someone demand that you accept beliefs you do not believe or make choices you abhor or fill roles that are ill-fitting? Resisting those demands brings opportunities to practice integrity and gently live the life you want to be living.
Why expanding the circle is worth the effort.
Have you made conscious choices about ways to expand or diminish other important relationships in your life to develop or maintain a romantic love relationship? How did your partner react to your decisions? Were you able to agree on ways to decide about connections with others? Did you need to make any “rules” about your involvement with others? Have you defined those rules and agreed to abide by them? Do you review and update those “rules” periodically?
Copyright 2017 Roni Beth Tower
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