I remember hearing a while ago about how, when you become a couple, both the strengths and weaknesses you share in common are magnified – doubled in fact. As a team you put effort into and can grow amazingly in areas you both care for and are passionate about, but the flip side is also true.
When I was single, if I had a weakness which needed work on it wasn’t too difficult to draw it to my attention, seek guidance on it and change in that certain area. Like exercise for example: I could just ask a friend, or set a reminder in my calendar and I’d set aside some of my spare time to ensure that I took my personal fitness more seriously.
Taking this example and putting it into the context of a couple, it become easily noticeable that obstacles might occur here. Firstly, more of your time is shared time, meaning decisions require shared consideration. Secondly, if you want to do different things there is the slight disappointment of not being able to do it together. Thirdly, and perhaps most widely applicable to a variety of scenarios, if one of you can justify not doing it, it’s so easy for both of you to use that excuse (whether it’s legit or not).
Me and my boyfriend both really value community, we love investing time in other people, encouraging them, and learning from them. We were like this when we were single, always meeting up with people or throwing gatherings at our houses. Therefore, it takes no genius to notice that this will then become a very conscious part of the way we work in our relationship. We have always been aware of the ‘third wheel’, those who find couples hard to be around, or making time for those we want to hang out with or check up on. It didn’t take much conscious thought for us to both keenly make an effort to not be an inward couple, but an open, community-based duo.
Don’t forget the flip side!
I think you’ll agree that it’s not only positive character traits that a couple are going to share. For me, the overlapping traits are perhaps impatience and self-control (when we want to justify it we’ll probably call it pro-activity and zeal for life!). But these are really important to notice – and this is where my tandem analogy comes in. You see, it’s very rare that with positive attribute you’d want to change them. Sure, you might want to grow them, but ultimately you want them to remain essentially the same. With weaknesses however, this isn’t the case.
So, the way I see it, when you’re single and want to change something about yourself, it’s like you’re on a unicycle. It may well take effort, but it’s only really your own direction you need to think about – that’s the only one you’re trying to turn around. When you’re in a couple however, it’s like you’re on some kind of tandem bike or axis. To turn as a couple takes co-ordination, communication, and joint commitment. I’ve found I can so easily persuade my partner of something if I really want to, and vice versa! This can be for positive or negative.
My point here is focussed on weaknesses, for both of you to overcome a lack in self-control (for example) I find you almost have to be doubly committed, if you know you both have a weakness here. To turn the situation round as a couple, you need to turn in tandem, to both know which direction you’re aiming for and both understand why. The moment my partner and I have become passive about a change we’re trying to make, things just go back to how they were – it’s like our previous default overrides our efforts to change.
This whole analogy highlights what many have already said, and will continue to say, is the never underestimatable importance of communication in any relationship; but also, I’d add, the importance of noticing shared strengths and weaknesses. The positive side to this is awesome, for a couple who are individual adventurers, you become basically doubly as adventurous! What’s not to love about that? But for weaknesses, it’s an area to be honest and open about. Praying for clarity and strength with these has incredible power to put a heavenly motivation in your relationship, to pursue what is right, what is worthy of your efforts and is a blessing to those around you (some of whom you may not have even realised you can influence). I’d say to anyone single reading this, that it highlights the importance of knowing yourself well before entering a relationship, and the importance of ironing out those habits or traits you know could cause issues here.
Upon realising this, I’ve noticed that this will be an ongoing lesson for every chapter in my life, whoever I’m paired with – a work colleague, a friend, or a committed relationship. The goal of this is not to condemn ourselves, but to recognise the conscious effort that is needed to perfect riding that tandem, in the right direction, together.