Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Three "People" in a Relationship

I've been thinking about relationships a lot recently.  I've kinda had to since I actually have one, a romantic relationship, for the first time in...  A while, let's say.  I came up with a way of thinking about them which I hadn't heard elsewhere before.  I decided to share it here.  
Whenever you are in a relationship with someone there are actually three "people" involved.  
The first one is "You."  This is the entity you know the most about.  You know what "You" wants.  You know what "You" is feeling.  You know when "You" is lying or telling the truth.  Presumably you have the greatest control over "You's" actions, but we all know that sometimes "You" just seems to do things without thinking.  When "You" does screw  up, you are the one responsible to cleaning up the mess (even while trying to defend "You," giving all the reasons and rationalizations as to why it really wasn't "You's" fault.  
The second entity is "The Other Person."  This is the individual that has sparked your interest.  The one that you think about most often, in an objective sense.  The one you wonder about what they are doing "right now," and whether or not they are obsessing over you as much as you seem to be over them.  "The Other Person," will seem to have the greatest power in the relationship to "You" sometimes.  They can make you giddy with a touch or a smile.  They can twist your insides into knots if they don't reply to that message you sent them until the next day.  "The Other Person" will give you feedback about what they are thinking and feeling, but "You" will filter it through your experiences with previous "Other Persons" and through your own mental filters to come up with an answer as to what this "Other Person" really means.  
Simple enough so far.  "You" and the "Other Person."  But there is a third "person" that we don't think about.  At least I didn't think about until recently.  
"Us" is part of this relationship as well.  "Us" is the third entity, a living breathing creature, that exists between "You" and the "Other Person."  "Us" is made up of what "You" and the "Other Person" want or expect out of the relationship.  "Us" is also made up of what "You" and the "Other Person" put into it.  
It's easy to overlook "Us."  "Us" is invisible for the most part.  If something goes wrong it is the "Other Person" we see standing in front of us.  At such times we look right through "Us" and put everything on the "Other Person."  
But "Us" is the most important of the three entities in a way.  It's to create "Us" that "You" and the "Other Person" got together.  And "Us" can't speak for itself.  "You" have to feel whether or not "Us" is healthy.  The "Other Person" will also tell "You" how it thinks "Us" is doing.  Is it getting everything the two of you are supposed to be giving it?  Is it nourishing the two of you the way you want it to?   
There will be times that what is good for "You" and what is good for "Us" will be two different things.  This happens.  This is when "You" and the "Other Person" let each other know what you think "Us" needs and what you can give.  It's a type of negotiation.  And just like in almost any other kind of negotiation, it's good to have that third party there.  You let "Us" decide what is fair.  You'll be able to tell by how well it makes you feel in return.  "You" and the "Other Person" will both come out feeling better for it.  
Sometimes, for some people, "Us" isn't a kind nor gentle creature.  It will demand from "You" more than you can or are willing to give, without giving anything in return.  Sometimes, for some people, just having "Us" there is so important that we throw everything "You" has into it, getting so lost that the relationship becomes just the "Other Person" and "Us."  Not good.  If this happens, then "You" and the "Other Person" either need to retrain "Us" or let "Us" die and move on.  If it helps, you can blame it on how "Us" behaved.  
This is how "Us" makes relationships easier to deal with.  By giving you that third "person" it can help you see and hear the "Other Person" more clearly.  You can both tell each other what "Us" needs and help each other to provide that.  "Us" becomes the project you are working on together.  This is better than "You" and the "Other Person" feeling like you're trying to reshape each other or tell each other what to do.   
This may sound somewhat simplistic.  As I write this, I'm thinking that everyone out there will say something like, "well, duh...  You're only now figuring that out?"  My level of romantic experiences is quite low compared to others my age.  
But I've also thought, recently, that experience in romance might not mean all that much.  Each person you meet is different and unique.  That means the potential "Us" you can create with them will also be different and unique, responding to stimuli differently than with someone else.  I know I've had the experience, even with my limited history, of applying something I "learned" from one relationship to another and having it go completely wrong.  
What does matter is seeing who it is you're dealing with.  "Us" will tell you more about who the "Other Person" is than the "Other Person" can.  Think about it: How much do "You" tell the "Other Person" about who you are, especially in the beginning?  But it's easier to show who you are to "Us" and then "Us" will let the "Other Person" know.  "Us" will be there by your side when you finally show "You" to the "Other Person."  And if you've been treating "Us" well, then the "Other Person" might say something like, "Oh, I knew that.  It's why I'm with you."  
Remember to thank "Us" when that happens.  They'll appreciate it.