In stark contrast to recent years, I spent my early- and mid-twenties as a serial monogamist. I went from one relationship to the next, sometimes with as little as a few weeks in between. My relationships were all “serious,” most of them lasted 1-2 years and these guys were reasonable matches for me. They were good dudes and I remember our times together fondly.
Except for one.
Ironically enough, the shortest relationship was also the one that I got totally lost in. It was built completely on romcom moments; full of drama, excitement, fairytale highs and devastating lows. In it’s short span of six months it moved way too quickly, and we never wanted to be apart from one another.
This relationship jerked me around. I was in, I was out, I was back in again. It truly felt like a drug that I couldn't shake. After our final relapse I was exhausted and scared to move forward on my own, when a good friend gave me a children’s book to read.
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, by Shel Silverstein. [spoiler alert!]
Now my favorite book, this story is entertaining to kids and insightful to adults. It begins with the missing piece sitting all alone, this adorable little triangle with a surprisingly expressive dot as an eye. He is sad and looking for someone to roll with. He tries several suitors – some fit, but could not roll. Others could roll but did not fit. Some were idiots, some treated him badly, and some were just a mess (sound familiar?).
FINALLY, he found a fit and they began rolling together. YAY!
But then the missing piece began to grow, and no longer fit in his rolling buddy. They had to part ways, and he was back to being alone, looking for someone to roll with. When he met the Big O he was disappointed to see that the Big O was not missing any pieces. The Big O was complete; he could roll on his own and had no space to carry the missing piece. The Big O suggested to the missing piece that he learn to roll all by himself.
The missing piece didn’t get it; he was a triangle, he couldn’t roll! But, “corners wear off,” said the Big O before rolling away.
The missing piece sat alone again, feeling kinda sorry for himself. When he finally decided to give it a go, he lifted himself up, and flopped down. It wasn’t graceful, but he had done it. He did it again. Lift. Pull. Flop.
His edges started to round out and he kept going: bumping, then bouncing, then rolling! He had completely changed shape and found it within himself to roll on his own. He could now roll alongside somebody else, but he didn’t need anyone else so that he could roll.
Perhaps you haven’t been caught in a relationship like mine - one that is obviously not a fit but you keep trying to make it work. That's an extreme example, and it’s laughable to look back now and think that I even considered sticking around (hilarious stories, for another time). But I see it all the time: friends and clients looking to another person for their happiness – for their own ability to roll.
It’s easy to dump all our problems on some imaginary (or real) person, to assume that finding this person is the key to everything falling into place. We don’t have to take responsibility this way; we don’t have to face our insecurities head on.
Early on in my singledom I found myself feeling unsatisfied. I literally remember looking in the mirror, not liking what I saw, and thinking, “well, when I meet someone I’ll get in better shape,” or, “I won’t drink this much when I have a boyfriend.” I figured I'd take better care of myself, go out to eat more, travel, and generally do more of the things I love, once I had that special person. Why was I saving the best version of myself for someone else?
I was basically putting my life on hold, waiting for someone to come in and flip the switch for me. I was sitting stagnant, like the missing piece, thinking I couldn’t roll on my own.
But we are not each other’s missing pieces; Jerry Maguire was wrong, we do not "complete" one another. We are complimentary, and can certainly act as some very strong support systems for one another, but it is up to us to find this happiness and confidence inside ourselves. Especially because – shit – what if you don’t ever meet that person? What if the person you do meet simply can’t carry all of that weight for you? What if they don’t want to? Then what? Will you just never be happy? Will you never figure it out for yourself?
I know, I know, it’s hard to take relationship advice from a single person. But this isn’t relationship-with-another advice, this is relationship-with-yourself advice, and it applies whether you’re single or attached. Because at the end of the day, the only relationship you’re guaranteed to always have is the one with yourself, and it’s by far the most important one. Improving this one will make all the others that much better, because you won’t be dumping this weight on anyone else.
Drug jokes aside, what does “rolling” mean to you? What are you waiting for another person to do for you? To feel loved? To take you out to eat? To just be happy? Or to feel validated? I’d bet that pretty much all of them, you can do for yourself. It’s time to take responsibility for your own self-worth and learn to roll on your own.
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