I wanted to cry but I was too tired. I rubbed my eyes and looked at my sister sleeping in her car seat. I could see the back of my grandfather’s head and my mother sitting next to him in the passenger seat. We pulled out of the parking lot and I watched our house disappear into the darkness. I wouldn’t see my father again until I was 18.
For the next 12 years, my mother raised my sister and me with zero support from my father. She worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. She served as our mother, father, tutor, career counselor. She missed out on dates, buying herself clothes, getting her hair cut, her nails done, taking vacations – not only to pay the bills but to ensure that my sister and I wouldn’t miss out on those little “luxuries” like ballet class or field trips. She did everything for us, while still managing to run the rest of her world and be everything to everyone else in her life (daughter, employee, sister). Growing up, I emulated this example. I wasn’t just someone’s “girlfriend” or “friend” but I was also their career counselor/fitness trainer/therapist/financial advisor. Wherever someone sought support, I endeavored to provide it. Unfortunately, I also grew up feeling that people should do the same for me.
We want it all. In her book, “A Little Bit Married,” author Hannah Seligson says “We are looking for someone to be our gym buddy, career counselor, best friend, lover, creative inspiration, and therapist. In short, the intimacy expectations of young people today are off the charts.” It’s what she calls “the soul mate fetish.” And she believes that this fetish is effectively ruining our relationships. As a former fetishist myself, I don’t disagree. My “soul mate fetish” has effectively ended one too many of my relationships and friendships.
Throughout my life, at any point in time when I was unable to meet a need of a partner, or friend, I felt disappointed. I had let them down. I wasn’t “good enough” because I wasn’t able to give them the advice, support or motivation that they sought. I had failed in my “duties.”
It wasn’t until my break-up with Aces that I realized how I have so heavily placed this expectation on others. I wanted Aces to be my “everything.” My boyfriend, my best friend, my personal trainer, my career counselor, my motivational speaker, my financial advisor, my life coach. If he wasn’t able to provide support in any of those areas, or if he suggested that I look to someone else for it, I felt let down. Disappointed. That he must not care. That he must not truly “love” me. That he must not truly be “the one.” Because surely “that perfect person” for me would be able to provide for all of the needs that I have. I didn’t only place this burden on Aces, but on other friends and family as well.
My 35 Dates in 35 Days project led to more reflection than I had ever anticipated. I see now, that no one person needs to be “my everything.” No one person should be my everything. In fact, even if someone truly wanted to be my everything, chances are, that would not be the best situation for either of us. It is doubtful that they have the necessary skills to truly serve every area in which I seek support and, most likely, they would feel internally frustrated at their inability to do provide something that they wish to give. And just because they can’t provide a certain level or area of support or guidance, doesn’t mean that they are failing. Or that they don’t love me. Or that they don’t care. Or that they aren’t mean to be my “soul mate” or my friend.
Rather, by someone telling me to seek out a career counselor, a life coach, a therapist, a personal trainer – they are telling me quite the opposite. They are telling me that they care about me and love me enough to want me to get the best support system in place that I can have. By not seeking to be “my everything,” they are loving me fully. And by me not placing that expectation on them, I am doing the same.
Not only will I continue to not place unrealistic expectations on others and, instead, seek out the proper individuals to provide the support system that I need (like those on Team RITA), but I will no longer place unrealistic expectations on myself and will endeavor to help those I know, and those I will meet, create the best support system they can have. I will love everyone I meet for their strengths and appreciate what they give me. I will not focus on what they cannot, because that is not a failing. I do this, because I want to experience a complete love. I want to love fully and, by doing so, I hope to be loved fully in return. Soul mate fetish free.