Miranda Lambert’s “All Kinds of Kinds” is the top song on my iPod currently. Let’s be honest, I listened to it on repeat the whole way to work this morning (I like to pretend, during those moments alone in my car, that I can actually sing…)
Miranda sings right to my heart–that there are all kind of people in this world–we need all of those different kinds of people–and just because someone is a different kind of person than you are does not mean they are a bad person.
So this got me thinking about two kinds of people. There are those kind of people who keep climbing, and those kind of people who stay stuck. There are those kind of people who try to be the best they can be, who tackle every obstacle as a challenge, who utilize and expand upon their potential every day. Then, there are those kind of people who are content with the ordinary, happy to go through the motions, see life as a series of things to do.
In our culture, we have this idea that everyone deserves their prince charming/everyone has a soul mate, and that everyone has the ability to live a long, happy, healthy marriage.
But, what if that is not true? What if some of us just don’t make the cut?
Erik Erikson, a German developmental psychologist, suggests that we all have eight stages of development: trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and ego integrity vs. despair. Erikson suggests that, although we all theoretically have the potential to successfully complete each of these stages throughout our lives. However, in his research, he suggests that some of us get stuck during these stages and never quite make it out. In the first stage, if a baby does not develop a trusting relationship with the world, the baby will have problems throughout it’s life with attachment issues and relationships. If a teen does not successfully complete the identity vs. role confusion stage and determine their purpose in the world, then as they grow older, they will feel lost, unhappy, inferior. Not successfully completing these stages could be due to a variety of factors, such as a traumatic experience, a perception issue, incompetent social relationships, etc. Basically, Erikson’s theory suggests that some of us will never reach our true potentials, simply because of the fact that, through developmental mutations that are bound to occur, not all of us can reach self actualization.
I think we can see a similar idea occur with relationships. For example, there are some friends (we all know who they are) who suck no matter what. They are flaky, they lie/back stab/cheat, they say one thing and mean another. And, these kind of friends are that way to everyone, no matter who the friend is, simply because it is their personality to be so. On the other hand, there are some friends who will be there at the drop of a hat, no matter what time, what place, what person, or what incident, because their code is built to be a good friend. It does not matter what the situation is–they will always follow through.
I have been asking many successful couples that I know what makes their relationship work. I get the same answer no matter what kind of people they are–what makes their relationship work is that both people are willing to do whatever it takes TO make it work. So, is it that when we find the one we WANT to do whatever it takes to work for, something in us changes and we fall into that rhythm, OR are there those of us, no matter who we are with, our genetic programming suggests that we will never want to make it work–nothing to do with the person, the relationship–but merely a fact of who we are–we are stuck in a stage of our maturity that we cannot give up ourselves.
This brings me back to my question about “our prince charmings”. If everything is auspiciously aligned–the timing, the setting, the maturity level, etc.–does everyone in this world have a soul mate, someone who will love them unconditionally, solve all of their heartbreak, and be there until the end, simply because there is someone out there for everyone? OR, do only certain people have these kinds of soul mates and the rest of the population is stuck in some kind of weird developmental stage?
I ask myself often why the divorce rate is so high. I think we can all agree that it is due to divorce being more socially acceptable. While I do believe that, yes we are not working at hard at our relationships because we do not need to, I also think that, had we taken a sample of unhappy marriages fifty years ago, we would have had the same statistics. We are always so appalled by famous people having affairs–but if we look at the general population, I believe the same amount of infidelities occur.
They say roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Is it that, only 50% of marriages are destined to work in the first place, because only 50% of people are willing to do whatever it takes, just because that is what is ingrained in their personalities? Does this mean that 50% of marriages fail because the two people are not suited for each other, or does it expose something more alarming about who we are as people? Does this unsuccessful marriage rate indicate that perhaps, as people, we are more broken, more stagnant, more self-indulgent than we would like to admit?
We have an obvious social norm in our country that “if you have to get help for something, then there is something seriously wrong with you”. I disagree. I began counseling a few months ago and it has been a very revealing and important journey in my life. I have been able to examine my relationships, my reactions, and my responsibilities as a person. Without this experience, I would continue doing the same things, expecting different results. Counseling has allowed me to look at myself and how my perceptions might influence certain behaviors in other people. For example, it is difficult for me to have faith in people to follow through, so I do everything myself (especially in group projects). Through counseling, I have been able to examine this relationship and shift my thinking from “No one is dependable” to “Everyone is trying the best that they can”. And, in the end, I end up less stressed, less anxious, and more productive. So much of this is a matter of perception. If we believe our lives suck, then they will suck. My question remains: do we all have the potential to live a fulfilling life, or are some of us destined to have sucky lives, no matter what, because that is just what natural selection implies?
I can’t help but think about how many people go through their entire lives without this experience of looking with objectivity at their lives and their relationships to the world. A few events in my life pushed me into counseling and I am a better person because I have been able to examine my life through a different set of eyes. I used to have anxiety dreams every Sunday night before school and now, I have learned to relinquish some of that control. I used to think I got what I deserved, and now I realize I deserve more. I used to let people walk all over me, and now I know where to draw boundaries. I look back on my journey and wonder: how many people allow themselves to be stuck, developmentally, emotionally, and in maturity? How many people never succumb themselves to this journey simply because they are not able to look outside of their bubbles and are not able to see their destructive behaviors?
Most of all, if we took a deeper look at ourselves, despite how uncomfortable it may be, could we save some of our marriages? Or, could we prevent the destructive relationships to happen in the first place?