This blog post is the second one inspired by Kerri Grote, a woman who died of brain cancer. (Here’s the first one.)
Facing life challenges without a partner or children
One of the things she wrote about in the letter she left for her friends was the message we get from society: We need a romantic partner who is the “love of our life.” I’ll quote her here:
Single and childless when I was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, I looked around my life and came up sputtering and sobbing from the wave of grief [that] washed over me. I thought I’d be doing this alone…no husband, no kids, no “great love.”
How wrong I was. At the first appointment with my neurologist oncologists, one of the nurses diligently hauled in chair after chair for the great loves of my life who came with me that horrible day and many days after that…
[The] room [was] filled with the great loves of my life:…friends whom I had met at various stages of my life.
You don’t need a partner or children to have a full and satisfying life…
Not everyone will have a romantic partner, marriage, or children. That doesn’t mean that your life is incomplete, has no meaning, or lacks love.
…but you do need friends
Kerri’s friends were there for her throughout her illness. If she had had a romantic partner, she still would have needed the nurturing and “feeding” those deep friendships provided. The demands of a terminal illness are too great for a spouse or partner alone.
Satisfaction? Or dependency?
A romantic relationship is the icing on the cake; it’s not the cake. And plenty of cakes are delicious without icing! As one of my mentors says, “The best relationship is one in which either partner can leave at any time. That means that each person is there because the relationship is satisfying, rather than being there out of dependency.”
Friends can be there for each other throughout life, as Kerri Grote proved to herself. And those deep friendships are important in life, whether or not we have a romantic partner.
Relying on just a romantic partner isn’t a satisfying way of life even in the good times. That’s too much pressure for one person. Humans are complex creatures and one person can’t meet all of our needs, nor can we meet all of someone else’s.
The problem with “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” thinking
First of all, it’s a syrupy Barry White tune! But the idea that one person can be everything for another is just faulty. You may have a partner who shares many of your interests and activities, but unless your partner is your clone, this person won’t love everything you love.
Maybe your partner loves many things you enjoy, but doesn’t like travel. Great that you have some friends who enjoy traveling with you. Or you love so many things your partner loves, but you’re just never going to be interested in going to museums. Sci-fi movies are’t your thing. You hate watching period dramas. You enjoy physical challenges, and your partner is more sedentary. Take your pick: you and a partner aren’t going be a perfect match on everything. That doesn’t mean your relationship isn’t satisfying. It just means that Barry White isn’t singing about your relationship—and that’s a good thing!
I’m willing to bet that you and/or your partner probably have friends who enjoy the activities that your partner doesn’t. Those friendships add to your enjoyment in life and, if you’re with a partner, take the pressure off your partner to be everything you want and always available.
Friendships aren’t just to fill in the spaces in your relationship; they are their own pleasure
Friendships greatly enrich life, whether or not we are partnered. If your friendships are fraught; if you tend to find that friends cycle into and out of your life; if you don’t have any longstanding friendships, examining this in therapy can be worthwhile. If this is something you’d like to explore to help you make a more satisfying life, contact me and let’s get started together.