“Up until that moment, I thought he only believed in the Yankees.”
I’m watching the last episode of the first season of Sex and The City. And I can’t withhold my sympathy for Carrie’s impossible situation. Unfolding in a wave of disbelief, she discovers the man of her dreams isn’t all that he seems to be. And that he’s been hiding a significant part of himself from her.
When Carrie confronts Mr Big, sharing his life with her isn’t what he’s willing to do. In many ways, he isn’t willing to try.
I’ve been there. I’ve experienced this ‘awkward relationship moment’, as Carrie eloquently labelled it. I’ve felt the sting of rejection that comes from discovering you don’t know your partner the way you thought you did.
Your life flips upside down in an instant. What you think you know becomes challenged, and it’s more than your relationship you begin questioning. Carrie’s reaction is only normal. She wants to know where she stands in his life.
But as I watched Mr Big’s hesitation towards Carrie’s somewhat demands, I’ve been thinking about the idea of entitlement. Are we entitled to know everything about our partner?
Are we allowed into every facet of their life? And do we have the right to ask for inclusion into their world?
Do we really know who we’re getting into bed with?
Without sounding like a cliche, are we getting into bed with an axe murderer? Are we going to wake up in the middle of the night with a threat to our lives, or the people we love? Outside of Hollywood, many real-life people lament this idea of partner oblivion. It’s when they only know a version of their partner, normally a filtered one too. They only know sections of who they are and the air values.
Intimacy has come to mean something different. When people talk about how well they know someone, it means more than physical knowledge. It’s funny how many times we see someone naked before we know their last name. Seeing someone naked doesn’t mean you know them, either.
Knowing a person’s history, values and beliefs helps determine our safety in the relationship. It’s this insight that transforms complete strangers into trusted partners. Physical safety isn’t the only safety we crave.
Emotional safety, knowing our significant other won’t hurt our feelings, is equally important to learn. We often can’t give to someone without establishing emotional safety first. Sharing ourselves builds this safety.
Can we predict our future?
Every time we meet a potential mate, our mind and hormones are sizing this partner up. We’re analysing them, deciding whether they meet our sexual and emotional desires. Depending on our mindset, we’re hunting for short term, instant gratification cues from our instincts. Other times, we’re consumed by our long term desires.
Asking our partner about who they are is part of the sizing-up process. When we ask about our partner, when we delve into their life, subconsciously we’re investigating how this person will fit into our future. We’re making a series of judgments about how what they’re saying, analysing whether it fits into the way we live.
Commitment isn’t an action we approach lightly. When we make commitments to share someone’s future with them, we enter into this commitment with knowledge.
When we can’t attain that knowledge when we can’t understand a person’s truth, we back away from commitment. We see how Carrie backs away in this episode. And as much as you may not agree with her decision, the process she takes is understandable.
Isn’t this what partnerships are?
We all share differing perspectives on what relationships mean. Why we enter them, why we sustain them, and how we value them. But entering into a romantic partnership is about more than one person. Relationships are about entwining two lives together. How do you do this without the entwining process?
If we don’t open up to each other, and we don’t share our lives together, we aren’t forging a partnership. We’re doing the opposite. Though we might not be ‘breaking up’, we’re creating a union that doesn’t have a foundation of honesty and openness. Without those two qualities, partnerships don’t survive.
Are we invading someone’s privacy?
Watching Carrie and Miranda sitting on the balcony of the church felt like an invasion of Mr Big’s privacy. Like the quintessential insecure partner, Carrie’s spying seemed irrational and unfair. It would, for a lot of people, turn them away. It isn’t a far cry from illegal and predatory stalking.
I’m sure Carrie wouldn’t view what she did as being harmful. But from Mr Big’s reaction, it’s clear he didn’t like sharing this part of himself. So where is the line?
Being nosey about someone and caring enough to learn about them is two very different things. Yet, for some people, they can appear as the same action. Those people who view it in this way are often closed to other people. They share a fear or hesitation towards commitment. If someone feels that another person getting to know them breaches their personal boundaries, relationships aren’t for them.
Pushing until your partner doesn’t lead to a healthy relationship. Carrie is the perfect example of this. She pushes Mr Big to make a decision when he isn’t ready. She inserts herself into his personal space. A relationship built on ultimatums and forced connections won’t survive either.
I don’t condone stalking your partner, or going behind their back to find out who you are. But don’t give the people you care about a reason to do this. By keeping the metaphorical relationship wall between you, the other person is bound to want to look over and see what they’re missing. It’s human instinct to follow the inquisitive mind.
Why do other people know, but not your partner?
Few people think about what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes. How it must feel being in the dark about the person you care about or are trying to get to know. What must it be like to not know who your partner really is?
But what’s worse is all the other people who know you, who know your history, and your partner is the only one left out. Why is the person you care about the only one in the dark?
It speaks volumes about your feelings for the other person if you can’t treat them equally as others in your life. This is the time to listen and analyse your actions.
Can we ask for inclusion in someone’s life?
Every person is going to differ on this topic. Our experiences, both romantic and plutonic, shape how we allow people to enter our life. We won’t treat everyone with the same freedom or restriction. Yet, we can’t begrudge those who politely ask.
If a person gives us the respect we deserve and asks us to consider them in your life, it’s impossible and unfair not to entertain the idea. Asking a person to be apart of your life is one of the hardest things to do. It requires more courage and respect to ask, especially in the wake of rejection.
We shouldn’t discourage the people we love from wanting to become close to us. We don’t always have to share our life in its entirety with them. But we can’t completely close off.
There is a happy medium, as long as everyone can respect it.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships by analysing my experiences. Some of the stories are altered to protect the people in my life. But my feelings are never compromised.