Who were we before being shaped, moulded and gently influenced, whether unknowing or with eyes wide open, by our Beloveds? Then after those interactions, regardless of duration, can we ever go back to who we were before they played a part in our lives? Would you want to?
By midlife, we are the sum of our 50 or however-many-years-worth of people burnishing our strengths, rubbing off our hard edges, tenderly smoothing away our fears. Do you like who you are now?
With all the arrogance of my then 20 years on the planet, I expected that my first husband and I would grow together – that’s if I thought about it at all way back then. Sadly, it was in our growing that we grew apart and while that wasn’t the reason for the final separation, it was, in retrospect, a large contributor.
By midlife however, we come into any relationship pre-packaged, with our families, friends, habits, rituals, routines and identity much more formed. Some of which we may be prepared to flex but likely, not all. Because in our more mature (ahem) years, we believe we know what works for us, as individuals – rightly or wrongly!
In my 30’s, inviting my Beloved into my world was a much more thoughtful process than that of my late teens. While not dissuaded by the appeal of new-ness, frissons of lust and burgeoning love, my Beloved definitely needed to tick some boxes (character mainly) because by then, I was so much more formed and sure of myself, having navigated the sad and murky waters of my marriage. As was he, in his 40’s and seemingly oh so wise.
We were equally clear that we needed to enhance each others existence; to build on the best of our ‘me before you’ attributes, given they had been part of the mutual attraction in the first place. However, we also recognised that our ‘dark sides’ existed too. So in owning up to our imperfections, we could ensure that we were more realistic about what might magically work between us. Or not. This was not about ignoring, reshaping or refusing admittance to the parts of our lives and our selves that contributed to each of us before ‘us’ existed.
So how do you stay true to the ‘me before you’? Get clear on:
1. Who you are
What’s your identity – who are you without your job or title?
What makes you special?
2. Who and what matters to you
Who comes first in your life – children, parents, friends, yourself?
Who and/or what do you prioritise?
3. What you choose to give your time to
What do you like to do in your spare time?
What will you stay up late or get up early for?
4. Your beliefs, values and ethics
What pushes your ‘I don’t think so’ buttons?
What will you argue for and/or defend?
5. What has shaped you into the fine human being you are today?
What lessons have already been hard fought, won and are therefore unnecessary to repeat?
With a clearer sense of who you are, you are less likely to set aside any thing or person important to you, lightly. You are also more likely to stop and consider how anyone new will fit into your already established circle of friends, family and world. You know, that circle that has encouraged, enabled and supported you to be your ‘me before you’.
Now that’s not to say that you can’t become a different, perhaps even better version of yourself once ‘me’ becomes ‘part of us’. One of the joys of relationships at midlife, regardless of the nature of the relationship, is the liberation that comes with being able to see (hopefully objectively) what you are getting yourself in to without feeling any particular need or obligation to change or fix anyone to suit some ideal you may have been carrying for too many years.
You have earned the right to be accepted as you are. Quirks and all. Your character is well formed – although not without room to alter, should you wish to do so. But that’s the point really; it’s entirely your choice, when you are the ‘me’ before ‘you’.
What do you hold dear from your ‘me before you’?