When my boyfriend and I first began dating, it quickly became clear that while I preferred schedules, he enjoyed going with the flow. A perfect example of this was when, just a month into our relationship, he proposed that we do something spontaneous so I could experience the uncertainty and excitement of a blank to-do list. I smiled gleefully and responded, “How about we do something spontaneous on Saturday afternoon?!”
The five years since have been filled with a sacrificial dance between musts and maybes, a special ceremony that we call, “planned spontaneity.” I’ve heard that couples become more similar over time, gradually adopting the belief, habits, and values of their other half. Much to my surprise, I am beginning to recognize that s truth in my own life.
In response to my initial dismay at going into the day or week without a plan, my boyfriend asked me point-blank, “Don’t you want to feel alive?” After a brief pause, I told him that I do, explaining that the sense of accomplishment that comes with checking items off a list is what makes me feel alive.
Somewhere along the line, I ditched the moment-to-moment to-do list and began embracing impromptu adventures. During the same period, my better half has overcome his tendency toward to procrastination in favor of long-term planning and daily to-do lists. Six months before my birthday, he proudly announced that he had already picked out my birthday gift. The year before that, I was the one who waited until the week before to choose a gift.
Reflecting on the last several years of my relationship, I’m grateful for this dance of opposites, which has invited two open-minds to flex and to fuse. As unsexy as it may be, communication and compromise have helped us to both deepen our relationship as a couple and expand beyond our individual comfort zone. Like tectonic plates, our unique selves are slowly shifting towards a mutual center–an overlapping Venn diagram of our shared identity.
I think often of the idea of planning spontaneity–the paradox of love and relational development. I see many relationships in which partners hiss and claw until one is left bloodied and the other claims victory. Needless to say, these partnerships never seem to last.
Each human is a unique individual, imbued with a particular history, value set, and personality. We should not strive to change others, but rather to lead by example, especially when it comes to our loved ones–those who are dying for us to accept and approve of them, just as they are. By loving my boyfriend without stipulation or caveats, I offered him the freedom to observe and mimic my habits, discovering what might work in his own life. Likewise, his carefree attitude served as an invitation to partake in unplanned adventures without pressure.
Over the last five years, this freedom has drawn us both to center–to our own individual spiritual core, and to an open field between our personalities where we can explore with a sense of safety and adventure.