Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost
Most people have heard this famous line at some point in their life. In his poem, Robert Frost explains how his choice to travel the “unique and different” path at this fork in the road has made all the difference in his life. So many times in our lives we are faced with choices and our decisions about which path to take have tremendous affects on our experiences, how we feel and our overall well being.
Oftentimes in intimate relationships we are faced with these exact circumstances; whether to continue on with someone in our life or whether to choose a different path. Much has been written in books, magazines, and internet articles as well as discussed on talk shows about how important it is to know ourselves well so we make a wise choice at this fork in the road. We are reminded how important it is for us to have self-love and enough respect for ourselves to choose what is best for us in our life and not allow ourselves to be dependent upon others in any way. Unfortunately, not much is mentioned about what happens after that decision to be in a relationship and what the path looks like when two people choose to walk together…which is really most important aspect of coming together.
Case in point: As I searched the internet for an image of two paths “merging together” I found thousands of pictures like this one. I was just simply looking for an image on the internet to show the merging of two paths and it brought me the “dominant” mindset we have about relationships being about “choosing the right path.” And while it is definitely important to know ourselves and understand what we want for ourselves in our own life, we must also understand what happens in our life after we choose to share it with someone else; when we walk our paths of life together.
This choice to walk on a path together with someone else is what I am calling the Reverse Fork in the Road©. While this may not seem like a very “big” thing to consider, it has been my experience that how you walk this new shared path with your partner is really what makes all the difference in life.
We’ve all been told that “opposites attract” and while that is true to an extent, paradoxically it is also very important to have much in common with your “partner.” When I was growing up and starting to date, I can remember lots of members of my family pointing out that my partner should “compliment” me; be strong in the places where I was weak so together we would form a good team. While it is helpful for your partner to have abilities that you lack and that together you make a strong team, those aspects alone are not enough. I was also told that my partner and I would need to have common goals for our lives if our relationship was to be successful but adding that aspect to our “strong” team was still not enough. I have been in relationships with others where we had the same goals and worked well as a team only to eventually decide to go our separate ways.
It has taken me much pain, failure, disappointment and dismay to realize that the true success of a relationship is based upon how well two individuals come together to construct a new, shared, combined life path that is mutually beneficial to each of them. Gary Zukav talks about this at length in his book Spiritual Partnerships. In the book, he explains that truly successful relationships are based upon one important shared goal: individual spiritual growth which is the responsibility of each partner individually. He points out that “these spiritual partners journey into their deepest fears – their experiences of powerlessness – with the intention to heal themselves completely” with a “commitment to their own spiritual development [and] a determination to move into the fullness of their own potential [so they can] give the gifts they were born to give.”
While you may share a lot of interests with your partner and enjoy spending time together you may not have the necessary ingredients to build a genuinely new, unique, mutually beneficial life path together. It is very easy to be fooled into thinking you are extremely compatible due to how much in “parallel” your individual life paths appear to be. Put another way, while you both may appear to be moving in the same direction as you walk your own individual paths next to each other, when you must walk holding hands in lock step together on the exact same path a much different experience can unfold.
So how do you know what kind of path you are building together? First, in my experience, it generally takes approximately six months for us to remove the “masks” we wear and show our true nature to one another. We naturally want to make a good impression and be liked and it is very difficult to avoid this part of the process. Some people claim to be tired of “playing games” and want to “just be themselves,” however, instead of being genuine they are putting on a different kind of show by placing barriers to intimacy between them and any potential partners. “Take me as I am; love me or get out of my way” is a different kind of mask but a mask just the same.
What really allows the light to shine through and remove all the mystery is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable, truly showing who you are without masks of any kind, you provide the opportunity for your partner to know and respond to you as you really are and support you in the best way possible in your unique life journey. You also need to discover if you can provide the support and understanding your partner needs to face the dragons he or she must address to grow in his or her life journey; something you can only do if he or she is vulnerable to you. As you learn more about each other from this deeper, more intimate place, you will understand relatively quickly whether the path you are building together is one of mutual benefit or a mirage where one or the other of you feels as though you are being “dragged along” the road.
So spend the time required to understand who you are and what you want for your life; it is crucial work that we must all do for ourselves. And also remember to open up to share the deepest parts of yourself with your partner in the hopes you both have found the one that can support you in your unique life journey.
It’s not just about making the right individual choice at the fork in the road; it’s also about creating the best shared path for each individual from the Reverse Fork in the Road©.