A few months ago, I attended the wedding of one of my childhood friends. It was a beautiful wedding – with delicious food and perfect weather.
However, I wasn’t a big fan of the words the officiant said at the ceremony. The minister said things like, “true happiness can’t occur until one finds a spouse” and “a person isn’t fully whole until they join their life with another.”
I disagree big time. I was cringing on behalf of some of my unmarried friends at the wedding – individuals who have very full, very happy lives.
Additionally, I think the expectation that wholeness is found in another person is a very dangerous way to start a marriage.
The minister’s words prompted me to reflect on a concept I learned in grad school that changed my life — which is Murray Bowen’s concept of differentiation of self – do you remember it?
As this article states, the theory of differentiation of self highlights two important abilities:
Working on my own level of differentiation has helped me immensely in my relationships with others. It teaches me that I am a whole and complete person and it challenges me to maintain a sense of autonomy within close relationships.
However, this isn’t always easy. I have found that my feelings of wholeness take a bit of a hit when I go through difficult times. For me, it’s easier to maintain a strong sense of self when things are going well. But, when the storms of life inevitably come, I have to work harder to remind myself that I am whole and complete, just as I am.
Last week, I spoke about the miscarriage I recently had. Before I got pregnant, I would have said that my life was full and satisfying. But, after I lost the baby, I found myself struggling to feel whole. I’ve experienced similar feelings during other times of grief, pain, or loss.
I came across a quote while reading the book After the Rain by Alexandra Elle. She simply said,
I am whole even through hurt.
Alexandra’s words stuck with me, and has become a helpful mantra this past week. My wholeness isn’t dependent upon becoming a mother, or being a partner to Warren, or growing a successful business.
Outside of any label I wear and irregardless of any validation I receive, I am a whole and complete person — in moments of strength and in moments of grief.
What words help you maintain your sense of self through difficult times? If you have any thoughts or reflections you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear them.