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“Can I Go With You?” Need and Love in Marriage

One of my dearest friends, Misti Barnes, authored a beautiful and hilarious book on relationship co-dependency entitled, If You Leave Me, Can I Go With You? The theme, if you haven’t caught on already, is that when we get left, or distanced, we often panic over being left alone and try to hold on with our teeth, even if the relationship isn’t working well.

Those of us who’ve been in the adult dating world (for any length of time) are intimately familiar with this sensation. We don’t want to be solo and alone again; we don’t want to go ‘out there’ and start all over with another human being; we don’t want to have to try so hard to find love that sticks. Hopefully, our aloneness makes us more willing to choose well the next time we do meet a potential partner we’re interested in, learning to pass on the flash and dash, and instead, account for character and kindness and the capacity for devotion. When we’re dating and we want serious love, that’s the goal. That’s security and a solid foundation for love.

Once we’re in a stable marriage, we want it to stay that way. We talk out of the sides of our mouths about all of the drama we used to engage in before we were in a sturdy marriage. We vent relief at not having to hunt and search anymore. We rue the day we ever tried to run after the alcoholic, the rage addict, or the irresponsible adult who couldn’t seem to pay bills or hold onto a job.

We settle in with a good person. And that’s just grand. It’s part of the gift of finding devotion.

But what we also do sometimes is separate out our passion in the name of safety. Some of us have associated passion with our past, unhealthy choices—with desperation, actually—and so we don’t know how to bring our fiery excitement and want into a safe and loving space.

What we want in our marriages is not what we had in our unhealthy choices. But we still want a love affair. So we have to find a way to bring some of that uncertainty—the healthy kind—into our love lives. We need a wide berth of discovery to keep seeing where we fit into our partner’s world as he or she grows, and as we grow. Meaning, we want that ethic of need; that sense of Take Me With You. We need it.

We want a sense that there’s room for our own heart to reach for things, and room for our partner’s to, too, so that we enliven each other with a little kick-start of mystery and pride, interest and variety.

What I’ve learned from my past, failed love experiences is this: the insecurity of not knowing that everything was set in order was an aphrodisiac of sorts. It propelled a kind of need for connection and a close-range draw to get in there and see where I fit. And I believe we can have that draw in marriage simply by continuing to grow ourselves—and by allowing our partner room to grow. By becoming interesting to ourselves, first, and then allowing the sweet breeze of interest to move and swirl between the two of us.

The passion I felt for partners who were inappropriate for me was often misspent; and many times it just wore me out. I have no desire to return to that. But now, finally living inside a good and solid adult marriage, I also don’t want to get complacent. I want to take the lessons of the passion I spent with me into married love, create a little mystery, invest in the interests that make me interesting, allow the same for my husband, and look over and relish this compelling person I’ve chosen. To need him, and want him, and get a little jones going for the man who brings me happiness and security and serenity and joy.

A little hit of, Wherever you’re going, baby, can I go, too?

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