Enlightenmentors in Relationships

Every once in a while, in (I hope) everyone’s life, someone comes along who helps show you things about yourself that you never knew.  They facilitate learning about yourself and help you discover truths that you weren’t even aware existed.  From that point on in your life, you are changed and even if you tried, you couldn’t go back to the way you were again.  I like to call these people Mentors.  Yay, capital letters.  A Mentor is someone who will challenge you to be a better person, and who cares enough to ask you to explain yourself just so that you yourself will learn about what and who  you are.

This is heavy stuff.  But, I think everyone can think back on their lives and find an example of one or two people like this, at least.  If not, I suggest you find one, because a life lived unquestioned is a life not lived at all.  What I want to explore in this post, though, is what happens when your significant other (SO) is such a person.

There are four scenarios as I see them:  First, that you and your SO both mentor each other.  Second, you are mentored by your SO.  Third, you mentor your SO.  Fourth, neither of you mentor the other.  I would like to explore them one by one.  Keep in mind, though, that I don’t have very much experience with relationships, so I could be dead wrong on any of these points.

First I will address the case where neither of you mentors the other.  I would imagine, even though I don’t know, that such a relationship would be exhausting.  Each person would be unchallenged and stagnant.  If both parties are very very secure and comfortable with themselves and each other, they may be able to get along without growing as people.  I think, though, if one of them did find someone who could challenge them, it might end this relationship.

Second, if you are being mentored by your SO, I imagine you will feel insecure.  Your growth and possibly your self-esteem will be dependent on interaction with them.  I also imagine that it would get very tiring to be moving through stages of life that simply blow you away while your fellow traveler is where they always were, not being challenged.  You run the risk of becoming a very different person who will not be comfortable in the relationship any longer.

Third, if you are doing the mentoring, it can feel very good.  You are helping someone you love improve themselves and learn about themselves.  You are taking care of them and watching them blossom.  I feel like this is what I did in the earlier stages of my life with Melissa, and I enjoyed immensely.  I hope this is not an unfair characterization.

Finally, you mentor each other.  I think this is a very difficult situation to find.  Each person has to have something unique and powerful to bring to the relationship.  Each person cares enough about the other to want to see them become all that they can be.  I imagine that this can be very fulfilling.  If either of you are having an existential or philosophical or ethical crisis, the other will be there to provide guidance and get you through it.  If the spark stays alive, you can learn and grow and improve for the rest of your life together.

I feel like I’ve experienced only one of these four types of relationships, and I think I would like to experience more of them.  I don’t know which is the right one for me, but I think it could be the last one.  I am pretty solid in my understanding of my own world and belief system and philosophies, so I know I can help others see what I see.  However, learning is one of the most important things for me.  I would like someone who makes me do that for the rest of my life.


One Response

  1. Let’s start with the caveat that my posting about relationships is mildly absurd (my longest has been 2 years and each one has been shorter than the one before it). That said, I think your fourfold typology does well as ideal types, but is probably much messier in practice. As far as who-helps-who-grow, I’d say we are always changing, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, often just for the different. A key challenge is finding someone you can change with — whether they are the driving engine behind your change or not. That’s why the idea of marriage scares me. It’s not because I am scared of commitment (commitment is great, commitment is wonderful, etc.) but I am scared of committing to someone who is wonderful now but who will be a much different person thirty, twenty or even ten years from now.

    Probably explains why I’m still single. But, as Matt Pond PA say, “alone…it’s not so bad at all”.

    — Danny

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