“You being a cop makes you the man! Which makes me the woman –and I have no interest in that, besides occasionally wearing the underwear, which as we discussed, is strictly a comfort thing” – Matt Greoning via Homer Simpson
People coming together, particularly in romantic relationships can be a challenge. On the one hand there’s an implicit desire to maintain one’s own identity. On the other, the inherent desire to assimilate lives.
This conflict of the individual versus the couple is the root of almost all major issues between couples.
Money unfortunately gets the blame for problems but there’s a deeper, yet more simple explanation for why money becomes the root of relationship evils. Money is a manifestation of the mine versus us conundrum in the most easily identifiable form.
The mistake many couples, including myself at times have made, is they assume that by being in a couple it’s an all-in proposition. That everything has to be in such a way were the two lives completely overlap.
The reality is, a healthy relationship is a Venn diagram. In really simple terms the two circles represent the individuals, the overlap represents the couple.
It’s more complex than that though. Every personality type is not a perfect circle. It’s probably more an ellipse for most people.
Within the context of comparison, again, differing personality types might be represented by different size ellipses.
And in creating the overlap between the different size and shaped ellipses different personalities will require more, or less, overlap to be successful.
It that sense the probability that there would be two perfect circles of the same size overlapping one another completely in the diagram is slim, to none. It’s also pretty easy to see some potential failure relationships, like where a very large ellipse is laid over a very small one dominating it.
Most of the rest represents two people coming together in the relationship while maintaining their own individuality. More overlap doesn’t necessarily mean a better relationship, as there are dependencies on the shape of the ellipse and the point of overlap. I’m not going to break down every personality type and pretend I know how to describe their ellipse and it’s overlap to others.
The important thing here is the nature of the ven diagram demonstrates the absolutely need for individuality in order to maintain a healthy coupling of people. It allows for a visualization of the person as a whole in relation to the partner and hopefully provides some insight into why focusing on only the overlapping part is not good enough. The coupling of two people is entirely dependent on all three portions of the diagram. Ignoring either of the un-overlapped areas misses the point.
It’s also not just about moving the two ellipses together to increase the overlapped area. That may not be necessary or even proper which is why taking on an exercise like envisioning the ven diagram of your relationship might make sense.
Interestingly enough, when I began this exercise myself I realized the possibility to then expand the typical two-data set Venn diagram between a couple and expand it outward into encompass the social circle acting upon the couple from the context of friends, family and colleagues which would probably, eventually come to rest in an image more likely viewed as a A. W. F. Edwards interpretation of the traditional Venn. It’s a completely different kind of undertaking to arrange the relevant data into such a visual but again, it may help to demonstrate the frustration many couples face not only in understanding how much or what parts of their own identity are individual versus a product part of the couple but the relationship between the couple’s ecosystem, since no couple exists in a void.
Again, in beginning my attempt at trying to visualize it it helped me realize it is not only ok, it might be imperative that not all the data sets overlap. I don’t need to have individual contact with my partners friends, family and colleagues because there’s no relevant overlap potential and it may not even be possible to integrate them into our own couple’s overlapped area either.
There’s a natural desire in many cases to force all of these relationships to the center but the reality when laid out visually like this is it’s just not realistically possible. Statistically speaking it just wouldn’t happen naturally and thus by trying to artificially force it for the sake of what the social perception of the perfect couple is it actually provides a strain rather than a support.
The nice thing about the imagery of the ellipses moving in and out of varying contact with one another is that it also can represent changes in the people over time. Although in traditional Venn diagramming there’s not relative time to the data represented (unless time itself is the data) but in analyzing the data sets over time you can see the natural rhythms of movement in the pictorial representation. For example, one member of the couple enjoyed a hobby on their own. Over time it was introduced to the other and became part of the overlap. As time continued, the original member of the couple continued the hobby while the other gradually stopped participating, thus moving it back to the individual only.
Or let’s look at this from the homer simpson point of view. Sharing underwear is a shared experience, it falls in the overlap, but it appears there for completely different reasons (marge because it’s a necessity and homer because it’s, well, homer, I get it … anyway). Because we’re using the size and shape of the ellipse to represent personality features, where it falls in the personality spectrum for each is why it exists in the overlap, so determining that part of the analysis is more important than just acknowledging that its there.
There’s lots of ways to analyze the information further beyond even just that simple example, which what I liked in the process of diagramming was it gave me a starting to to acknowledge much of this even existed.