If you’ve ever seen Seinfeld, then chances are you remember the episode where George Costanza explains to Jerry Seinfeld about one of his biggest dating fears – what would happen if his independent self and his dating self were to meet – or when the two worlds would collide. He reveals the fear because Elaine had invited Susan (George’s girlfriend) to go out for a night on the town, as per Jerry’s suggestion. George has a fit because this means that Susan would become part of his friendship group as well, and worlds would collide. Take a look for yourself:
George: Well, that was a really stupid thing. You know what’s going to happen now?
Jerry: Worlds collide.
Jerry: Because this world is your sanctuary and if that world comes into contact with this world…
George: Yes. It blows up! So if you know that, why did you tell Elaine that?
Jerry: I didn’t know. Kramer just told me about the worlds.
George: You couldn’t figure out the worlds theory for yourself? It’s just common sense. Everyone knows you have to keep your worlds apart!
Jerry: Yeah, I guess I slipped up.
George (pointing to Kramer): He knows the worlds theory.
Kramer: What – is it blowing up?
In dating, is George right in that you have to keep your worlds separate?
I’ve seen two types of relationships, and neither of them are really better. When you’re in a couple, you are either the couple that does everything together and your lives are intertwined or you are the couple that merges occasionally, but you lead separate lives.
If you look at the history, George is right. Relationships where both of you are attached at the hip are probably not going to last.
Does that make you a little uncomfortable? Let’s dissect it some more:
You need to grow in your relationship.
It doesn’t matter how much you deny it, we are always going to be a little different when we are with our significant others than we are with our friends.
Friends allow us to grow and learn and see who we really are – and they allow us to love that person. In order to let this happen, you have to keep some separation between your individual life and relationship. Throughout your life, you will end up with quite a few Prince Charming candidates before you find the one to settle down with.
You can’t allow yourself to be defined by who you are dating – especially because you will end up changing so much that you will become a stranger to yourself.
My friend Jenna always defined herself by who she was dating. When she was with Matt, she really enjoyed going out and clubbing, so that is what they did every weekend. Then they broke up and she started dating Keith, who really enjoyed hunting and fishing, so they spent their weekends at his family’s cabin. When they finally broke up, she started seeing Scott, who loved foreign film – so they went to the movies every Wednesday to see the new releases. In this situation of worlds collide, she allowed herself to be swallowed whole by his world.
Jenna’s own interests were never addressed.
When she would become single again, she was always looking for something to do instead of going out and doing what she loved.
Take away: Learning who you are separate from your significant other can help you to stay happy as an individual, no matter what happens.
The “Cling” Thing
“Clingy” is a word that some people like to use for those boyfriends or girlfriends that seem obsessed with each other. However, clingy is a big part of worlds collide.
No one wants to be labelled clingy, especially in a relationship that might not make it all the way.
But the bigger problem is that the desire to be “clingy” doesn’t last all that long. Typically boyfriends and girlfriends only want to be around each other all the time when they are first dating – or the honeymoon period.
That’s a problem because we all leave the honeymoon stage at different times. Maybe you want to just get away for a while because your SO is clinging to you like a baby kangaroo, but where can you go?
If you keep your life and relationship separate, you could go out with your friends. However, if they collide, your SO will just want to go with you.
Keep Your Life and Relationship Separate
The good think about keeping your life and relationship separate is that they can come together any time they want for a brief period of time. Brevity is the important part here because that means your relationship and your life don’t become codependent on each other.
One of the biggest reasons that someone stays in a relationship is because they wonder, “Who is still going to be my friend when this all goes to shit?”
It’s a realistic fear. The truth of the matter is that you deserve people around you that are going to be there for you if you break up, no matter what. Sure, they might judge you a little, but they won’t leave your side just because you cheated.
You deserve friends, and not just because they were friends with your boyfriend or girlfriend first. You deserve to have the ability to leave a relationship and not have to worry about who will be there to pick you up.
Just to clarify – yes, you have to do things together in your relationship – but don’t make it an everyday thing. You have to try to avoid worlds collide and keep your life and relationship separate – or as much as you can. It is all about balance.
And if you do let your worlds collide on a constant basis? Well, take it from George:
George (to Jerry): You have no idea of the magnitude of this thing. If she [girlfriend Susan] is allowed to infiltrate this world, then George Costanza as you know him ceases to exist. You see, right now I have relationship George. But there is also independent George. That’s the George you know. The George you grew up with. Movie George. Coffee shop George. Liar George. Bawdy George.
Jerry: I love that George.
George: Me, too, and he’s dying, Jerry! If relationship George walks through this door, he will kill independent George. A George divided against itself cannot stand.