There’s an old adage that you’ll know when it’s time to leave a relationship. I contend that we don’t always know the time to leave someone behind and in fact, from personal experience - it may take many times of trying to break up with someone before it actually is a formal parting of the ways. I’ve wondered what are the signals that indicate a relationship has run it’s course. Why do we stay in relationships and when is it time to say goodbye to the beloved?
Relationships have a definitive pulse - they have their own heartbeat. We can sense when the pulse is strong and when it is weak. We have an innate understanding of this and at the start of relationships there is an earnest interest in getting to know the other person and see what might transpire. In the anatomy of relationships this is what might be termed the “honeymoon” phase. We are able to see the beloved only through rose colored glasses and experience the positives about them. We look for signs that validate our already arrived upon conclusions. In essence, we create the experience and support our findings, choosing to look at what we want to see.
Things might go amazingly well for a period of time - picnics in the park - shopping excursions - light night conversations with arms wrapped around one another in a comfortable bed. We gaze admiringly into the eyes of our new found partner and experience an ocean of good feelings. There is, of course, that moment when sex enters into the equation and intimacy is established at a physical level that might or might not exceed the intimacy established emotionally. I have been in these places and witnessed first hand the power of attraction. Like many others I can be swept away by a glance, a piece of music or
the touch of my partner.
Invariably, there will arise the initial argument or disagreement. We begin to see that the affinity we share with the beloved doesn’t always translate into the same mind set. How we handle the initial disagreement speaks volumes about the potential for the survival of the relationship. Are we responsive? Caring? Adaptable? Am I able to hear my beloved and understand what they are saying as well as what they are not saying? Does my beloved hear and understand me? Can we move toward one another with a shared sense of purpose?
We will end up addressing and acting out our issues in relationship. What I have not resolved will come up as we sit together. What my partner has not resolved will rear its head as well. There will be many things not spoken about that display themselves. What’s unaddressed can, and usually does, undermine the quality of the relationship. I worked with a therapist who once told me his definition of love was to be willing to work on oneself in order to be fully present to the beloved. What an amazing act of love! My willingness to go to those places and resolve my issues is an expression of my interest in my partner getting “all” of me - not just bits and pieces of a fragmented psyche. I’m sure many of us can attest to the notion that our relationships became battle grounds for issues better left to therapists. Truth is I cant fix someone else and they can’t fix me. So what to do about the lingering issues that just don’t get resolved and keep arising?
We’re always weighing the good and the bad and determining our position and ultimately every relationship is negotiated. What is and is not acceptable is created through boundary discussions and if the beloved is worthy to us, we almost inevitably will compromise positions to keep things going. I’ve had cause to reflect on the requests (ok, sometimes demands) of my partner and determine what is a breaking point. I think there is, ultimately, a breaking point - that point of no return.
When the beloved can no longer hold me, experience compassion for me and consistently crosses over the imaginary line between us to try and figure me out, we are in danger. It is said that a game occurs when one or both parties play the role of either VICTIM (he did it to me), PERSECUTOR (I’ll get them before they get me) or RESCUER (I will save them). In these roles you may as well create the gravestone now. “Here lies the remnants of a GAME, shared between two people, masked as love.” I am ever vigilant if I am involved in a game, and I exit them as quickly as possible.
What keeps me IN a relationship is when my significant other lets me know he’s willing to work with me and address the issues that come up. When we can carry the burden, working shoulder to shoulder and communicating our wants and needs honestly, we stand a chance. If he’s willing to tackle his own issues and I am willing to tackle mine, there is a healthy shot at continuity. I don’t believe the “grass is greener” when it comes to relationships because I take ME into each and every one and we all have issues requiring attention. I am realistic. There will be ups and downs and I am willing to roll with those when I know that my partner is worthy of the work it will require and is equally committed. Anything short of that, I could only say good luck and keep both eyes open.
Written by Dave Lopez (The Harvard Misfit)