“A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them – they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.” ~ Ranier Maria Rilke
Having spent most of the last year watching some of my closest friends mercilessly flogging the dead horses of relationships they should never have been in in the first place I’m here to let you in on a little secret about successful, healthy relationships.
They’re really not that hard.
They really don’t take that much work.
Sure you have to put work into them. A partnership is an active relationship; it takes work and communication to keep things moving, to build a life together, to make sure that you aren’t taking one another for granted. But it isn’t, as so many of the people I see around me seem to believe, meant to be a perpetual uphill battle.
It seems to me that there’s a pernicious cultural idea that relationships are meant to be all about the hard work; and also that love is somehow more valuable if you have to fight for it.
That’s total rubbish.
The value of love, and of loving relationships, is in the happiness and comfort that they bring to the lives of the people who share them. Of course no relationship will be all plain sailing; people fight sometimes, and they go through difficult periods that they need to work through in order to keep things going and to negotiate a way back to something more satisfying and rewarding. But meaningful intimacy isn’t generally forged in ceaseless conflict. If your love and your relationship doesn’t ultimately bring you the feeling that you’re both on the same team; if you’ve never thought of the other person as your partner in crime; if you don’t feel safe in the knowledge that you’re with someone who has your back – then it might be worth questioning what your relationship is actually for. What purpose does it serve? What real benefits is it bringing you?
A relationship isn’t inherently valuable for its own sake. If it doesn’t fulfill the needs of both parties; emotionally, physically, financially, socially – whatever way you’ve chosen to invest in it – then you aren’t getting enough in return for your efforts.
If your relationship isn’t everything that you hoped it would, or believe could, be then you don’t need to blindly keeping ‘working at it’ in the hope that it will all come together. No, what you need to do is to stop working, sit down by yourself, and start thinking.
You need to decide what it is that you want. Beyond ‘this person’, or ‘a person’, or ‘a relationship’ what are the basic things that you need from a partner, and in your partnership, in order to be happy. And when I say you I mean just that. Don’t come to me with ‘I need him/her to see/want/believe X, Y, or Z’. I can’t help you with that, I’m not a mind control expert. What do YOU want?
Once you’ve thought out your list the next thing you need to ask yourself is whether the things on it can realistically be achieved in your current relationship. Are your needs compatible with the basic fundamentals of who your partner is? And do they care enough about you, and about making your relationship work, to work with you to find a way of satisfying those needs?
And do you care enough about them to try to find a way of satisfying their needs? Will it be possible to do this without compromising the basic fundamentals of your own personality?
If the answer to all these questions is ‘Yes’ then fine, by all means work away – although be sure to make sure you communicate all of this to your partner; work is so much easier when you’re both taking direction from the same page.
But otherwise it’s time for you to stop mythologising your ill-fated romance; stop fighting for relationships you don’t truly want to be in; and take yourself out of this situation from which nobody gains. It may be hard to accept but sometimes no amount of work is will ever make something fit – however much you might wish for it – and the kindest thing you can do for yourselves is to quit.