Tuesday, July 29, 2008

temporarily cracked or permanently broken?

Andy asked me to be a guest blogger on her blog this weekend, and since it's titled Life Isn't So Terrible After All, I thought a discussion of relationships would be appropriate. You can also find this on her website.

Relationships are all about ebs and flows. No matter how hard we try, no one can be perfect 24/7, and because of this our relationships will suffer from time to time. It's important to recognize when these bumps in the road are happening, and to evaluate whether your bond with your significant other is temporarily cracked, or permanently broken. And there is a difference. A "hard time" does not necessarily indicate an "impossible time," and the most effective way to measure where you think your relationship is really headed (out of the darkness and into the light, or to splitsville) is to know yourself. Know what you want and need from a relationship. Know the things about yourself that require work in order to make you happy. Know your limits and where you are willing to make sacrifices and compromises, and where you will put your foot down.

And if things just aren't working with someone, and you've tried your best, know when it's time to let go. Being the one to make this decision is not easy by any means. Sure, it gives you the upper hand (whatever that means), and you get to be the "dumper" rather than the "dumped", but there is no denying that breaking up sucks no matter how you slice it. The problem with being the "dumper" in a relationship void of any obvious flaws like emotional/physical abuse or infidelity, is that oftentimes you feel like breaking up is your only option. It's difficult to quantify feeling unappreciated or unsupported, or to put a statistical number to how much effort you put into the relationship versus your lover. So when we find ourselves leaving a partner for these reasons, even if it is our choice, we can still feel rejected, unhappy, and confused.

We wonder what we did wrong to merit such treatment. Why couldn't he just call me every day? Why was it such a battle to get him to support my goals and achievements? What did I do to deserve such emotional neglect? The problem with these questions is they have no answers and the more you think about them, the harder it will be to get over a split with your loved one. There is no true closure when a relationship ends, because no matter how many "Why did this happen to us?" conversations you have with your EX, you never get the answers you want, and usually end up having more than when you started the conversation 3 hours ago (get off the phone, already!).

My advice? Recognize that this relationship is permanently broken, and no amount of conversational glue will put it back together. If you are in the position of "dumper" because you felt unappreciated and emotionally neglected, realize that your partner is not going to change just because you want them to. I am someone that truly believes people can and do change, but a person needs to want to change on their own, not because someone asked them to. If you ask a partner to change and they truly do not think in their heart that they need to change, then they'll stay the same, and maybe even resent you for thinking they need to change.

After a break-up, take time away from talking to your EX. It's easier said than done, but in the end, you cannot continue talking to a lover like nothing has changed when you two are no longer in a relationship. Friendships can often be fostered from failed romantic relationships, but these friendships DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, happen over night. Spend at least a few weeks not talking to your EX, they are your EX after all and hence should no longer be a huge part of your life. Use this time to work on you, to spend time with friends you didn't get to see a lot because you were in a relationship, and to re-connect with people you haven't talked to in a while (Facebook is great for this).

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. One relationship in your life may be coming to an end, but this gives you a chance to be selfish for once in your life and focus all your energy on yourself rather than a lover, to do things your EX never wanted to do, and to meet new people. When you feel down and out and think you might have made the wrong decision, think of the reasons why you are where you are and try to remember that this is a positive change in your life, even though it might feel hard at times. And then eat a cupcake, they always help.


I'm Frank said...

Heh...I've done nothing BUT get dumped. Or get cheated on.

Fun times.

Strawberry said...

frank - a friend of mine from school was just dumped by her BF via e-mail (completely out of the blue, too). she's been pretty upset, so i've done my best to console her, but being consoling can be difficult when you're completely jaded. the two of us had this conversation yesterday after she was saying she doesn't even feel like going to china anymore.

me: you HAVE to go, you can't blame what happened on you going to china. he was just the wrong person for you. you don't want to be with the "wrong person" for the rest of your life do you?
her: but isn't everyone the wrong person?
me: yes.
her: ...
me: but there's DEGREES of wrong...and he was really wrong.

maybe i should have gone the "it wasn't meant to be you'll find your soulmate someday" route?

Bergdorf Brunette said...

if all of us wandered around and found "the one" the very first time we ventured out into the dating world, relationships would be 1) boring and 2) so would we.

experiences - good and bad - define who we are, teach us what we need, want, long for, whether that's in a friend, a lover, a companion. if everyone out there was "the one" for us, we'd all be married off at 17, 3 kids by 22 and hating life (maybe) by 25. no thanks!