When to Stay or Leave a Relationship
There’s a current quote going around social media about how the needs in a relationship change as we age. This makes sense if both people are fluid with change.
What completely upset me was the second part of the quote in that it had a shaming and judging quality.
It went something like this:
If you want to make a marriage work, you should stay with the same person throughout those years.
The underlying tone is loud and clear, if you leave a marriage you are a failure. If you don’t try harder, you are a failure.
I give that last part a loud and big juicy NO!
And I will add this instead:
If you’ve given your all, if you are being abused, tormented, negated, hurt, manipulated — it’s more than okay to leave. Furthermore, if you see there’s no love, no communication, and no respect — it’s more than okay to leave.
You haven’t failed. You aren’t wrong. You have learned you are worth more.
Thinking back to when I was in my 20’s, 30’s & 40’s — I know for sure that my intimate relationships strengthened and matured me because of difficulties as well as joys.
Women are too often shamed when a relationship isn’t going well.
For example, I’ll never forget a ‘friend’ who said to me, “it must be so horrible to have been in a failed marriage.”
I winced. I briefly stop breathing. My thoughts splintered. My heart died. I had an audible sigh.
She continued to exaggerate how her marriage was beautiful. And shared what an amazing guy she had. And how fortunate she was to be loved and in love.
Inside of me, I wanted to scream, I get it!! You win!!
Then I stopped nodding and listening. I couldn’t continue to smile because somewhere deep inside of me, I noticed I was hurt by her earlier comment and I couldn’t let it go.
That’s when I spoke up and said,
“My marriage wasn’t a failure. It came to an end because I needed to save what was left of me.”
She paused. Waved a nonchalant hand that spoke all the nonverbal words I needed to hear.
She had dismissed me. No acknowledgement. No, I’m so sorry how callous of me. Instead she continued with her ‘perfect marriage’ stories.
Shortly thereafter our friendship dissolved.
Some relationships need to end especially when there’s no respect.
Nevertheless, my former friend was a valuable teacher for me because even though she wasn’t a ‘good’ friend, she taught me about standing up for myself. It was a huge victory for my quiet and sensitive ways.
In nearly all relationships giving isn’t an exact science. The equation isn’t always balanced. Sometimes we give more and other times we learn to receive.
The ups and downs are the waves of our imperfections, mistakes and joys.
Which brings me to when people give advice about your relationship. Rarely is advice giving helpful — except if you specifically ask for it.
Too often couples have a superior attitude and those in a ‘perfect’ relationship feel the need to give their wisdom.
However, sometimes all a person needs is a listening ear without the entitlement and indirect shame.
I only wish I had the opportunity to say to those advice-givers:
Dear Friend: While your words have some truth, I’m not in need of your advice. I didn’t ask and what you tell me is placating. I don’t need to be fixed.
And then if they could say something like…
Thank you for sharing. I too understand that relationships can be difficult. I’ve been there as well.
This would keep us as equals and it would show compassion and respect.
Which brings me full circle.
All relationships aren’t meant to last.
If we are fortunate, we will have relationships that deepen even if we have a falling out. We can work through the hurt, anger, upset, miscommunication.
The difficulties and joys in relationships are endless. Intimacy requires vulnerability. Our shadows are exposed.
You spend more money and I spend less. We learn though how to be more open, more caring, more understanding when we realize we are different and yet together.
My needs are not yours and yours are not mine. I can’t go to bed at 9. Sleep evades me. Yet naps are succulent.
I putter. You race. I need a vacation so I can listen, restore and write. You need to see the sights.
You run. I walk. It’s all okay. We are different AND can still be together.
Sometimes it gets more complicated though.
Arguments happen. Anger is real. Teasing can turn lethal.
Respecting our individual styles is super important.
I go quiet. You go loud.
Where is the compromise? How do we flush out a truce? Can we agree to disagree?
Can we bend like saplings as we learn together the rhythm of our blues?
Which brings me to some tender truths by Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet:
“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other. This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.”
I believe relationships, be it marriage, friendship, couple-ship, partnership — need mutual respect between each other. An honoring and humbleness that feels the wake of vulnerability when it is shown; and an ability to put ourselves in each other’s role to see a little clearer how we might better understand each other.
Relationships can be both a wellspring and a watershed.
Bottom line, let’s stop the shaming.
Let’s learn and grow whether we stay or leave. Less judgement. More living. More relating.