(Originally posted October 28, 2009)
(To be sung to the tune of Tom Petty’s “The Waiting”.)
AKA: GOOD is the ENEMY of GREAT.
Okay, now here’s the “hard” part. In order to have a spectacular relationship, you may have to be willing to walk away from a satisfactory one, or even a good one. And the length you’ve been in it doesn’t matter–IF you want GREAT.
I had a deep conversation with a very wonderful friend of mine recently and we were discussing this very issue. Because so many of us, including me in earlier relationships, choose someone based on what we have been taught from a young age–namely things like: choose someone who complements you, passion doesn’t last, YOU complete ME, believing that “if you love me, you’ll…(fill in any obligation here)”, for men–we’re taught to be rescuers, for women–find someone safe and financially secure, relationships TAKE WORK. Not everyone is taught all of these, but almost everyone is taught some version of them. And since we’ve been taught by our parents, friends, others we love and trust (including dating writers–ugh!), we have no reason not to believe them, and so we settle for relationships that REFLECT the above beliefs.
And then what happens? (And this came up in the same conversation) We reach a point in our lives–if we’re lucky (although it actually usually seems PAINFUL in the moment), where we’re faced with a realization and a choice. Even though we were taught that the above criteria would lead to that fairy tale relationship, we find that’s not true! And we find, much to our dismay, that our relationship really doesn’t even live up to anything very close to what we would consider to be great. That’s the realization and the choice then becomes: stay in an unhappy relationship or leave to go and find something better. Of course there are MANY stigmas attached to the second option, which is why, to this day, most people choose to stay and be unhappy.
What are these stigmas? Think about it. Friends or family might criticize you. Your religion might condemn you. Your partner could be sad, angry, devastated. Society could stigmatize you–especially if it’s the end of a marriage. You certainly could judge yourself as a failure or a mean person. And then there are the logistics, again, especially for marriages: dealing with splitting of finances and property, how to handle children (if any), lawyers. And then, after all that, many people see starting to date again as a daunting task instead of a delightful and exciting prospect.
So what does all that mean? That these are ALL beliefs. Most of us, certainly me towards the end of my 8-year marriage, create these obstacles in our beliefs because, at the bottom of it all, we are judging ourselves for wanting to leave, so we LOOK FOR the evidence that we can use to justify not doing it. Because we believe we will be a “bad” person if we do.
But none of these things are actually “true”. My own case is a perfect example. When Cindy and I broke up, yes, she was very angry at first. But I realized that what she chose to do wasn’t under my control and she could choose to feel whatever she wanted to feel. It’s funny, but after I told her that it was totally OK for her to be angry with me, that it was her right to feel whatever she wanted, that seemed to break the ice and her anger died away and we have been really great friends ever since. We sat down and agreed very easily on how to split everything up, in spite of the fact that “our” lawyer kept trying to drum up discord between us! Family and friends for both of us were very supportive. Religion was not an issue, my church is very accepting and loving. The main issue, which I believe ends up being the main issue in ALL breakups, was dealing with judging myself for my actions. And in the end, what I found was something I mentioned briefly in an earlier blog: choosing to believe I can get everything I want and leaving a relationship to go for that was a BLESSING for BOTH of us! Why? Because just as I had come to the conclusion that Cindy was not a match for what I wanted, even if there is NOTHING wrong with her, what she found after we split up was that in reality, I wasn’t a match for what she wanted either. She wants someone safe and secure, especially financially, someone who works a steady job and gets a nice check every two weeks–and, I got news fer ya, that ain’t never gonna be me! Not that I won’t work a “regular” job, just that doing something adventurous and with variety will always be my preference. So freeing her to go and find that guy while I go and find the woman of my wants list plays into both of our favors.
Since then I have had nine romantic relationships, including Mary. Which means that eight of them have ended. About half were ones that either I ended or they were pretty mutual. And, don’t get me wrong, I understand that leaving can still be a challenge, even for me! Of the four different relationship “no-go’s” there are: rejecting someone, being rejected, breaking up with someone, being broken up with, three of them I’m TOTALLY comfortable with. The one that’s still the biggest challenge for me is breaking up with someone. But what I’ve learned, first and foremost, is that if someone is not a match for you, and you want a SPECTACULAR relationship, then breaking up is a GIFT for both of you! Being able to do that has led me to the most amazing, wonderful, exciting, loving relationship of my life! And those who I dated that didn’t work out–many have gone on to their own great relationships. That’s what happens if you DON’T SETTLE for less than GREAT! (There is a wonderful CD about not settling available here, including an audio sample that actually applies to this blog entry: http://www.option.org/media.php?mediatype=audio&mediaid=23&part=0)
Now keep in mind that I’m not telling you TO leave. What I’m suggesting is that if you choose to stay in a relationship that is less than great, that you do it because you CLEARLY WANT that, not because of some stigma that you are allowing to be put onto you from the outside. Simply be open to exploring all your options and then choosing from what YOU want, not what society does, or your family and friends do, or even your partner. It doesn’t serve them if you stay and then are unhappy–trust me on that!
I would love to hear any thoughts or questions you have on this subject, because I believe it is a HUGE issue in the search for a GREAT relationship!