Before I start, this is a somewhat more personal post rather than news. Lately I have been doing some navel-gazing about my relationship with relationships, and I feel inclined to share my musings despite my usual inclination to avoid such things here.
Maybe I ask too much in a partner – I’m realizing that relationships are not really a subject in which I’m educated – and the places where I’ve learned about relationships are mostly from books and media describing happily-ever-after relationships. Although I feel prepared to make it work when I get there (where is “there,” anyway?), I feel completely at a loss as to the road to a lifelong relationship. How much can you ask of your partner over the course of the relationship? If you ask the relationship to be enduring right away, does that put it on the wrong foot, and it has to be a very organic growth to be able to support that kind of pressure?
Before going to college, I knew very few people with divorced parents; I still don’t know that many. Most married couples I knew basically described their romantic history as “well there were some relationships that didn’t matter, and then I met the love of my life and we got married and lived happily ever after.” Or they just skipped the dating-other-people part of that and married their first love. I feel sincerely under-educated about the realities of healthy relationships, because I don’t believe they look like the ones in romantic comedies. Based on the divorce rate, I’m inclined to believe there are many other people in my position.
I’ve been told things like “if you want to make your relationship work, it will,” and “it takes a lot of compromise.” I know that these are very important for a relationship that is already a good one, but I’ve learned that it also sets you up for being stubborn about a really bad one (“if I love him just a little more, it will be fixed”). How do you know to hang on, and how do you know when to wrap it up and look elsewhere? If I’m in a relationship where I see the raw spots, what is the healthy way to fix that? The first step I guess is admitting the relationship is not good enough for you, and really believing it enough to do what has to be done. Or can you pull away slowly instead of jumping ship all at once?
I fall in love quickly, and then, caught between the storybook and the perseverance messages I’ve been raised with, I stick with my decision with extreme hard-headedness and determination that “this will work.” How do the pros (aka people with 20+ year marriages) do it? Do they stumble from one relationship to the next as determined by heartbreaks, and hope that by pure luck they will find someone they could spend sixty years with? Or wait patiently until they meet the One, and consider all the pros and cons of that partner rationally and say yes? Or do they have some missing key for producing good results? My friends who are getting married – did they get lucky, did they know some secret about picking a good one, or are they going to be divorced down the road?
I have so many things I don’t understand or don’t know about relationships, and I really want to understand how one gets on the path to a working relationship.
People talk about women being too demanding in what they look for, but on the flip side, it’s easy to think you don’t deserve or won’t find someone better than what you’ve already caught. I doubt that making a yardstick of what I want in a partner will help. But if I look at the things that have worked in my relationships, and add them together and get a hypothetical person where I don’t think I could ask for a better one… then I know what my bargaining position with Fate is. Or, am I getting in my own way? How many things do I compromise on and say “well, you have eight out of the ten factors and I really enjoy being around you, let’s move heaven and earth to be together”? Or do the really successful people know, beyond just being in love, that this is the right one, regardless of the quantitative analysis?