Do I Stay And Work On It, Or Let The Relationship Go?
Do I Stay And Work On It, Or Let The Relationship Go? (2017) — Sarah Jane looked discouraged as she stared out the coffee shop window. Her words came from the heart:
“I just don’t know what to do. I’ve been trying to make my relationship work, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I keep bending over backwards and get nothing in return. He’s stuck in a job that doesn’t pay very well, and I’m having to pay the bills he can’t cover. He complains that I’ve changed, and…in some ways I guess I’ve grown resentful. He was a great catch at the beginning. I had such hopes of the white picket fence, and staying at home — our life has been anything but that dream. I’d like it to work, after all…we have a history, but nothing I do seems to make things better. I’m getting nothing out of this relationship anymore and I just don’t know what to do.”
While the words may vary, many men and women are experiencing today these types of sentiments when it comes to their relationships. Stagnation, discouragement, perhaps control and even abuse have crept into what many hoped would be the fairy tale partnership.
In relational valleys, one often wonders, do I stay and work on it, or let the relationship go?
As natural as breathing and sleeping is for us comes the desire, perhaps dream, to have the things in this world that were not meant for us. We start out on a path with a great partner, both hearts pounding with love and admiration for each other, but somewhere down the road his six pack abs become a crumb collecting shelf that pops out automatically whenever he parks himself on the couch, and her hour glass figure turns into the shape of a round wall clock. Dreams are great… but life happens!
Every relationship has problems, without them a relationship could never grow into something deeper. You stand back and declare, it’s not me, my partner is the one with the problems, and they need to change. But how bad is too bad – and are you right in saying your partner is the one who needs to change? Maybe you both do.
Being a part of a chronically unfulfilling relationship isn’t easy, but if it is unfulfilling for one partner, even if not voiced, it’s most likely equally unfulfilling for the other partner. How then do we:
- Learn to recognize the challenges in the relational road which help us understand if the relationship is healthy but going through growing pains, or simply not working out?
- Learn to recognize the signs that our partner may be struggling with a personality disorder, mental health issue, or possible addiction?
- Lift our self out of the rut, of focusing on a difficult relationship, instead making our own personal growth a priority?
- Learn to love our partner through a season of personal growth which leads to relational growth as a couple?
- Chart a course which helps us re-identify who we are as an individual in case the day comes where the relationship ends and we find ourselves out on our own (this does not suggest planning an exit strategy, but simply making sure your personal identity has not become lost in the identity of your relationship)?
- Learn to recognize our own lack of relational skills, and how our mis-conceptions, or the myths we grew up believing as truths can be negatively impacting our relationship?
- Learn to fall in love all over again with our partner?
- Finally, … let go of the relationship and move on?
Your Relationship…Do You Stay And Work On It?
Every relationship knows it share of difficulties and rejection, be it a romantic, plutonic, or professional relationship. Flowers don’t grow without rain and sunshine, people don’t grow in their inter-personal skills without sporadic tastes of rejection. But where do we draw the line between grow through the rejection, or close the door between you and the source of rejection?
In every relationship, there are key unwritten relational laws that we can try to ignore, but they will force us into a rude awakening at some point in time if we do not embrace them up front.
- Nothing is constant – everything changes, and we can either accept this reality or spend our life fighting it.
- Life is not always fair, and doesn’t always go according to plan.
- People are not loving and loyal all the time. We all have a “Jerk” inside us that pops up at the worst of relational moments.
- Physical, personal and relational pain are just as normal a part of life, as is birth and death.
- No one can take control of your life unless you first surrender that control to another person.
- You cannot change someone else, you can only change yourself.
Recognizing these relational laws, how then do we move forward and navigate the murky waters of a relationship gone bad?
I grew up in a very traditional Canadian Irish Protestant home where the act of “DIVORCE” was never an allowed consideration. In the religious community of that day, divorcees were thought of as the ultimate sinner and the religious society cast a heavy stigma on the heads of all divorcees, even those who divorced with proper biblical grounds. While no one would admit to it, a myth had been turned into truth in the religious community of that day which dictated that one sin was worse than another. In reality, according to the Judeo-Christian faith, the Christian faith teaches that all sins are equal in severity, and divorce without biblical grounds is no greater a sin than someone criticising (condemning) a person for divorcing without biblical grounds.
How we are raised and the culture we are raised in often dictates the opinions and truths we use to determine the selection of our future relationships. When those truths and opinions turn out to be lies believed as truths then crisis often results, especially in the area of relationships.
Everyone enters a relationship with high hopes, but not necessarily the best of intentions. Some people have met the love of their life and are deeply committed to what will be their one and only life partner, while others might enter a relationship as a means of escaping another situation, or they use the adrenalin rush of a new relationship as a way of covering over the real inner work that needs to be undertaken addressing deep-seated issues inside their own life.
Some people become so focused on the negativity of the current status of their relationship that they feel their life depends on their ability to fix it, whether the challenges are typical ones that all relationships go through, or whether they are indicative of something deeper. Through the mind of some continually drums the thoughts, is this relationship giving me what I need to be given… do we really have enough in common… did I make a mistake… are our feelings for each other strong enough?
We may think times have changed and relationship ending scenarios such as infidelity are on the rise but the Janus Report tells us a different story. Back even in the early 1950’s the Janus Report on Sexual Behavior in America reported that one third of married men and a quarter of women had an extramarital affair. (Infidelity, n.d.) Since then, interviews with people in non-monogamous relationships since 1972 by the General Social Survey have shown that approximately 12% of men and 7% of women admit to having had an extramarital relationship. (Infidelity, n.d.) In general, national surveys conducted in the early 1990s reported that between 15-25% of married Americans reported having extramarital affairs. (Infidelity, n.d.) Current studies suggest around 30–40% of unmarried relationships and 18–20% of marriages see at least one incident of sexual infidelity. (Infidelity, n.d.) While these figures might not surprise everyone, the interesting trend is found in the divorce rate. In the 1950’s the divorce rate was comparatively low at 22 percent of all American marriages, whereas by 2015, with less infidelity existing in marriages, the divorce rate had risen to 55 percent. So, what has changed?
With the rise of consumerism, there has been a behavioural shift in societal mentality towards things now thought of as “disposable”; and with the growing dynamic of a narcissistic “me first” societal mentality, today’s generation has lost an appreciation for many of the relationship building tools which resulted in the lifelong marital partnerships of previous decades. Today’s consumerist minded society has adopted the mentality whereby if a relationship requires work, then it’s not working and should be dumped for a new one. Today’s society has lost the art of growing deeper in our relationships, by working on them, preferring that which is only superficial and self-serving.
All romantic relationships, no matter how long they have lasted, should nurture each partner’s confidence in the relationship by providing:
- Mutual respect;
- The ability to express one’s feelings and opinions without condemnation;
- A true sense of being loved, complete with relational affection and kindness;
- Evidence of being loved through the receipt of safe, loving physical intimacy in the form of affection and physical sexual activity;
- Evidence that both partners are making each other a high priority although not necessarily the only priority in their lives;
- A keen understanding and appreciation for the fact that people make mistakes, including our partners, and our partner’s will grow in their relationship skills at what is often a different pace than our own;
- An acceptance, or taking responsibility for our own actions, and how those actions impact our partner.
If your relationship is lacking in any of these areas, then there’s a clear indication that your relationship is not being nurtured properly, and there is room for relational growth.
Part Three — Addictions In Relationships
Do I Stay And Work On It, Or Let The Relationship Go? Written by – James C. Tanner