How does one know when to continue in a relationship and when to abandon ship?
Why do we pick ourselves up time and time again when we have been hurt, bruised, defeated so many times before?
Before my separation/divorce, my history of relationships was minimal to say the least. As for my history of dating, the answer was the same… minimal. I had one relationship in college and it was my first understanding of what it was like to be with someone of the opposite sex [if you are gay or lesbian modify accordingly]. My first understanding of the physical joys that can be experienced, and my first knowledge of what it was like to share one’s life with another individual. I look back to that first relationship and how much I didn’t know at the time but the basic feeling that one’s life is made better when you have someone else to share that journey… well that feeling is no different today from that initial feeling long ago.
When my long term relationship with my ex ended a decade after the relationship with my first girlfriend was over, I entered the dating world without much of a clue what to do or how to proceed. At the time I no doubt thought I had an idea, but I was too scarred at the time and simply didn’t have the wisdom of what to focus on or the confidence to say NO to what I couldn’t accept in a future relationship. My laser focus was simply on the things that were missing or lacking in the long relationship that had just ended.
I was on an island and didn’t know which way to start swimming, or if I should even try at all.
I decided that staying on that island, while safe, wasn’t the right course of action. In order to learn how to deal with the ebb and flow of the ocean, I had to take the initial plunge and just start swimming. Like with anything else that requires practice, the initial process was challenging, frustrating, and difficult. However, as I met more people and built confidence, I started keeping a virtual collection of breadcrumbs in my head. What I was looking for, what worked with others and what didn’t, and most importantly, a comfort level in myself and who I was.
The more people I met, the wiser I became, and more picky I got. Something I would have ignored before or saw as a lesser priority I identified I couldn’t ignore such and such and that it was okay to say NO, even with the fear of loneliness and rejection ever-present.
With dating we need to be like closers in baseball. A closer is a special pitcher that comes up at the end of the game when a team has a lead but not a very big one. The role of the closer is to throw a minimal amount of pitches and hold on to the win for the leading team. Usually this works but like with anything else in life, occasionally even the best closer is going to give up a home run with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth and walk away on the losing side. When a relationship ends or a series of first dates leads to nothing, we have a choice like the baseball player to reminisce and reflect on what “could have been/done differently” or we can dust ourselves off and get prepared for the next game. WE make the choice to clear our minds and reset ourselves, ready to do it all again the next time we are at the plate, WE make the choice to move on (or not).
“To become masters of love, we have to practice love. The art of relationship is also a whole mastery, and the only way to reach mastery is with practice.” — Miquel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship: A Toltec Wisdom Book
As my daughter enters her tween years and with her formidable teenage years in the very near future, I can’t help but think that she is about to embark on a new adventure in life as relates to hormones and the world of dating. The best advice that I could give her is simply to get out there and meet as many people as possible. The only way you can learn what you want and need is by doing. Jumping into relationships with the first person you are attracted to, the first person you kiss, the first person you are intimate with rarely leads to long term success. People can grow into a relationship but it’s better if one holds out for the RIGHT relationship which is an incredible test of patience and discipline.
With so many failed relationships that we hear about all the time, I feel the question has to be asked: is it even worth it?
When I reflect on the lives of monks, nuns, priests, etc. who have given up a “normal” relationship to lead a life of celibacy and doing the work of their chosen faith, I can’t help but think of so many individuals that glow with an inner energy that I don’t see on a regular basis from people that live a life focused on physical desires and emotional connections with a significant other.
Are the ones who have given up a “regular” path less happy, or MORE?
The bottom line is that finding a real connection is HARD. We are programmed biologically to want it for reproductive reasons and when we get a taste of an emotional and physical connection with someone else it’s an addiction that is up there with the worst vices you can imagine. So many of us feel that having “someone” is better than nothing and so we settle and make the best of the situation we are in.
I don’t know if it’s worth it but I do know how it feels when you connect on an emotional and physical side together and even in the short term it’s a +++ and makes you feel more ALIVE.
When my journey of life comes to an end, I don’t need to have been in a relationship for any set amount of time, I wouldn’t see an arbitrary number as a measure of “success”. I do hope that I am able to experience a relationship that feels “right” and someone that truly “gets” me, even if it takes decades and lasts for a passing moment.
Life is a journey that we start and begin on our own but it’s the people and company we share it with that makes the adventure worthwhile.