Break up Advice:  Dating Again, After a Breakup

Break up Advice: Dating Again, After a Breakup

When should I start dating again, after a break up?

When a relationship ends, one of two things is typically happening.  One, you are being spared something (such as a life with someone who is not well-suited to be your partner); or you are being prepared for something new (learning lessons that will prove invaluable to you in your next relationship).

Unfortunately, though, no matter how good a break up might be FOR you, they rarely FEEL good to you. That’s okay.  Not everything that’s good for us feels good.  For that matter, not everything that feels good is good for us, either.

There is a period of natural grieving and heartache for both partners, even if you are the one who ended the relationship!  If you move on too quickly with hopes of sidestepping the pain (commonly known as a “rebound relationship”), this grief will find you later, somehow, often when you least expect it.  Sometimes a partner will grieve the relationship before ending it.  Which leaves the unsuspecting partner very hurt by her partner’s seeming “coldness” about the breakup.  “Why doesn’t she feel sad?”  “Why is she so cold?”  “How come I’m the only one feeling anything here?”  Typically this occurs when one partner does the work of grieving the relationship BEFORE ending the relationship.

lesbian break up, dating again

Contrary to popular opinion, when it comes to dating again, opposites do not attract. Like attracts like. Sure, she may like to play football and you might like to shop – but I promise you this: you are both equally broken, and you are both equally healed. At least you start that way.

 I like to say,

 “You deserve every relationship you choose.” 

You cannot attract a partner who is healthier than you.  Ever.  It defies logic.  No one is fooling anyone when it comes to love…we get what we are.  Like attracts like.  If you find this notion intolerable, or unacceptable – it’s probably time to take a closer look at your relationship.  If you are certain that you are healthier than your partner, ask yourself this:  “If I am so much healthier than she is, what am I doing here?”  Sure, sometimes we attract partners that do not mirror our emotional health – and that’s why those relationships don’t last. It may just take a minute to figure it out.

 Your issues may not be the same, but they are disabling to the same degree. She may drink and yell too much, and to the same degree she is not taking care of herself, you are also not taking care of yourself by tolerating or enabling this. The focus of your issues may be different, but the degree is always the same.

Humans are like stock in the stock market. Sometimes our value is higher than others. When you are taking care of yourself, eating right, exercising, spiritually balanced, mentally stimulated, socially active, and feeling good – your stock values are at their peak. When you are heart broken, sleeping a lot, or not sleeping at all, eating poorly or not at all, crying, drinking, under-performing at work, and generally not on top of your game your stock values are low, low , low.

Relationships are the best vehicle around to help us become the best version possible of ourselves.  The very best thing you can ever do for your relationship is to focus on how to live your life with as much health and happiness as possible.  There is no greater gift you can give your partnership than a healthy you!  Before you break up, because you think your partner is too unhealthy, work on getting as healthy as possible yourself and see if he or she rises to the occassion with you!  Lose the judgement and criticism and help one another grow.  If you give it your best shot and it still doesn’t help, then it’s time to dig out that life vest and swim for the shore.  Some times the choice to break up is the best choice available. The point is, do your work first, then decide.

People often ask, “how long should I wait before dating again?” I think about dating again in terms of healing, not time.   You are the very leverage that you can rely on to attract a partner. If you are not feeling good about yourself or about life, then work on getting your game back before you think about playing the field. No matter how recent or distant your breakup, when you feel good about yourself, genuinely good about yourself, get out there and start dating. Until then, do the next right thing that will lead you to feeling stronger, more interesting, more alive, and more loveable.

When you attract a partner at your lowest point, you are attracting a partner who findsyour low-point desirable. This is not ideal. The risk is that your low-point is her high point. As you start to heal, she will become less appealing to you. This is what accounts for many “rebound” relationships. When you “rebound” the issue isn’t the speed with which you move after your breakup, it’s where you are emotionally and what you have to offer when you start your relationship. When we are broken, we attract broken. And broken doesn’t last as long as whole.

In a nutshell, when you feel good about  who you are and what you have to offer get out there and begin dating again. Until then, don’t worry about the amount of time it takes – focus on your next step to feeling bet ter. When the time comes, you’ll be oh so glad you waited to dip your toe into the pool of dating.

The Breakup Invitation

Tomorrow I am going to a baby shower.  My partner’s sister is pregnant, and I absolutely love babies, so it is an invitation I am happy to accept.  Sadly, I won’t get to hold the baby tomorrow; that would be really awkward since she’s still in her mommy’s belly. Anyway, my partner and I made a mobile, from scratch, which neither of us has ever done before (for the curious).  I’m grateful to be invited to the baby shower and I had no hesitation about accepting the invitation.  In fact, I’m looking forward to it.
Not all invitations are as easy to accept as the baby shower invitation.  Nor do they bring with them a feeling of excitement about what’s ahead.  An invitation is simply an offer, and with it comes choices.  You can choose to accept, ignore, decline, or even say, “maybe,” to the invitation which allows you some time to decide.
We are all being invited, all of the time.  
 
These invitations we are receiving are not the kind that come in the mail, like the recent invitation I received from AARP, after turning 50 last month!  (That, by the way, is still on my “maybe” list, which I think is okay since it does not appear that that invitation will expire before I do).
The invitation I am referring to is pain; more specifically, emotional pain. One of our greatest invitations is through heartbreak.  There is no greater pain I know than that of a lost love.  Well, I did have a terribly infected toe from a pedicure that seemed almost as painful for a minute, but a quick trip to the ER fixed that right up.  That’s the thing with physical pain – there are many quick fixes and ways to speed up recovery:  casts, antibiotics, surgeries, physical therapy, etc.
With heartbreak, we have many fewer resources to help the healing along.  
Sometimes heartbreak comes from the death of a loved one.  Other times, and something most of us have experienced a few times in our life is the pain that comes from the loss of a relationship.  This pain is there for a reason, not just to add insult to the loss.  The pain is your invitation.  (Some invitation, I know).  In fact, the bigger the pain, the larger the invitation.
Many people will decline this invitation for weeks, months, years, or forever.  Luckily, the invitation does not expire (sort of like my AARP card).  The pain doesn’t actually just “go away,” and contrary to popular opinion, time doesn’t heal.  Time is what passes while we do what needs to be done to heal.  Time isn’t what heals us, our choices do.
Healing requires a new perspective on what you’ve experienced (we can’t feel better about something by thinking the same thoughts that made us feel bad in the first place). That’s why reading self-help books, or talking with friends will help you heal.  Healing requires a new focus – something that feels hopeful, engaging, and has the potential to generate joy. That’s why getting out and doing new things, developing new hobbies, and making new friends is helpful.  Healing requires connection, human connection and the feeling that we matter to someone and that our pain matters.  Healing requires us to understand more deeply what our pain is trying to tell us about our choices that led us to where we are.  Healing requires us to allow this pain to run through us in a way that we can feel it, honor it, listen to it, and learn from it, and then bid the pain goodbye.  Pain is not meant to stay.
For a long time, I have sat with many people who are heartbroken about a lost relationship, and I have always known that while therapy is helpful, it does not fully address all of the needs that people need to heal.  Not long ago, I was contacted by someone who was grieving a relationship, and she wanted to know if I offered something to help.  This was the incentive I needed to make the missing resource available.  I have just created a new experience called DML BREAKTHROUGH for single lesbians who wish to experience healing around their past relationships (no matter how long ago your heartbreak occured).  The Breakthrough is a 12 week experience and you can read more about it here.
Something new awaits you and your soon-to-be-healed heart.  The invitation is asking you to come dance in the life you were designed to live.  Are you ready to accept the invitation?

The Myth of Monogomy (a book review)

A book review by Michele O’Mara, PhD

Barash, David and Judith Eve Lipton (2001). The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People. New York, NY: Owl Books.

“Aspiring monogamists are going against some of the deepest-seated evolutionary inclinations with which biology has endowed most creatures” (1), according to Zoologist David P. Barash, and his wife Judith Lipton, a psychiatrist.   And this book is determined to illustrate exactly why this is true. In a sometimes humorous, sometimes seemingly self-indulgent exploration of animal behavior that is mostly focused on birds and insects, the authors cite numerous research studies to illustrate their theory that humans, like animals, are predisposed to extra pair copulations (EPCs). This is the fancy scientific term for having sex with someone other than your mate.

As the authors prepare to unfold their observations about how human monogamists are climbing an uphill battle, they clarify that this book is designed to illustrate what is natural, not what is right or wrong.   The exploration throughout this book is not about what should be, it is simply about what is.

Thanks to DNA fingerprinting, the lens used to observe animal behavior has significantly improved and animals previously thought to be monogamous are not so. Monogamy is divided into two categories: social and sexual. Social monogamy exists “if they live together, nest together, forage together, and copulate together” (8). Sexual monogamy requires sexual fidelity, also known as intra-pair (or in-pair) copulation (IPC).

The currency of evolutionary success is based on successful reproduction. To understand how this relates to males and monogamy, the authors introduce various associated strategies employed by males throughout the animal kingdom such as:   sperm competition, frequent copulations, mate guarding and parental investment.

Sperm competition speaks to the effort put forth by males to secure a female whose egg he can fertilize, leading him to reproductive success. Endless sperm and limited eggs create an unbalanced picture – basic supply and demand dictates the inherent competition among men to get their sperm to fertilize eggs. The authors provide many examples of how males compete to copulate with a given female.  For obvious reasons, frequent copulations increase the chances of reproduction, and it is theorized that this contributes to the frequent desire to copulate among males.

Mate guarding is another strategy used by males to improve the odds that they are successful in fertilizing their female, and furthermore to guarantee that the offspring they are raising are their own! This tactic prevents his mate from straying, as well as preventing other males from gaining access to her.   An interesting side note about mate guarding that is correlated with human behavior is the notion that “poor-quality males are generally more concerned with mate-guarding than are their high-quality counterparts, and for good reason, since females whose mates are less desirable are more inclined to seek EPCs” (35).

When it comes to parental investment, there are many variations among animals and humans. Resources such as time, energy, risk taking, childcare, protection, beauty, skills, strength and more are combined to determine one’s value. This makes just as much sense with humans too. The greater your strengths, resources, and beauty, the more leverage you have to attract a similarly valuable partner. As for sperm which is readily available in large quantities, however, its value pales in comparison to “the big, fat, energy-rich mother lode of nutrients called an egg” (17). The authors suggest that because of this, males are positioned to compete with one another for access to the much rarer eggs, hence the sperm competition.

Interestingly, “the greater the male’s secondary sex characteristics, the less his contributing” (50).   The authors go on to say, “It is as though desirable males know they are desirable, and so they are likely to shop that desirability around; by the same token, those ‘lucky’ females who get to mate with such studs find themselves less lucky when they are stuck with most of the household chores” (50). The comparison is drawn to less desirable men, and it is suggested that those less endowed with good looks actually make better fathers.

Before we get too carried away with all of this male gallivanting, let’s be clear that females are none-too-innocent themselves.   For a long time, females were considered the opposite of males, and evolutionary biologists envisioned females desiring monogamy.   However, “evidence has been accumulating, fast and furious, that females are not nearly as reliably monogamous as had been thought” (58).

If reproductive success is the fundamental biologically-based motivation for males to stray, what’s the motivation for females? The authors suggest a handful of reasons including: fertility insurance, to avoid inbreeding, a predilection for quality, and to maximize the benefits of sperm competition, material rewards, recruit care and protection of offspring, to gain toleration of young when different troops interact, and possibly to pave the way to a stronger prospective pair-bond.

Fertility insurance is a simple concept. The more sex she has, the more sperm she’s exposed to, and the stronger the likelihood that she will reproduce.   In order to avoid inbreeding, the authors suggest females may seek out strangers that are less likely to have any genetic association, thus reducing the possibility of inbred offspring. The search for quality sperm is thought to be the motivation for multiple mating, and it involves not only the search for the most attractive, healthiest, and strongest male, but it also takes incorporates what is called the “last male advantage.” The female may mate with her partner, along with many others and typically the last male she copulates with has the greatest advantage for a successful fertilization. This also allows her to maximize the sperm competition, pitting the strongest of the strong males against one another, and saving her the effort of having to determine for herself which one is the best. The notion behind this is thought to be that the one who succeeds is going to help her create offspring that will be as successful in doing the same so that her reproductive success, and quality, remains high for years to come.

Material rewards are another suggested motivation for multiple pairings. The authors cite a study of Red-billed gulls, stating that “Females who are well fed during courtship resist all EPC attempts, and they also remate with their partner the following year; on the other hand, females who had been poorly provisioned are especially likely to divorce in the future and are more likely to submit to EPCs” (91-92).   It is thought that some females seek multiple EPCs so that they can cast a wide-net of protection for their offspring, leading many males from all over to question whether or not the offspring is his, and thereby increasing the odds of protection, and at a minimum reducing the odds of harm.

The pursuit of a stronger pair-bond is another motivation suggested for females who engage in EPCs. Because there is an advantage of having two parents over one, the argument that a female would seek an alternate pair-bonding to improve her social situation certainly makes sense.

Why, the authors query, does monogamy occur at all? Their conclusions are varied. One suggestion is that monogamy leads to better and more effective parenting. Another thought is that it may be a response to sperm competition by males, so that they can reduce the risk that another male will fertilize his female’s egg.   They also suggest the possibility that monogamy is a solution to men fighting over women. Monogamy may be the result of men negotiating how to divide access to women. In general it appears these arguments lead toward the suggestion that monogamy was greatly influenced by the “cultural homogenization that came with Western imperialism and the Judeo-Christian ethic of monogamy” (146).   In the end, however, the author admits that with the question of why monogamy exists at all, “the short answer is that no one knows” (132).

The book also reports some interesting facts about monogamy and the double standard for men.   G.P. Murdoch cited 238 different human societies around the world, and monogamy was enforced as the only acceptable marriage system in just 43. Gwen Broude researched 116 different human societies and reports that 63 permit extramarital sex by husbands, and only 13 permit it for wives.   However, Kinsey and colleagues discovered that slightly more than 25 percent of adult females in the United States were unfaithful. Given this double standard, it is ironic that in terms of sexual capacity, women are physiologically capable of having more sex than men.     Furthermore, a woman can be impregnated without experiencing a hint of pleasure, whereas it is likely (though not necessary) for a man to orgasm upon ejaculation, thereby rewarding him for his efforts with pleasure.

The last, and possibly shortest, chapter of the book draws a relatively simple conclusion that while all of the evidence points to why humans are biologically oriented to polygamy/polyandry, we humans are gifted with a large, discerning brain that allows us something all of the animals cited in the book do not have: choice.

In summary, this book was very informative; at times entertaining and it introduced me to some new and valuable perspectives on the evolutionary imprints on our sexuality. The first several chapters were weighted with very detailed research on animals.   For a layperson such as me, it is hard to make the connection between the sexual behaviors of a fruit fly and those of a much more complex creature such as a human.   This perhaps is more my weakness, than the books, however.

I appreciate the authors’ goal to simply observe the evolutionary trail and impact on human sexual behavior as it relates to monogamy, and to set out to do so without judging the outcomes as right or wrong.   In this way the author succeeded. I would imagine this book has some cross-over appeal for the mental health community as well as zoologists and social scientists. It covers a lot of bases (no pun intended).

However, it was very disappointing to see the observations limited to male-female copulations. The fundamental premise of this research was reportedly to unearth the myth of monogamy.  Specifically, however, this body of work only explains the sexual behavior and evolution of heterosexual monogamy, not sexual monogamy in general. The inclusion of same-sex pair-bonding between animals such as penguins, whiptail lizards, dragonflies, and others who are known to engage in same-sex pair bonding, would lead to a more accurate and informed view of our whole evolutionary history.

In the final chapter, the conclusion emphasizes the ability of humans to make choices. Unfortunately, this chapter seems to propose only two choices: to be monogamous or to be unfaithful. The reality is that we live in a culture that includes a multitude of coupling arrangements, some of which include the expressed desire to engage in a polygamous arrangement whereby partners support and encourage EPCs as an option for one, both, or all partners to the relationship. Because animal research relies on observation and interpretation, I would think it is nearly impossible to determine the motivations, and expressed agreements (or lack thereof) among these animals about their copulation.   Humans, however, are easier to study in this way, yet there is no discussion about the choices humans makes to engage in multiple-pair arrangements and how successful or not those are. There is no mention, in fact, that this is a choice some humans do make. This seems a significant oversight in a book determined to dispel the myth of monogamy.

At the end of the day, this book has offered very interesting perspectives that provoke much thought about human sexual behavior and issues of monogamy, while simultaneously remaining judgment-free about exactly what to do with this information. That has been no easy feat.

Relationship Renewal

I pulled some eggs from the refrigerator the other day with plans to use one – and on a whim I checked the expiration date. Low and behold, they had expired. I never think about eggs expiring.

When I got to work, I was reminded by a mailer that my subscription to “Simple” – a favorite magazine of mine, had also expired. I called in to renew it and go figure!, my credit card had expired. So on my way home, I stopped by the store to buy more eggs and I pulled out my check book to write a check since my credit card had expired. After obtaining my driver’s license, the clerk looked at it long and hard before saying, “uh, Ma’am, your license has expired.” (To which I said, “Please dont‘ call me ma’m – I’m much too young for that!) And on the way home, I glanced up at the little sticky stuck in top left corner of my windshield and what-do-you-know? uh-huh, expired! Even my oil expired.

Does everything expire? Eggs do, credit cards do, driver’s licenses do, subscriptions do, even oil does.

Does love expire? I think we all fear that perhaps it does. How do we keep love alive in a world of expiration?

Renewal! That’s how. Who ever created the concept of expiration (even humans expire!) was on to something. You see, what expires, can also be renewed. In most cases, expiration invites renewal – and in some cases we even have a choice about whether or not to renew.

Contracts usually have a beginning and an end. Anyone who has ever mortgaged a house, car, boat, or property knows that eventually, on one glorious day your contract really will expire upon completion of the final payment. But what about the contract of marriage, or in same-sex relationships, the “non-legal” agreement of a life-time relationship? How come these are NOT set up to expire?

Imagine a society that requires all couples (regardless of sexual orientation) to create relationship agreements that are time-limited with the option to renew. Say for example that all relationshipcontracts are created on the premise of a “lifetime intent” broken into increments of time (that the couple decides for themselves) where each partner has to renew their commitment to the relationship.

For example, imagine if every fifth anniversary you celebrate, each of you is responsible for re-committing to your relationship. During this time, each partner spends time really contemplating what works and doesn’t work, and considers whether or not this relationship is serving as a vehicle to personal growth or a commitment that does not encourage your greatness. Imagine actually evaluating the costs and benefits of your relationship every five years and making a conscious decision about whether or not you want to continue it. If your relationship is like mine is to my drivers license, my oil in my car and my credit card then it is a no-brainer – you renew it! If however, your relationship is spoiled like my eggs, you may decide at that point that the relationship is over.

How do you think your behavior would change if your relationship was up for renewal every five years? Would you spend the entire term on your best behavior, looking for ways to improve yourself and your relationship so that your odds of renwal are greater? Or would you spend the five years looking at all of the ways you feel like your relationship doesn’t offer you what you want?

Though I don’t actually encourage the option to opt-out of a relationship every five years (that’s really too easy) I do see the merit in conscious renewal on a regular basis. Renewal means to me that we are consciously choosing what we already have and committing to it by choice. Some of the immediate benefits that come to mind are:

  • Both partners choose to be where they are and don’t succumb to a role of “victim” to, or in, the relationship
  • Each partner has increased pressure (the five year review!) to be as good of a partner as possible
  • Renewing requires us to take responsibility for who we are and what we want – we can’t hide behind a “commitment” and play victim to a relationship we’d rather not be in – because every five years we are actively choosing to be there!
  • Separation would be unnecessary and not seen as a failure, instead it would be a shared decision that results from the behaviors of both partners
  • We are less inclined to slack off with self care if we know we have to continue to be a good partner to keep our relationship

Again, my example of the five-year expiration plan is to highlight the value of conscious, intentional decision-making, not an easy-out. I think so often we get consumed by what our relationship does or does not offer us, when in fact, we need to spend as much time reflecting on what we do or do not offer our relationship!

Dating Again, After a Breakup

When a relationship ends, one of two things is typically happening.  One, you are being spared something (such as a life with someone who is not well-suited to be your partner); or you are being prepared for something new (learning lessons that will prove invaluable to you in your next relationship).

Unfortunately, though, no matter how good a break-up might be FOR you, they rarely FEEL good to you. That’s okay.  Not everything that’s good for us feels good.

There is a period of natural grieving and heartache for both partners, even if you are the one who ended the relationship!  If you move on too quickly with hopes of sidestepping the pain (commonly known as a “rebound relationship”), this grief will find you later, somehow, often when you least expect it.  Sometimes a partner will grieve the relationship before ending it.  Which leaves the unsuspecting partner very hurt by her partner’s seeming “coldness” about the break-up.  “Why doesn’t she feel sad?”  “Why is she so cold?”  “How come I’m the only one feeling anything here?”  Typically this occurs when one partner does the work of grieving the relationship BEFORE ending the relationship.

Contrary to popular opinion, when it comes to dating, opposites do not attract. Like attracts like. Sure, she may like to play football and you might like to shop – but I promise you this: you are both equally broken, and you are both equally healed. At least you start that way. I like to say, “You deserve every relationship you choose.” You cannot attract a partner who is healthier than you.  Ever.  It defies logic.  No one is fooling anyone when it comes to love…we get what we are.  Like attracts like.  If you find this notion intolerable, or unacceptable – it’s probably time to take a closer look at your relationship.  If you are certain that you are healthier than your partner, ask yourself this:  “If I am so much healthier than she is, what am I doing here?”  Sure, sometimes we attract partners that do not mirror our emotional health – and that’s why those relationships don’t last. It may just take a minute to figure it out.

 Your issues may not be the same, but they are disabling to the same degree. She may drink and yell too much, and to the same degree she is not taking care of herself, you are also not taking care of yourself by tolerating or enabling this. The focus of your issues may be different, but the degree is always the same.

Humans are like stock in the stock market. Sometimes our value is higher than others. When you are taking care of yourself, eating right, exercising, spiritually balanced, mentally stimulated, socially active, and feeling good – your stock values are at their peak. When you are heart broken, sleeping a lot, or not sleeping at all, eating poorly or not at all, crying, drinking, under-performing at work, and generally not on top of your game your stock values are low, low , low.

Relationships are the best vehicle around to help us become the best version possible of ourselves.  The very best thing you can ever do for your relationship is to focus on how to live your life with as much health and happiness as possible.  There is no greater gift you can give your partnership than a healthy you!  So before you jump ship because you think your partner is too unhealthy, work on getting as healthy as possible yourself and see if he or she rises to theoccassion with you!  Lose the judgement and criticism and help one another grow.  If you give it your best shot and it still doesn’t help, then it’s time to dig out that life vest and swim for the shore.

People often ask, “how long should I wait before I date again?” I think about dating again in terms of healing, not time.   You are the very leverage that you can rely on to attract a partner. If you are not feeling good about yourself or about life, then work on getting your game back before you think about playing the field. When you feel good about yourself, genuinely good about yourself, get out there and start dating. Until then, do the next right thing that will lead you to feeling stronger, more interesting, more alive, and more loveable.

When you attract a partner at your lowest point, you are attracting a partner who findsyour low-point desirable. This is not ideal. The risk is that your low-point is her high point. As you start to heal, she will become less appealing to you. This is what accounts for many “rebound” relationships. When you “rebound” the issue isn’t the speed with which you move, it’s where you are emotionally and what you have to offer when you start your relationship. When we are broken, we attract broken. And broken doesn’t last as long as whole.

In a nutshell, when you feel good about  who you are and what you have to offer get out there and date.Until then, don’t worry about the amount of time it takes – focus on your next step to feeling bet ter. When the time comes, you’ll be oh so glad you waited to dip your toe into the pool of dating.

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Ending Relationships (aka Little Blue)

As I find is the case in life, you get what you give.  It took very little to get Blue. I got very little from her.

Eventually it became clear to me that I was going to lose my job if I didn’t invest in more reliable transportation.  I had to stretch my budget quite a bit to afford more reliable transportation.  Initially, I resisted trading her in.  I feared no one else would take her, and a part of me wondered if I did trade her in if she’d be better to them than she was to me.  I kept hoping she would change. Then there was the fear that even if I did unload Blue, I may not be able to locate and acquire a better vehicle.

Change is scary, even when it is necessary and good.

Relationships are like vehicles.They are designed to help us get where we want to go in life.  In fact, I believe relationships are designed to help us become the best version of our self possible.  The catch, though, is that we must know where it is we want to go, and what the “best version” of our self is, if we expect our relationship to help us get there in life.

I wanted Blue to take me to work.  She didn’t want to. Or maybe she just couldn’t.  Either way, I wasn’t getting to work on time.

Imagine an empty bucket sitting between you and your partner.  What you can expect to get from your relationship correlates directly to what is given – by you, and by your partner.  Our relationships are the sum-total of the energy, resources, and time devoted by each partner.  Your relationship can be defined by the tangible, and intangible contributions that each partner makes to this bucket.  The contents of this bucket become your relationship.  If one of you is passionate, you’ll have passion to withdrawal from your relationship.  If one of you is fun and spontaneous, you’ll have good times to withdrawal from your relationship.  You can not, however, count on getting anything from your relationship that one of you is not giving.

I changed Blue’s oil.  I washed her tin and plastic.  I tried fixing this and that and it didn’t seem to matter, something else would inevitably go wrong.

When it comes to working on our relationships, we are all affected by two things:  who is doing the work and how much work must be done

1.  WHO is doing the work?

Some relationships feel like more work to one partner than they do to the other because THEY ARE MORE WORK for one partner.  If you are THAT partner, it is time to get in touch with how you allowed yourself to be THAT person.

Before you conclude too quickly that you are, indeed, doing all of the work, consider both the tangible, and intangible aspects of maintaining a relationship.  For example, who is brining up emotional conversations and doing the work of keeping you intimately connected?  Who is insuring that you are connected to the outside world by creating social plans and maintaining friendships?  Who is making sure the house is clean? Who is paying the bills? Which of you is able to be playful and carefree, giving your relationship humor and fun? Who takes care of the dogs?  Who is mowing the lawn and maintaining the cars?  Who is initiating physical intimacy?  Who is celebrating birthdays and anniversaries?

Do not be surprised if you are not getting from your relationship what neither of you is giving!

2.  How much work must be done?

It will not help to exit a relationship that feels like “too much work,” if the work needing to be done is related to your self.

Like attracts like. A person with lots of emotional issues is likely to attract another person with similar levels (though different actual issues) of emotional challenges.  So if one partner is emotionally challenged with depression, anxiety, anger, or addiction, for example, the other partner may be equally challenged with issues of care-taking and self-neglect.  Though different, the issues can – and usually are – equally debilitating to each partner, and to the relationship.

Whether you are partnered or not, you will still need to address the issues you have with your self, be that your depression or your issues with care-taking.  The greater the un-addressed childhood hurts, traumas, mental health challenges, or other issues that one or both both partners has, the more work that is required to keep a relationship going.

If I responded to Blue by refusing to change her oil, I would never get anywhere.  When I hurt or neglect her, I hurt and neglect myself.  The same is true in our relationships.

Sometimes, however, we do discover that in our efforts to grow, our partner is not willing, and can, at times, become an obstacle to our personal growth.  I find that rarely this is the case, though –  it is our own issues from which we usually seek to run.  If, however, your relationship does become an insurmountable obstacle to your personal growth, it will become abundantly clear to you the healthier you become.

Blue became an obstacle to my getting to work on time.  Work was central to my survival.  I did what I could and accepted that the only power I had left to improve my situation was to rely on another form of transportation.  And so I did.

Relationships are more intricate than cars.  They are sometimes more reliable, sometimes less.  Though always, we are left with the same task of doing our very best and taking ownership for our part in what is not working, and continually striving to make the next best decision for our self, and for our life.

I once knew a girl like Blue.  Luckily, I didn’t marry her.

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