On Relationships

“The half life of love is forever.”

Over the past year there’s been a lot of movement in my friend group. Part of that is just growing up and the other part based on all the moving around I’ve been doing. Traveling around the world has been a phenomenal experience and it has allowed me to meet tons of people. But the thing about traveling is that even if you develop a great connection with someone your time together has an expiration date on it. (This is also true for relationships without traveling but we rarely dwell on it.)  It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl, a buddy or a romantic interest, with each person you meet there will come a time where that relationship will either knowingly or unknowingly end.

Coming back to Nebraska after two different half year stints abroad led me to really start thinking on relationships. Being 24 in Nebraska it’s not uncommon to be in a long term relationship or even already married. Since coming back I’ve seen numerous buddies get engaged. Couldn’t be happier for them. I’ve also seen multiple break ups. Couples that had been together when I left weren’t when I came back. I saw some pretty crushed people. I’ve always found it weird how people derive their personal value from their relationship status, but I suppose that’s a topic for another time.

It’s always easy to judge a relationship and why it failed from the outside. It’s even easier to look your friend in the eye and tell them that “you can do better” or that “she kind of sucked, it’s her loss.” But in the end that doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s ignorant to insult exes, not just because they may get back together, but because at some point that person was exactly what they were looking for and made them happy.

I started looking back on my past relationships. Granted there haven’t been a lot as I’ve never really been much of a relationship dating guy. But over the course of high school, college, and even traveling I’ve managed to find girls who kept my interest for months and in one case even years. My longest relationship was on and off for about two years. When we broke up I won’t lie I was pretty confused. I hadn’t ever said it out loud but I really thought in my subconscious that we’d end up together.

Obviously that didn’t work out. And looking back I can see that it was for the best- it’s always easier to connect the dots in hindsight isn’t it? In no way was I ready for that. I’m still not. I have so much stuff I want to do before I can be satisfied letting other people dictate my actions (ie moving to Australia for a year). But at that time, like most people, I thought a failed relationship meant there was something wrong with me. I thought that if two people decided to go their separate ways it was one of their faults. I mean if something fails it’s only natural to blame someone. Something failing isn’t bad enough, no it HAS to be someone’s fault.

But that’s not true. Not at all. When most relationships end it’s usually because people just grow apart. The feelings just aren’t as strong as they once were. The infatuation is gone.  It fails because the relationship isn’t viewed as essential anymore. Is it the other person’s fault that the other one became less interested? I’m not sure. Every relationship is different. But at the end of most relationship someone tends to get blame. Which causes a lot of hard feelings and overshadowing of the good times.

I once read “we assume others show love the same way we do- and if they don’t, we worry it’s not there.”  It’s hard for us to understand that someone does care about us if they don’t show it in a way we’re accustomed to. Some people easily show affection with words, presents, or their actions.  Others are much more reserved.  I fall into the first category.  Expressing thoughts and feelings had never been a problem for me.  But for a relationship to succeed each person has to know the other and their tendencies and accept them. They have to understand each other and be willing to find a common ground to share their feelings.

It does seem like in most relationships one person always appears to care more. Granted, appearance and reality aren’t always the same thing. You can’t judge a relationship based on the number of words two people exchange. The real question then, is it better to care less and protect yourself (from both love and misery) or is better to give the other person all you have, to be fully vulnerable, even though it could lead to terrible pain.

In the end, to me, the latter is the better option. It’s like any competition, you can go out and try not to lose or you can go out and try to win. By not giving your full effort you’re trying not to lose. You’re holding the ball and hoping. You’re protecting the lead and yourself. When this happens more often than not that team loses. But if you go out and give it all you have and try to win the game you’re much more likely to succeed. Not only that but you’re also more at peace in the end regardless of the final outcome. At the end of it all the last thing you want to do is be left wondering “what if.” What’s the point of even being in a relationship if you’re not doing everything you can do to make it succeed?

Sometimes being vulnerable backfires and you get hurt. But when the pain fades you’ll be at peace and looking back have no regrets. Also, if ending things doesn’t hurt you at least a little, than you shouldn’t still be in the relationship anyway. You should be giving it your all. Feel free to congratulate yourself for not sitting there with one foot out the door and then wondering why it fell apart.  After giving part of yourself to another (and make no mistakes that’s what being in a relationship is), being at peace is the best negative outcome you could hope for. Understanding that you did your best and that it’s not your fault it fell apart. It’s not their fault either.   Playing the blame game does nothing for either of you.

There are only two possible outcomes when you enter into a relationship: breaking up or being together forever. There is no in between. No grey area. If breaking up is the result it’s best to just let it go and realize the two of you just weren’t what the other wanted anymore. That doesn’t take away from what you shared. It doesn’t make the old feelings any less real. It only means that it’s time to go your separate ways without being held back by anger, hate, or grief.

Too often when we look back on relationships we focus too much on the sloppy ending and not the all the great moments. We don’t realize until much too late that with each person we choose to spend time we take a little of them with us going forward. The good, the bad, the ugly.  We use them as examples of what we want and what works. We use these past relationships to help us pick our new ones.

The next time you’re hurting don’t waste time wishing things were different. Take the experience and use it to help you walk forward. Everything we go through, good or bad, can be used to make us wiser. Don’t blame yourself and don’t foster any hate in your heart because in the end you’re the one who is paying the price.

Stay Gold.

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