On Knowing When It’s Not Working

(This is another one of those posts I wrote months ago, but am just now publishing)

I am an optimist, so I have a problem with staying in mediocre relationships because I am able to make the best of it. I focus on the positives. I forgive shortcomings. I am good at loving.

I am also blinded by my upbringing in the traditional South, which instilled a subconscious view of the woman’s role in a relationship as secondary and subservient. I have to actively overcome the tendency to put my partner’s needs before my own. This makes things complicated when I know that it is time for a relationship to end; it goes against my nature to bring conflict and dissonance to my relationships.

A shallow understanding of my most recent relationship would prove it to be a success. I was dating a successful, driven man who loved me as well as he could. However, once I was honest with myself, I realized that something about it just wasn’t working.

One revealing episode came last Christmas, when I was lying in bed with my mom, getting real about love (as we often do). She asked me if I could imagine myself marrying this man. My instinctive reaction was, “No, I am pretty sure he is going to marry his best friend.”

Who in their right mind casually admits this about a man they have been with for over a year? It revealed that I didn’t see a future with him. I knew that he deserved something (someone) else that I just wasn’t able to give him.

So why didn’t I see a future with him?

  1. The most profound reason was the lack of meaningful communication in our relationship. I just didn’t find compelling things to talk with him about that often, besides what we did with our days. I rarely found myself engrossed in deep conversations with him. I really need a partner who introduces me to new things, who helps me grow, who encourages my life curiosity. I suspect this first reason is connected to reason #2.
  2. Our relationship was based on sex. It started out as a one night stand, that organically transformed into a relationship. Our lives just happened to have melded together due to our spending almost every night together. Something about that just doesn’t seem right. It certainly can’t be a healthy foundation for a relationship. We were physically attracted to each other, and I think that was enough to keep us together for over a year. But it’s not enough to sustain a marriage.
  3. I need to marry a Christian. W said more than once that he didn’t understand the purpose of marriage, and I firmly believe that is because he lacked faith. A marriage cannot last without God, because our sinful, selfish desires will ultimately win if we don’t rely on God. God wants me to have a Christian marriage with a man who brings me closer to Him. I would also be ill-advised to repeat my mom’s mistake of marrying a non-Christian and being challenged by that choice every day.
  4. W did not make me a better person. He encouraged me to drink, smoke, overeat, consume unfulfilling media. Our relationship discouraged me from reading, seeking God, cultivating new friendships, and generally getting to know myself better.
  5. I have an unhealthy pattern of serial monogamy. I fell into a relationship with W only two months after ending another long-term relationship. I think I am used to the relationship state of mind, so it feels natural to be someone’s girlfriend. My comfort zone is in relationship mode. However, I will never be able to have a healthy, non-dependent relationship unless I am happy being by myself first.
  6. It was unfair to stay with W if I wasn’t that committed to him. For months, I knew that our relationship would not last long-term. He deserved better than my apathy. I wouldn’t want to date someone who wasn’t that serious about me, and he should be free to find a relationship with someone who is just as committed as he is.

Breaking up sucks. But there came a point when the pain of fretting over the relationship and knowing it’s not what either of us need became worse than the pain of losing him.

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