(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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.