A good friend told me recently that he is getting a divorce. He was sad but accepting that it was necessary and inevitable. In all honesty, most of his close friends – me included – had seen this coming for years and met the news with almost a sense of relief. His relationship had been – almost for as long as I could remember – an odd one, where neither was happy together, all their joy came when they were apart, yet they could not contemplate divorce.
Meanwhile, another good friend is feeling very frustrated in her relationship. She is a great Mom – actually they are both great parents – to their two school age kids. The relationship has simply lost its spark. There is nothing horribly wrong with it, it is simply not bringing a lot of joy to either of them.
And finally, yet another couple – a kidless couple – recently split on extremely amicable terms after a four year relationship that was pretty great, but their lives were moving different directions.
This caused me to reflect on why relationships stay together, even after they appear to be of no use – even of negative value – to all involved in them. Generally, I always find it a bit (or a lot) sad when a relationship breaks up, yet I surprise myself with the number times I end up feeling that the breakup is for the best. This apparent paradox caused me to come to some of the following observations:
- A relationship need not last forever to be a good one. We tend to define the end of any relationship as a failure. This is simply untrue. A relationship can have a great few years, few months or even few days. There are all kinds of valid reasons for it to end that in no way diminish the greatness of that relationship’
- All other things being equal, if your relationship does not make you happy – and there are no mid term options for it becoming happy – get out. Do not buy into the judo christian myth that relationships are meant to be eternal. They are meant to improve the quality of your life, and if they don’t then they are not good for you.
- That said, be careful to judge the happiness in your relationship objectively. Chances are its not peaches and cream every day… but that doesn’t mean you are better without it. Being single can be tough and, at the endow the day you are the source of your own happiness.. not anyone else. Be careful not to discard relationships too hastily
- Its not all about you. When I said in #2 ‘all other things being equal’, what I meant is to consider the importance of your relationship on people around you. Especially your kids. While I believe that kids are not well served by an unhappy, reluctantly preserved relationship between unhappy parents, I do believe that kids are worth sacrificing (a lot) for. If you are unhappy in your relationship and have kids, take a long and hard look at wether you can be better parents to your kids together than apart. Divorce is hard on kids. Look inside yourself, ask friends and ask family… can you improve your relationship enough to make a stabilizing and positive force for your kids and a good one for your children to model. If you can, you owe it to your kids to man/woman-up and be a good couple and parents for as long as it takes to get those kids raised. If you can’t, and your relationship will actually negatively affect your children, maybe its time to cut the cord.
Anyway… not a very cheery topic, but an important one.