Those of us in relationships in our late teens or early twenties are sick and tired of the same question, which both frustrates us and makes us reexamine our life choices:
“Aren’t you too young to settle? Don’t you want to experience more before you get too serious?”
We blow off the question, perhaps slightly miffed by the other person’s lack of understanding of our internal world, but we might subconsciously also be forced to pose ourselves this question:
“Is the person I am with really the one I want to spend the rest of my life with?”
All too often I come across this surprisingly predictable scenario among my friend/familial groups:
Person 1: “My boyfriend/girlfriend (insert name here) and I just don’t understand one another anymore. I have a much deeper connection with (insert new love interest’s name here), maybe I should break things off and try things out with this new person.”
Person 2: “Oh that’s a shame, you seemed really happy together up until recently.”
Person 1: “Yeah, but recently he/she has been (insert problematic/unsavoury behaviour here, usually from this list: really paranoid, unusually possessive/needy, she or he has changed.”
The grass-on-the-other-side-is-green syndrome is something most of us have experienced. or at least witnessed first hand by the time we approach adulthood. For some reason or another, we find reasons to justify leaving what is otherwise a healthy, happy relationship, in order to experience something new.
In these instances, belief in destiny and a romanticized vision of reality–as shown so clearly in Flaubert’s devastating Madame Bovary—can be damaging. We are thrilled with the initial stages of a new relationship, the increasing intimacy, short-lived infatuation and novelty. We are unaware of our new love interest’s vices, we’re still under that initial spell and this person attains a god-like status; they can’t do anything wrong in our eyes. As time goes by, we start to see the flaws we were once blind to, the flaws that were there all along. We find their stubbornness infuriating, they wake up too late and are too obsessive.
Whatever it is, we find it. Often the flaws that bother us the most are the ones we too possess, and project unknowingly onto the other.
By chance, we meet another person in a bar. They are attractive, but it turns out they are also funny, witty, sensitive, not too pushy, but also subtly express an interest in us, an appreciation of our individuality. It seems to be everything we want from our current partner. After a period of deliberation, we leave our partner in the name of experimentation and engage in a novel affair with this interesting person. After some time, the excitement fades and the problems arise. We realize how stupid we were to have thrown away something so good, something which we had invested so much time into.
Take care in this scenario and assess the situation fully—are we really undergoing a relationship crisis, or has the infamous “honeymoon phase” just come to and end?
In reaction to modern day divorce rates, an elderly anonymous person recently said “When I was a kid, if something were broken, we used to fix it.” While it is normal for people to look back at the past and idealize it, there’s a grain of truth to this notion.
There are instances in which it really is clear that a relationship is not going to work out. If you are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, no compromises should be taken; it is time to go.
Another sign that a relationship is not going to work might be that the attraction was never really there, that we feel we settled and cannot really work with what we have to make it something that it never was.
Likewise, if we are in a relationship and feel we have reached a conflict in interests/life choices whereby no compromise can be made, perhaps it’s time to go. For example, if one side of the party wants an open relationship and the other doesn’t, and isn’t willing to accommodate the other party.
If none of the above applies, what should we do if we find ourselves in that bar scenario? The answer is comforting. Instead of submitting to a cyclic set of events which will make us happy and then sad, use this as an opportunity to reflect on our fortunate position. If we were to leave our current partner in order to start anew with this person, we would likely enjoy a short-but-sweet happy but sweet early period of happiness. We would then undoubtedly have to face up to the same temporary deception we confronted in our current relationship.
The universe might not be out to assign us with just one soul mate, and here is a reminder that we don’t just get one chance. Should our current relationship fail for a reason other than our own, there are still many people out there with whom we could share a unique and happy life together.
This is the chance for us to take full responsibility for our lives and realize our control in an otherwise chaotic universe. If a relationship is broken, I have the choice to fix it. I will not suffer at the hands of an abuser, or maintain a relationship with someone whose life path does not coincide with mine—but I do have the power to mould my own destiny.
If our relationship is mutually beneficial, we are not too young to settle and we don’t need to experience something new. Fortunately, that option is always available to us should our relationship become unhealthy, or in the instance that our partner hasn’t yet learnt this life lesson. Live through challenges such as this one keeping our partner close to us, and we realize the fortune we bestow to have a life partner who we love, with whom we have shared so many experiences, a best friend who has helped us surpass our own insecurities and enabled us to achieve a level of intimacy we never previously believed possible.
We are the luckiest people in the world—and this simple wisdom has allowed us to break the cycle and love freely and unconditionally.
Author: Elizabeth Cool
Editor: Renée Picard