Romantic relationships can be hard work sometimes. Heck all relationships really. Communication. Trust. Attachment. Many things can happen in life where we act or react in a way that puts a strain on the relationships around us. Romantic relationships are great! Until they are not (a little Yogi Berra there for you). When you are in love it can be insanely difficult to tell if your relationship has come to an end. To clarify this doesn’t have to mean romantic love. Love of family and friends applies here as well. Though my point and focus for this is based upon romantic love.
I have had several core relationship in my life come to an end. I like it is a natural part of life. We continue to grow and sometimes we outgrow certain relationships. A few years ago my friendship with my best friend that I had known since Junior High came to an end. We drifted apart over the years, ignoring those differences until we just didn’t understand or trust each other anymore. I have gone through divorce with a woman I had every intention of spending the rest of my life with. But as the struggles of life hit we turned in different directions, sought different outlets, and lost what drew us together in the first place.
It is painful to lose someone we value. As such we can find ourselves holding onto toxic relationships simply because loss sucks. Doesn’t matter how much you experience it, it is still sad to find that something that was once central in your life just no longer has a place within it. Of course strong relationships mean strong emotions and as a Jedi we know what that means – judgment isn’t always clear. And “knowing” something doesn’t mean we act on it. Just because we understand the rational choice doesn’t mean we are anymore inclined to follow it. The heart wants what the hearts wants, but when can we tell it is time to Jedi-Up and take that first bold step in a new direction?
Over the years I have ended good relationships too early, stayed in bad relationships way too long, and vice versa. Eventually I found I needed a checklist. Something to use my Jedi-Mind in conjunction with my Emotional State of Being. It simply helps me make sure I am not making a completely emotional and impulsive decision in regards to my personal relationships. So here are the questions I present to myself. Through reflection, being honest with myself and my answers, I can come to a fair conclusion. As I find myself running through this checklist again, I figured I’d share it.
1.) When I think of this relationship ending what is my major feeling/emotion?
Fear? Loneliness? Relief? Sorrow? Apathy? Usually there is a mix (anger can make appearances), but generally you can feel one above the other. And it tells you a lot about the state of your relationship. Sometimes this alone can show you if you have already checked-out or that you were truly in a bad situation. Fear is rarely about love. Often it is something within us, a fear of being alone, a fear of public perception, a fear of loss of friends, or support. Sorrow and heartbreak can be clear indicators, that you really don’t want the relationship to end. That you value it and the person and while you would wish nothing but the best for them, you have no desire to remove the relationship from your life. Still, you have to make sure that is a balanced feeling, not just chemical levels dancing and jumping around. So. How do you feel about the end?
2.) How will I feel about this in two months?
A couple days can be enough to help calm, settle, and get perspective, but we are still close to the situation. Years down the road won’t matter, because we are survivors. We have lived through a lot and will continue to do so. And even when we get tired of it all, here we are, still taking each day as it comes. So in 20 years most things won’t matter. In 200, no one will care. But two months from now? Where will you be at? Honestly, how will you feel? Will you miss and regret and be wanting to build a time machine? Or will you already be in the process of moving forward? Will you be going through the mourning stages and allowing yourself the chance at something better? No one can predict the future. But we can take the time for honest self-reflection and get an idea of what we will do should this end. We know ourselves well enough (even if just barely) to understand if we can truly let go and move forward. Which often goes back to that first question of how your truly feel about an ending. If you are already planning your life without that person in two months – then you know your answer.
3.) Can I trust this person?
No, not “Do I trust” because frankly you may not within that moment and that may be perfectly justifiable. The question is not of right now, but is that trust gone forever. No wait, that is too long. The question is, will trust be there when things have calmed down? If a person says they will learn from the situation, do you believe that can happen? Will you be able to (in relative time) trust in their commitment to you and your relationship? In a couple months will you be wondering who they are talking to? Will you be worried about leaving your phone in their presence? When they say they miss you, or love you, or that everything is fine – will you believe them? Will you trust them? Again, trust takes time, so it is okay it have that shaken a bit for a little while. But if it is still going to be an issue down the road than you ask what is your relationship without trust?
4.) Can I talk to this person?
Communication is harped on time and time again. Read absolutely any article on successful relationships and it is one of the first two things mentioned. You cannot have ANY relationship without communication. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends that if we saw each other we would pick up right where we left off. Family experiences this a bit more, we don’t always have constant contact with certain family members. However the question is can we? Can you reach out to this person and trust them to get back to you in a reasonable amount of time? Not only that, but do you feel comfortable speaking to them? I have been in relationships where I was terrified to speak openly and honestly. I was scared to communicate because of what might happen. This is not healthy, you may experience some worry, but if you tremble at the thought of speaking up, that is not good. So the question is can you talk with this person? Will they ignore you? Will they get defensive and lash out at you? Blame you? If you are terrified to talk or on the flipside you are shouting into a vacuum then the answer of your relationship is pretty clear. Open and Honest Communication is necessary.
5.) Has there been a change in investment?
Relationships require investment of time and energy. When new and exciting we often invest a lot – hours of talking and emotional energy. As things settle that can change into a more comfortable schedule (which doesn’t make us fall asleep at work anymore). This is normal, but the question of investment is important. Especially if there has been a drastic change from one side. It is the first and most used way to create distance (which is a sign of things to come). The question to ask is – would this have been the same two weeks ago? If two weeks ago you were super busy and you still were talking with this person, has that changed? Is playing a video game now more important than talking? You have to know the difference between a gradual decline into schedules and comfort versus being made to feel less important than a tv show or whatever. If someone once made the effort to talk with you and now they are just “too busy” – that is something to look at. And if you cannot talk to them, if you are being shut out, shut down, or attacked – you have to ask, what kind of relationship is that really? Remember, no one is too busy to say hello or good morning or goodnight or so sorry I am busy we will talk later. It is a two second investment and if you aren’t worth that or they aren’t worth that to you then what relationship do you truly have?
Honorable Mention: Do I Love this Person?
I don’t have this numbered because it is a trick question. It IS an Important question. If the answer is no, then there you go. Hence why I am mentioning it, but the answer being yes doesn’t automatically mean to stick it out. You can absolutely love someone and still know it is not a healthy relationship. It is okay to miss people that no longer have a place in your life. As people grow and evolve (not about for better or worse, just different) so do relationships. And sometimes we love people but know they are not good for our lives. It is hard. It still sucks. Doesn’t make things easier. But while Love can go a very long way, it alone cannot save a relationship. You both need to be willing to spend time together, make sacrifices for each other, talk to one another. A good relationship is about love, communication, trust, and working together to build a steady and solid foundation for the future. If you are the only one willing to do that -or they are the only one willing to do that- then it is time to move on.