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A Lesson in Love and Relationships


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It’s no secret that this column has given me the reputation of being anti-commitment and anti-monogamy. I guess that makes it a bit more of a surprise, then, that I recently got out of a relationship. Although it was relatively short, spanning three months, it provided me with a new perspective on what’s acceptable and unacceptable in a romantic partnership.

Bear with me until I get to the life lessons.

For one thing, I’ve never been involved with someone as romantic or gentlemanly as this guy. The dates were entertaining, the sweet talk was enchanting and the attention was intoxicating. When he was good, he was damn near perfect.

Unfortunately, though, he was also hyper-insecure, untrusting and jealous. While things were fantastic when we were around each other, they turned to shit when I got to school because of distance-induced insecurity. Nothing I could say would make him understand that I actually cared about him, and I spent more time trying to infuse him with some sanity than I did enjoying the thrills of being in a secure relationship.

While I was simultaneously jumping through hoops to show him love and walking on eggshells to avoid making him go nutso, I found myself thinking, “If I saw any of my friends in this relationship, I’d tell them to bail.” My poor floormates had to hear the whole saga—one day he’d be planning sweet surprises for me and the next day he’d be saying he didn’t have the ability to fall in love with me. I’d find myself defending his mood swings to them, and in myself, I heard the voices of friends I consider to be in unhealthy relationships.

Cut to the break up—I knew immediately that if we got back together, it would be the same drama all over again. Was I bummed? Definitely. I’d miss feeling so cherished. But from an objective perspective, would getting back in this relationship be in my best interests? Negative. He was Prince Charming in my presence, but since we were doomed to be long distance, I knew I’d be seeing more of the Beast.

So herein lies the lesson: It’s amazing what people put up with to stay in a relationship that once made them happy. If at first the person gave you cake and the frosting ended up spoiling, you hold onto the crumbs of goodness, as long as you can anyway. You think, “It used to be like this, it used to be so good, I don’t want to lose that,” but the unfortunate reality is that it’s already lost. You’re staying in this relationship for how it used to make you feel, not how it makes you feel now.

It’s hard to separate your emotions from your logic. If your friends are telling you you’re in a bad relationship, you probably are. For a very long time, I was that friend—I still am, to some people—and then I found myself in their shoes. Sometimes, you have to be pushed away to have the strength to walk away.

No matter how good a relationship is, the health of it depends on whether that good outweighs the bad. If he or she makes you feel on top of the world 15 percent of the time while you spend the other 85 percent trying to attain that satisfaction again, where’s the balance? You can go on the best dates, have the best conversations, have the best sex life…but if you spend more time feeling badly about yourself or your partner than you do happy to be with them, you’re shortchanging yourself.

Now more than ever, I’d say I’m a huge fan of relationships: of the connection you share with the other person, of the opportunity to share meaningful memories, of the possibility of sharing a future. However, I’m also more resolved that staying in a bad relationship simply because you’re yearning for the past is a poor move for your emotional wellbeing.

Break ups will suck no matter what side you’re on. Don’t expect it not to hurt. Don’t think, though, that because it hurts at first, it was the wrong decision. Stand strong, because if your relationship is ever going to get “better,” it won’t do so by continuing on its damaged route. Ending a bad relationship could be the relationship’s saving grace. Or, it could be yours.

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