Making the decision to move on from a relationship, simply, is not that simple.
Human beings are incredibly weird creatures. You’ve probably recognized that we do really weird things for fame, wealth, and especially love. As social animals, we have been endowed with a set of traits and have developed social norms that make us particularly vulnerable to the idea of having a fairy-tale monogamous relationship with the first person we meet on Tinder. The problem is, we live in an increasingly individualistic society driven by a thought that we can have whatever we want with minimal effort and that everyone should be accepted despite their flaws. Relationships simply do not work under this premise. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t accept people for who they are, I’m saying that if you wish to spend your life with someone, you can be particular about who that person is. If you’re not, you can end up in the same place I did.
There is a biological predisposition, for us humans, to find a mate. In the case of our ancestors, it was very beneficial, to both mates, as it allowed someone to take care of the home and another to search for food. In 2018, with individual opportunity flourishing on all fronts, it has become increasingly unnecessary to establish a relationship to have a sustainable life model. Yet our desire to settle for a partner persists. We tend to submit to our emotions when presented with a potential life partner. We easily accept flaws and focus on the traits we desire. “Love is blind” rears its ugly head and we start to spout off phrases to our friends and family like “I dunno, I guess opposites attract.” This may be a reasonable saying as it relates to phenotypes, but when it comes to your views on the world, this might not work as well as you hope.
My case is extreme. When I explain my position on making sure you are honest with yourself about the reasons you love someone, it’s because I was dishonest with myself. I don’t mean to express what I experienced to cause you to try and identify everything wrong with your partner. I do, however, hope that those of you who do read this, recognize that fundamental differences in individual character can become destructive. Identifying and discussing concerns about values like morality, integrity, and parenting with your partner could thwart future issues. It’s also important that we recognize that people change. Through life experience, our thoughts, actions, and perspectives change. Discussing these changes in you or your partner allows for clarity and understanding of how your views and therefore expectations of your partner in life, have changed and vise versa.
Looking back, I realize that the differences between my ex and I in the end, are the same differences that existed in the beginning. We had completely contradicting views on what it meant to have an argument, what integrity is, and what it meant to be a good person in general. Unfortunately, I didn’t allow myself to pay them any attention. There seemed to be some part of me that saw the contradiction in character as a challenge. I had this person in front of me that I was uncontrollably infatuated with, yet I knew that I had not found the perfect person for me. But, there’s never a perfect fit, right? The alternative of discontinuing my relationship to return to solitude didn’t sound very inviting either. A sour relationship continued over the years and we had our share of problems. What I started to realize was, every time we had an argument we would never find any resolution. Bear with me if you’ve already been through this. When we couldn’t come to an understanding about the problem, we would shift from arguing the issue to fighting and name calling. For our entire marriage I had attributed this problem to the dynamics of being in a relationship. But, then it became very apparent that it was only coming from her. There was no understanding to reach because we were not even on the same plane. Her defense became to attack me so that I would then feel bad about having the argument. Nearly nine years of my life I spent fighting and making up and this was just an emotional reset. I could list off every attribute, accolade, flaw, or failure, that each of us possess, but I think they are all relative. What may be important to me, may not be important to you, just as the differences that I brought up existed between me and my former spouse. What I think is universal is the understanding of what is important to you. If I was able to recognize the values that I didn’t think were being held in the same view by my ex, at any other point in the relationship, and given them the attention they deserved, maybe things would have been different.
We have a theory that if you love someone, you will accept everything they are. The problem with this idea is that if someone does something that you disapprove of, you build resentment towards them. Emotion doesn’t always jive with reason. If your emotion is the place where your love for someone resides, the constant prying and pulling of disapproval can cause cracks in that connection. This is how my relationship failed. It was not because I didn’t love her. It didn’t come from a lack of attraction. It was purely from years of not agreeing with or understanding her decisions on many different levels. This eventually wore on my ability to forgive who she was and to keep the love I had for her.
The day I decided to leave her started no different than any other. I didn’t wakeup from some dream that told me it was time. I woke up and got ready for my day like I always had. Before leaving the house, she said one thing to me that bothered me. Then another. I said goodbye to her and when I got in my car I knew I would never be able to come home and pretend I could accept who she was. It was just gone. There was no way that I would ever be happy in a relationship with her. I called her about 20 minutes later and told her I wasn’t coming home and that I never would.
Sometimes the other person just doesn’t get what has changed, and that is almost impossible to explain to them. You have to tell somebody you once loved and built a life with that you really just don’t like who they are and can’t love them anymore because of that. In reality, they haven’t changed much, but your tolerance of them is what has changed. That can be a hard concept to understand, if you have not experienced it yourself. All of this can leave the breakup messy. Especially if the person you are leaving is prone to outbursts or inappropriate behavior. But stay true to yourself.
My own story isn’t some allegory designed to enlighten you. It’s just a love story, like many others, that ended. If you haven’t taken the time to understand what makes you happy, do it. If you have reservations about the person you’re with, talk to them about it. Don’t tell them that you don’t like who they are but discuss what you don’t understand about it. It will not be easy. But you might be able to prevent your connection from breaking. If you can’t figure out why you would even waste your time trying to figure it out with them, then stop wasting your time being unhappy and move on.
The feeling provided by the chemistry of love isn’t an easy one to find. If you have it, put the effort in. If you’ve lost it, give yourself a chance to find it somewhere else.