No, I’m not reading Charles Dickens, I’m thinking along the lines of relationships and how we start out with certain ideals and expectations and then allow them to dwindle down until we are just getting by in a relationship but for whatever reason we don’t seek to move on from them. Every time in years past that I brought up with friends how unhappy I was in my marriage I was met with a barrage of reasons why their relationship was just as bad or worse. As if their being unhappy was all the reason I needed to remain unhappy with them. Oddly, this social norm of staying in relationships that are entirely unsatisfying is very, very standard. Yes, there are people who get a divorce but more often then not those people seem to have extenuating circumstances that make it more socially acceptable like infidelity or abuse. Considering how far we have come with being tolerant of various lifestyles that used to be taboo, we have not yet come to a point in society were we expect to actually enjoy our chosen life partner past the wedding vows.
In a few recent conversations, one friend remains with her husband even though they never connect and never have meaningful conversations. They spend time together physically, but emotionally they haven’t spent time together in years. Yes, they have younger children who take up a lot of their time. They both work full-time and have the ordinary albeit overwhelming responsibilities of life that get in their way. I imagine this makes up most of married couples. The kids come along and their relationship suffers but it is their duty to march on in their apathy toward each other until the kids are grown and hope they can salvage how they once felt toward each other. In ways this is noble; the kids are important. However, what this is teaching the kids is that mom and dad’s relationship is not valuable and they will carry on the tradition in their marriages. Wouldn’t the children be better off if the parents carved out time to remain friends and lovers instead of just roommates? That would be a much better example to duplicate.
For the other friends I have, it varies between utter distain of their spouse to desperately trying to get the spouse to be, do or feel the way that they “used to” in a way that is codependent and unhealthy. With audiobooks and the internet there is no shortage of ways to learn how to communicate, interrelate and find healthy boundaries and yet most couples just march on in their drudgery and eventually may snap and divorce. However, the fault doesn’t lie in the resistant partner entirely and as we see with those that divorce and remarry, the likelihood of happiness goes down because each person is still behaving in the new relationship in the same manner they did before.
Because so many of my friends have parents or loved ones who divorced and were no happier, when I talked to them about dating again they were all adamant that there is “nothing better out there” and “no man can communicate”. I disagree. I do know of relationships that are great and men who communicate. What is the key factor in those people and relationships is that they are committed to working on things and being mindful to keep making an effort rather than becoming complacent and apathetic. If one partner is eager to work on things and the other one is not, eventually it will become a serious problem. If both are content to be below average in their relationship is is certainly better than one person nagging and getting angry with their partner that is not willing to make the effort.
Another issue that I have observed in relationships is that one person in the relationship is carrying the lion-share of the responsibility while the other one doesn’t feel responsible for anything. The non-responsible party is happy to blame the other person when things are not going well, however. This is not specific to men and women as far as who is the responsible one. I do think this is part of the masculine/feminine dilemma. The more I understand masculine and feminine energies the more I see how the feminine is the one that can take more and become apathetic and lazy while the masculine can be more neurotic running around trying to find their worth in all the tasks they do for everyone else. I fully admit that I was trained to be a masculine energy woman. I took on more and more responsibility for my spouse and my children because that is what had to be done, not because I desired it. I have natural abilities to problem solve and I’m good and organizing and taking care of things. It makes me a great employee, but at least there I get paid. Over the course of 25 years in marriage it burned me out and practically gave me a nervous breakdown.
As I look back, I could blame my ex for allowing our relationship to become so lop-sided but the truth is that it is the natural order of things. Yin-yang is necessary in life to keep things balanced. We attract the opposite to us or we will feel very uncomfortable with the relationship and will not stay in it. I was a strong, opinionated, highly motivated person in my early life and because of various experiences I had with my family and was determined never to be at the mercy of a man to take care of me. Therefore, I picked a man who I had to take care of. It put me in a position of power because growing up I felt so powerless. In the beginning our relationship was exactly what I wanted and felt comfortable with. However, over the course of time and more than one serious bouts of depression I realized that I could not sustain the neurotic, over-achieving lifestyle and begged my husband to move out of the fully feminine (taker) mode and have a more balanced relationship. Unfortunately, he was not able to do so. That was his right to continue to be what is best for him. Besides, I changed the dynamics, I couldn’t expect him to change. I have healed the wounds that made me the neurotic and masculine energy. I look forward to exploring a healthy, unselfish feminine energy role, as well as attracting my new opposite energy.
Again, as I peer over the divorce hedge and consider what I want for the remaining years of my life I do know that I need a life partner. My reasons are no longer so I can take care of someone and feel validated by my self-sacrifice. My reasons are that I am a better me when I have someone I care about in my life. For those still in the thick of parenting, their children may be enough. I am on the downward slide to empty-nesting and I desire a companionship with someone that feels like it is fair and balanced like a proper yin-yang relationship. That is my expectation moving forward, and a great expectation I wish more couples had for themselves.