Recently, one of my closest friends called me up saying they wanted to break up with their long-term partner.
“I’m just not happy anymore, I can’t go on like this. It’s not fair on me and my happiness is the most important thing”
At first I was totally on side (as any supportive friend would be) but where was this coming from? As far as I was aware, they were happy and good together. When did it change?
“They’re always nagging me, they do this thing that annoys me, their family isn’t like mine, they do this thing differently to me”
Ok, so you’ve been together a few years and the honeymoon period has passed. You’ve realised they’re human and you’re different people. Does this justify calling it quits?
“I’ve tried to work things out with them, they’re not listening to me and I’ve had enough. I need to put my happiness first”
I really felt for them, but something didn’t feel right.
Turns out there were other factors (work etc.) that were having a big impact on their general wellbeing - and they’d just bottled it up.
It became obvious the couple just had some communication issues, nothing drastic, but it would just require some self-awareness to acknowledge where they had to improve in the way they communicated.
We all know holding the mirror up to someone can be dangerous, but are you a true friend if you don’t deliver hard truths?
Fortunately, their relationship is now on the mend, but what really bothered me was this statement: “I deserve to be happy, my happiness is what’s most important”
I told them that their happiness was not the most important thing, and if they kept taking that position then their relationship was doomed.
As I write this, I can literally hear all the neo-liberal’s shouting “of course your happiness should come first – this is 2018!”
If this ‘everybody for themselves’ view worked, why do we have ever-increasing divorce rates? Maybe we’re used to throwing broken things away, rather than taking the time to fix them?
A while ago, I asked my grandparents what their secret was to a lifelong successful marriage. There answer was simple and amazing:
“If you spend every day looking out for the wants & needs of your other half, and they’re doing the same for you, then life together just becomes so good”
This blew my mind.
The moment was start putting ourselves above our partner, the chances are they’ll feel neglected and frustrated. They’ll probably start doing the same. Naturally two people fighting for their own wants & needs is going to end up in chaos.
It’s a little counter-intuitive in today’s society, but can you imagine a relationship where you both were constantly putting your partner first? What bliss that would be to practice such selfless love. Maybe we should try it more often - rather than believing the hype that we have to put number 1 first.
“What if you’re giving everything and they give nothing back?”
I want to caveat this whole blog: there’s a difference between being selfless and being in an abusive relationship. You should never be a doormat; or treat your partner as one.
If one person is consistently giving whilst the other is consistently taking, that’s not right and something needs to change. However, in my experience, it’s rare to see this.
When my friend said “I’ve tried to work things out, I’ve tried to put them first” it simply wasn’t true. It’s been a few weeks. You’re telling me you’ve totally sorted all your own issues out overnight? You’re now the perfect partner? And you expect them to have done the same overnight too?
Good things take time. Friendships are forged over years of ups and downs. Strong families weather the storms of life together over many years. Solid relationships are grown over a lifetime.
Western capitalist mind-set says ‘put yourself first’… but maybe we need to re-evaluate our thinking when it comes to relationships.
If real love is selfless – maybe we need to start thinking differently if we desire relationships that are strong, happy and lasting.
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