Everywhere we go there are people looking to tell us about relationships. There are the psuedo-self-help books by people like Steve Harvey. There are the preachy movies from people like Tyler Perry and T.D. Jakes. There are blogs like this one here. And then there are our closest friends always ready and willing to impart advice. Sometimes the advice is great, sometimes, not so much. The perpetually confounding nature of relationships between men and women inspires us all to share what we’ve learned in relationship success and failure. Despite our unparallelled access to vicarious experience and wisdom, no matter how many books or blogs we read and no matter how many Tyler Perry movies we watch, some lessons in love are only learned the hard way. Here are a few I’ve learned along the way.
Long Term Long Distance Relationships Don’t Work
Raise your hand if you’ve tried a long distance relationship? Thought so. We’ve all been here. Despite the advice of all of our friends and everyone who’s ever attempted one, at some point in our lives we all try it out. They all have the same beginnings: you randomly and unexpectedly meet someone who is absolutely perfect … except for the little fact that they live far away. When this happens for the first time in our lives, we all tell ourselves the same thing: We can make it work. I’ll visit one month for a weekend and you can visit the next month for a weekend and if we happen to fall in love, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes. Even now, it sounds totally plausible, but if you’ve been in a long distance relationship before, you know it’s not. Most long distance relationships end one of two ways, either the love becomes too much and you decide to separate because neither person is willing to move. Or, more commonly, you realize that doing all of the things one must do to make a serious, committed, long term relationship work is impossible without the day to day inspiration of actually seeing the person you’re working for. At some point, something has to give. In order for any long distance relationship to have a chance, there has to be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. There has to be an understanding that at some specific point in the future, there will be no longer major distance between the two of you. Absent that, these sorts of relationships are doomed to fail.
The Toughest Break-Ups Are the Ones Without Reason
There are a million reasons why a relationship might end. Sometimes a relationship will end because of infidelity. There aren’t many things more hurtful than when someone betrays the trust that exists in a relationship. Relationships also end because one person treats the other egregiously poor. Some people just don’t make good mates; maybe they’re selfish or mean-spirited, arrogant or abusive – whatever it is, breaking up in these sorts of situations is still hard and still damaging. While relationships ending under these sorts of circumstances are extremely unpleasant, nothing is worse than the relationship that just seems to end without reason. In a matter of weeks, a relationship that was progressing and maturing productively can disintegrate into nothing. One week you’re looking out into the future and seeing the same thing and the next week you can’t remember what it was that initially brought you together. Ending that sort of relationship is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Sitting around for hours trying to come up with a reason to end a relationship that has no major deal-breaking issues present was for me, much more difficult and emotionally draining than ending a relationship where something unforgivable had occurred. When a relationship ends without reason it’s hard to escape the feeling that the whole thing was just one big waste of time; like there was no point in starting it to begin with. It’s easy to wish that all of our relationships ended without major drama, but the truth is the relationships that end without drama can sometimes be much more painful and much more difficult to get over than the ones that do.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener On the Other Side of the Fence
When I was in 8th grade I had a great girlfriend. We’d gone out for a few months (a pretty long time in junior high) we looked great together and we were pretty compatible. But there was this ninth grade girl that I really liked. I’d always had a crush on her but at that age, it’s nearly impossible for a boy to date a girl who’s older. We’d flirt here and there but nothing ever came of it till one day, fate found us alone in the basement of our school’s auditorium. We made out and it was awesome. I told my best friend and eventually it got back to my girlfriend. She broke up with me. Nothing became of the ninth grader and I. I realized then that when it comes to love, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. While there was genuine attraction between the ninth grader and I, the societal norms and expectations that told me to quell that attraction (the fact that she was older and the fact that I had a girlfriend at the time) only compounded and magnified the attraction. In the end, I was left lonely, wondering where it all went wrong. No matter how happy you are, there will always be other attractive people on this Earth. You can’t let their attractiveness have any influence on your relationship. For some this may mean avoiding people you find attractive altogether, and for others it may just mean not telling your best-friend when you explore that attraction.
“He Who Loves Least Controls The Relationship”
I recently had a conversation with a good friend about this paradoxically confusing but unwaveringly true phenomena. The healthiest relationships are the ones where both individuals love each other so much that they’re both more concerned with their mate’s happiness than their own. But as many of us have learned from experience, not all relationships are like this. Sometimes in a relationship, though both individuals care deeply for one another, one person cares a little more, feels a little deeper, loves a little harder. In a marriage you’ll find that your love has an ebb and flow, sometimes you love each other just the same, sometimes you’ll find yourself loving a little more and other times your partner will be the one loving a little more; in the end it should all balance out. If you’re not married however, recognizing who loves least, when they’re loving least, and how big the gap is between how you’re loving each other is essential. There’s no greater feeling of failure than when you’re the one loving the least and you’re watching this person you care deeply for cling to a relationship you both know is dying. Equally heartbreaking (I Imagine) is the prospect of knowing you harbor unshakeable, unconditional love for someone who doesn’t feel for you as deeply as you feel for them. The complexities of the ebb and flow of love are impossible to understand or comprehend unless you’ve been there, experienced them and learned them the hard way.
I was listening to Miguel’s “Hard Way” when I started writing this post. It’s a really dope song. The lyrics give us a peek into a particularly hurtful point in a relationship while the chorus tells us that for him, this sort of hurt is common; the sort of lesson he only learns the hard way. In my experience lessons learned the hard way have been the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. Have you experienced any of the above? What lessons has love taught you the hard way? Oh… and if you’re not familiar with the song peep it here: Miguel – Hard Way