Loving people provide nourishment; we need them. Children and adults need love. When we lack love, our emotional and physical health suffers. Emotional and physical well-being suffers. Conversely, when we receive warm attention, appreciation, acceptance and affection, we grow. But when love doesn’t easily come, leaving isn’t the only answer.
Unfortunately, many relationships lack love. The often given advice by outsiders is leave; you deserve better. As if leaving is easy. This advice is seldom appropriate, given by an outsider that knows little about the intricate details of your relationship. There are times when leaving is appropriate, but not always. Intimate relationships develop through time, care, and skill. Quickly abandoning ship will never establish a firm foundation for love to flourish. Relationships will never consistently provide all our needs. There are times when leaving is appropriate for safety and well-being. But fleeing salvageable relationships without examining personal responsibility for the failures positions us for continued struggles.
Ending a relationship adds more chaos. New relationships will inevitably contend with drama carried over from the old relationship. Both external issues—finances and children—and internal issues—emotional connections, fears, and hurts. Simply leaving doesn’t make the old relationship vanish. The relationship still exists, just under new conditions. Even after leaving, we may still be torn with the decision. Guilt may drive us to continually seek acceptance from our past partner, children, family and mutual friends. Financial obligations, complex child custody arrangements, and emotional separation interfere with forging new relationships. These difficulties give rise to anger, sorrow, guilt, and sadness. Maybe these complexities are worth abandoning the relationship—but many times that they are not.
A partner’s shortcomings—which we all have—are conveniently used to justify relationship struggles. We blame partners for our personal relationship inadequacies. Our responses, actions, expectations and relationship skills easily are dismissed when we label a partner inconsiderate, selfish, or mean. The all-encompassing character labels influences every discomforting interaction. Instead of a compassionate understanding, all issues are assigned as proof of the badness of our partner. When we believe our partner is bad than blaming them for the struggling relationship is easy. We give up on personal assessments and begin manipulations. The relationship can’t improve until we dismantle this all-encompassing judgement—we used to love this bad person.
Before abandoning ship, ask yourself, “Am I bearing the fruits of love: attention, appreciation, acceptance and affection.” We all can bring more to the relationship. Only in healthy environments love exists. Manipulation through angry words, harsh accusations and hurtful label never establishes intimacy. Some may argue, “But then she’ll never do what I want her to do.” Manipulations successfully motivate others. Others respond to avoid the discomfort of being in trouble. But actions motivated out of fear come at a cost. The victim of our harshness harbors feelings of resentment; not feelings of appreciation. They acted for the personal gain of avoiding punishment. Eventually this channel closes. Hidden resentments accumulate. And love disappears.
Mastering any skill requires effort and resiliency. New behaviors fail often. We stumble through them. Although majority believe they are naturally gifted at loving, most of us are not. Natural abilities, alone, don’t create successful relationships; successful relationships require years of conscientious work. Do you want a successful relationship? If yes, then expending the energy to master the necessary skills. Genetically we have the tools. But we must develop the skilled use of these tools. This development requires study, practice, therapy, grieving, and observing. Even then, we still notice the shortcomings of personal relationships. They provide much but not all.
True intimacy is a life time’s work. We fall short as partners—our chosen companions fall short. We all have limited relationship resources. Learning to navigate around and through these limits without excessive blaming and manipulating, will ultimately determine the success or failure of relationships.