Fault Lines

We’re all at fault for something.  It might be something huge and deliberate or something small and unavoidable.  No matter how pure our intentions as we navigate through this world we cannot help but disrupt people we care about with collateral damage.  Through the heartache of my messy break-up part of me wanted desperately to remain blameless.  I wanted everyone to know how much I loved her, how much I tried, how much I wanted to make things work.  I wanted my friends and family to know.  I wanted her friends and family to know.  I wanted her to know. Maybe I thought the more people I could convince the more I might make it true.  I wanted to cry out ‘it wasn’t my fault’.  But that’s not true.  Not entirely.

For the most part, accepting no blame in a failed relationship isn’t realistic.  At the very least we make a choice to initiate the relationship and have some part in its conclusion.  I made the hard choice to move out regardless of my feelings for her or for us.  In moving out I put her in a difficult position and no amount of love or good intentions helped to ease her burden.  Her loved ones only saw the suffering she was left with and the bad guy that abandoned her.

In my mind I would rail against her for the blame she piled on me.  I would pour out in print arguments to every point; for how I tried to help and support her and how much of her current situation was based on choices made long before me.  And then I would blame her, for forcing me out and not being more accepting.  I don’t regret the choice I had to make, but I resent having to make it.  I remember telling the therapist that she was my ideal woman except she didn’t accept me, or my kids.  It sounded so right in my head, but so wrong when spoken aloud.  I realized that part of the sadness that overwhelmed me was simply anger.  I was so stuck on whether I quit the relationship prematurely that I dismissed all the times I didn’t.  All the times I tried to make it work.  All the times we fought over the same issues.  All the times we split, knowing there was no resolution.  When she turned around and found someone new I was pissed.  I was pissed that she would never change for me; she would never fully accept me or my kids for who we are.  Never.  There was no more hope that things would turn around.  No more chance at a future together.  There was no more path forward.

I understand there’s a strong case for both sides, I mean how much change is it fair to expect from someone?  Wanting to be accepted for who you are is just the other side of the coin to accepting that some people can’t change.  In the end, she just wouldn’t or couldn’t change for me, so she found someone else, someone who, at least from the start, seems less likely to present with the same limitations we ran in to.  I may not be able to fault her for that, just because we couldn’t find a way doesn’t mean we stop looking, but it breaks my heart that someone else should benefit from all my efforts and enjoy the woman I wanted because I couldn’t make her change.  No amount of love can force someone to be who they are not.  I tried to the point of sacrificing my own sense of self just to hold on to her.  To us.  But it wasn’t enough, just as she must have felt when she tried to plead for me to move back in regardless of whether things had changed between us or not.

I struggle over the memory of love shared.  I convince myself of the purity of that love.  I’m not sure if this is just another defense mechanism, to feel that I loved her more and that this somehow lessens my fault, or if I just want the love itself to be meaningful and significant even if only in memory. I thought again about the Proust quote “It is our imagination that is responsible for love, not the other person” and wonder if this is even more prevalent after the relationship has ended.

In the end none of it matters.  Regardless of fault or blame the fact remains that the relationship is over.  There is no path forward.  Beautiful or flawed as it may be distilled in my heart I cannot affect her narrative of the events that brought us to where we are today. Nor can I alter the opinions of others or their perception for how I left it. I am not blameless.  I can take responsibility for the choices I made and the hurt I caused through my actions while rejecting the minutia I had no control over.  Life is messy.  We make bad choices.  We make mistakes.  And we try to move on, navigating the inevitable fault lines that block our path to happiness.

 

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Write off Refusal

A baker, a lawyer and a gay couple walk into the Supreme Court,… stop me if you’ve heard this one.  If you haven’t it’s about the owner of a cake shop in Colorado citing a conflict between his religious convictions and a request for a slice of his artistic expression in the form of a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  Since his “expression” is protected by the First Amendment, he argues, he should not be forced to “express” something that he is morally opposed to.  So the question becomes when does a person have the right to refuse service to another?  Does a baker have the freedom of choice to not make a cake against his will?

We’d like to think that, as individuals, we have some free choice and free will remaining in our supposedly free society.  One might argue that while those freedoms are guaranteed to us as individual citizens they may not extend to the businesses we operate.   Does the act of hanging a shingle and starting a business imply you no longer have the choice of who you serve?  Well, yes; there are specific state and federal guidelines to protect against discrimination and while sexual orientation is not covered under the federal guidelines it is covered in Colorado where this case originated.  A restaurant can refuse service if you’re topless or shoeless, but they can’t do it based on your race, gender and, at least in Mile High country, who you want to marry.

Let’s take a step back; consider the movie star who enters the mantel of celebrity by choice of profession.  The simple act of doing what they love finds them in the spotlight, adored by millions of fans.  Does that new star status give strangers the right to disrupt someone’s privacy in the middle of a family dinner just to score an autograph?   Does the celebrity have the right to refuse the request?  Turning the celebrity analogy on its ear, let’s say you are a public shingle hanger and Harvey Weinstein walks into your establishment.  I think it’s fair to say everyone has a clear opinion of this man, so what if you’re not a fan?  How should you handle your new customer?  Regardless of what the local bylaws may state about lecherous power mongers there are likely to be people who would and wouldn’t be willing to sell the man a muffin.  In this context does the freedom to make the choice of service feel any more or less justified?

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Colorado has it right, and federal standards should already have protection for sexual orientation on the books, but I can’t help but feel that something about this idea flies contrary to the freedom of religion and religious beliefs.  While I may believe it’s morally wrong to exclude a group of people based on their gender identity or gender preferences, I can’t force my opinion on others.  It would be hypocritical to support ‘choice’ in all matters except this one.   Is it ok for certain requirements to silence the first amendment rights of one group in support of another?

From my pedestrian understanding of the constitution the First Amendment protects a broad spectrum of expression right up the point of being “personally incendiary or threatening”.  There are books, dissertations and case studies covering all the situations where this protection does and does not apply. The current question is whether it can protect someone from artistically expressing things they don’t agree with and what level of artistic expression a typical business owner can claim.  The judges were looking for a clear demarcation from the attorneys in the Colorado case for how to define professional artistic expression so that every individual does not end up making up their own guidelines.

The ruling on the case will influence how companies are expected to do business in the future, which is great, but a part of me still thinks a business should have the freedom to shoot themselves in the foot if they choose to.  If they want to knowingly alienate a segment of their customer base and consequently suffer bad yelp reviews they should have the opportunity to do so.  Alternatively, they could follow the example of local Freeport Bakery that, a couple of years back, willingly accepted a request to replace their popular Barbie Cake with a flamboyant Ken Cake complete with a finely crafted dress of pink buttercream.  Rather than bend to the initial negative feedback on social media the bakery stood behind their spirit of inclusion and eventually enjoyed more popularity and appreciation for their convictions.  (https://freeportbakery.com/ken-doll-cake/)

Putting legal matters aside, though smart shoppers should also be able to manage their own expectations of the marketplace.  Everyone knows that some stores better cater to specialty needs than others.  You wouldn’t order a taco at Pizza Hut.  You wouldn’t ask for the men’s department at Victoria’s Secret and you wouldn’t expect a Christian bookstore to have an ample section on erotica.  Simply put, a business should know their target audience just as that audience should have some knowledge of the businesses they target.  With a combination of free will and free Google searches we have the ability to find diverse options in all categories.  As much as we might want to support small local businesses there are other resources available out there is our vast, globally connected economy.  Celebrate the individuals doing what they love and find the best match for what you’re looking for.  Chances are a voluntary shop owner will provide you with much better service than one having a sharp square peg shoved up their smooth round hole.

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Sap Sucker

Is it just me or is there an abundance of tear-choked moments stuffed into the holiday season?  That isn’t a rhetorical question, it could very well just be me; I can get choked up by a simple heartfelt thank you for a door held open.  Sometimes even the smallest gestured can work their way into my emotional wiring, but I’m talking about the larger scale sentiment all around us.  There seems to be a global conspiracy to up the sap factor around the holidays.  Maybe its longer nights to fill with romance.  Maybe it’s the hot chocolate and warm layers thawing the chill of apathy.  Maybe it’s the excess of spiked eggnog or the excess of family that drives one to drink spiked eggnog.  Whatever it is, I’m all for it.

I heard a study about how risk-takers gravitate to spicy foods as a way to challenge themselves through controlled physical pain. They literally play with fire.  Similarly some people enjoy watching scary movies as a way to experience risk on an emotional level, toying with the adrenaline rush of jump scares.  For me the thrill is from indulging in the flood of feel-good propaganda that studios and advertisers mainline into our collective psyche.  There are the coffee commercials with a surprise homecoming on Christmas morning.  The hero’s victory against overwhelming odds.   The swell of triumphant music as the underdog confronts his fears.  Hearing Inigo Montoya declare “I want my father back you son of a bitch” before running through the duke.  Forest Gump promising Jenny that he knows what love is.  The five minutes that Allie stirs from Alzheimer’s fog in the Notebook.  90% of Love Actually.  And don’t even get me started on the patriotic reunions with soldiers surprising their kids with an early leave from the military.  It’s relentless.  And wonderful.

Of course all of this stirring emotion is purely hypothetical; certainly a grown man such as myself would have nothing to do with such sappy cinema unless he lost a bet with his girlfriend or the batteries on his remote died.  Men are taught from an early age that nurturing is a feminine trait, and sappy sentiment needs to be abandoned in order to better focus on professional superiority, beer consumption and baseball stats.  My dad knew when and where to find a sporting event on TV at any time, any day of the week,… though this is when there were only 12 channels to choose from.   I don’t remember watching many rom-coms in my youth.  The closest thing to romance I ever saw were the soap operas like General Hospital and One Live to Live.  Originally I was just drawn in by the thin layer of intrigue with Robert Scorpio and the WSB spy agency, but it evolved into a shared experience with my mom, who enjoyed updating me on the story-lines I missed while in school.  This gateway drug grew into an over developed sense of romance, having experienced none of it during my awkward adolescence I settled for living vicariously through John Hughes films and Lionel Richie songs.  Even though I primarily related with the weirdos and loveless, I could get behind any happy ending (even the pretty dude from 16 Candles,… for Samantha’s sake).  That’s all anyone really wants, a happy ending,… errr, not the kind they give you in a sleazy backroom massage parlor, but the ones we experience in the collective darkness that leaves us feeling better than when we first walked in,… ok, that’s not helping.  Moving on.

As I get older, it is increasingly difficult to have the same optimistic view I did as a kid.  When I was younger I could imagine taking on the role of the hapless hero, and winning the girl through gutsy determination and honest empathy.  I had a lifetime of adventures still to play out and any one of those could land me in a comedic situation where an amazing woman falls right into my lap,… face first, after sliding down a muddy hill ahead of pursuing smugglers.   It could happen.  Or so I thought.  These days, with the exception of the 40 Year Old Virgin you don’t see many movies with a nerdy middle age dude scoring a romantic victory for the team.  Instead watching those same movies today I either realize just how old those sexy actors have become, or I ask myself if I could honestly outrun smugglers at my age or find the romance in our predicament after breaking my tailbone off that mud slide.  I look with a more critical eye at the wildly improbable serendipity of these magical movie moments.  Relationships sparking from a chance encounter or an unlikely friendship that blossom into an enduring, meaningful partnership.  They make love look so easy when it’s not.

According to George Strait, and a few others, “love is everything” and if love is “everything”, then what is love worth? What would you give for love?  What would you give up for love?  In the movies the characters make sweeping soulful sacrifices in the name of love.  They perform grand gestures and displays of affection right after a stirring musical montage where they struggle over whether or not love is worth the effort,… and then concur with George’s assertion.  In reality though how does this play out in our day-to-day lives?  What if we don’t have the PTO hours to stage that stunning mid-week surprise?  What if don’t we have enough left in the monthly budget to fly off to Paris or suddenly abort a planned solo trip, rushing back into the arms of our soulmate without regard for our checked luggage?

I consider myself a romantic.  I will go further than most to find a meaningful gift or struggle for days to pen the perfect sentiment that can’t be captured by Hallmark.   Sometimes though that’s not enough.  Sometimes in a relationship it’s simply a matter of “what have you done for me lately” where previous gestures either fade into memory or set an unreasonable precedence towards future expectations.  “Thanks dear for yet another pair of earrings,… now, have you taken out the garbage yet?!” Despite our best intentions sometimes the sentiment alone isn’t enough.  And perhaps it is this very thing that makes the Hollywood fiction so appealing.  The necessities of life and years of practicality may have tarnished the glamour of the fairy tale ending as it applies to me, but I still enjoy reveling in it vicariously; it is the epitome of romantic optimism.

So whether it’s a perpetual viewing of It’s A Wonderful Life, the National Anthem sung in tribute to Boston Strong or 9-11,  Zac Brown singing “for the stars and stripes” while showcasing active soldiers or even a simple toast at the next family feast, enjoy the stirring in your heart and the lump in your throat.  Be thankful we are alive to experience these emotions and carefree enough to embrace them; Grab that happy ending anywhere you can find it.

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Poster Child

While entering a therapy session to discuss the crippling heartbreak from my last love I was greeted by an “inspirational” poster on the wall which said, among other things, “If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love”.  While I appreciated the sentiment, and desperately want to cling to that kernel of optimism, I have some issues with the core concept.  First off, the cheeky little poster also stated in rather simplistic fashion “if you don’t like your job, quit”.  In theory that too has merit, but on a practical side there’s no mention of what’s to be done in the aftermath.  Like how the hell are you going to support yourself after telling off your boss and burning bridges like kindling?  Does this poster realize how competitive job interviews can be?  Is he offering to maintain health benefits for you and your little dependents via Cobra installments?  Is the uppity little poster going to help make your house payments if you can’t find a more fulfilling role in the next month or two or three?  I understand, for the sake of brevity and liability my new friend is keeping it simple, stupid.  Alternately he could have said “if you don’t like your job, consider seeking out vocational training in another career, going back to night-school to learn some valuable new skills or dusting off that resume and exploring your options in the job market.”   While this may be a more appropriate rendition it’s not quite as catchy and wouldn’t leave sufficient space for the bit about finding true love.

Now, getting back to that bit and how doing the things you love will somehow attract your soulmate; does this mean that literally my heart’s desire is already frolicking around doing those things I enjoy so I’m bound to run into her eventually or simply that if I’m knee deep in enjoyment I will radiate magical pixie musk which will drive the love of my life straight into my arms?  Either option does have its appeal, except when you consider that a great many of the activities I enjoy are either individual pursuits or extremely male dominated.  Creative hobbies like writing, drawing or sculpting are generally done while tucked away in one’s fortress of solitude.  Sure, there are groups out there that do those sorts of things but those groups are mostly organized at senior centers for retired folk available to meet at the community center every Monday at 2pm right before hitting the early buffet at the Golden Corral.  Sorry, not quite the demographic I’m going for at the moment.  And then we have gaming which certainly doesn’t exclude woman, but finds them in a severe minority.  Their attendance can have the same effect as dragging a slab of BBQ ribs through a health spa, enticing the assembled flock to descend on the object of their desire with a feral mix of hunger and desperation.  I’m sure this prospect sounds absolutely delightful for the average woman.  I honestly wonder how many women that do attend these events are there on their own accord without having lost a bet or just being lost in general.  A few of those voluntary individuals must be of the serious hardcore variety and even that could be potentially problematic since I’m a moderate in all things; finding someone devoutly passionate in one of these interests could end up being more off-putting than appealing.  This is the reason I’m often attracted to those who have other views and interests outside my safety bubble so I can avoid falling towards extremes.  TEDTalk speaker Rabbi Jonathan Sacks put it more directly stating that “it’s the people not like us that make us grow” and that freedom is a key component to a successful relationship.

While I can appreciate the idea that you’ll find love once you stop looking, what are we to do with the here and now?  What about all the motivational speeches of living in the moment and finding your happiness in every ray of freaking sunshine?  I’m not getting any younger here people.  Am I supposed to waste my remaining years and my remaining hair follicles passively sitting back with the expectation that ‘the Universe will provide’?  If I followed Mr. Poster’s advice and quit my job would I stop looking for a new gig assuming one will come my way when the time is right?  Of course not.  As my uncle reminds me, job-hunting is a contact sport; the more contacts you make the better your chances of success.  Shouldn’t that philosophy apply equally to love?  Does finding the perfect woman equate to finding the perfect job? If Mr. Poster is to be believed we shouldn’t be compromising on either decision, but realistically how many of us have perhaps taken an imperfect job over the prospect of having no job at all?  (Am I the only one raising my hand here?) If we extend that attitude to a partner the wrongness of it does scream out, and probably accounts for many a failed rebound relationship.  So, we don’t want to compromise and we don’t want to wait.  What now?

For the time being I can understand that we should find our own happiness and embrace that, regardless of whether we’re singular or plural.  We can make changes to the one person we have power over, ourselves.  Certainly, a happy, fulfilled person will be perceived as more attractive.  We can work on the sex appeal of self-confidence and the serenity of inner-peace, all the while trying to ignore those random pretenders out there that seem to radiate a healthy optimistic vibe regardless of their true state of being… those are the ones you don’t know whether to hug or kick in the shins.  How dare they act so damned chipper while I’m struggling to maintain my happy peaceful aura?  Can’t you see I’m working here… you miserable shin-less vibe-radiating optimist!

But I digress.

Honestly, the only open path right now is towards recalibrating.  Hell, the opening sentence alone is proof enough that I should not be inflicted on another partner; I should probably be able to at least think about my previous relationship without hyperventilating before I consider signing up for another.  That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?  Meanwhile, the dating sites can continue to run on auto-pilot in the background while I work on my “happy” in a non-violent, non-shin-kicking fashion.  This should keep Mr. Poster quiet, not overtly offend the Universe and still leave me some lingering hope that a miracle spark will ignite my pixie musk into a screaming fireball of passion… just so I can quote that last line in our wedding speech.

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Harmonic Cupid Matching

From the male perspective, online dating is a completely different game.  In the predatory barroom setting typically the male has the dominant role of hunter,… or so I’ve heard.  In my lifetime I’ve probably engaged in this sort of bar scene drama less than a dozen times back in college and even that was under duress because friends and roommates, driven by alcoholic delusion, were convinced that their boyish charm would score them some dance floor groping if not a full-fledged one night stand.  And since misery loves company I came along for the ride and was therefore blessed with the opportunity to bear witness to their drunken failure and inevitable shame.  But despite me and my friends’ lack of success I was able to observe how the game should play out by individuals more dedicated to the craft. The perfectly puffed up male swaggers confidently over to well-positioned and well-manicured female and engages in some level of inane small talk for the sole purpose of stalling for time while they mutually assess their sexual attraction; the woman evaluates his potential as a lover, a provider, and his ability to make her friends jealous while the man evaluates if she’s at that alcoholic sweet spot safely between “willing” and “passed out”.

Ok honestly, what do I know?  I just admitted very little experience with this whole process so maybe I’m just jaded and there really is some soul-searching being exchanged out on the floor.  My point, though, is that the role of the male in these situations is still very clear, regardless of the depth of conversation or the sexual end game.  When this moved into the online dating realm the gender roles remained the same.  Everyone fills out the same profile information, posts the same self-portraits in the bathroom, and pads their preferences with the same white lies – guys pretend to not be couch potatoes, gals pretend to be really in to sports, and everyone pretends to enjoy marathons.   But after all that it’s typically the guy that initiates the first contact.  For the woman this plays out with them receiving a stack of invitations from a variety of suitors from which she can choose one or simply ignore the lot.  For the man this plays out with them firing off introductions in a shotgun pattern hoping that something will hit and trigger a random spark.  Sure you can spend all your time combing through profiles hunting for your perfect woman, but chances are a dozen other Romeo’s before you have already filled up her inbox with the same attempts at witty banter and romantic propositions that you were so proud of just moments before.  After a week of the virtual cobwebs you realize that your perfect woman, who the site promised was a 92% match with you, is not going to be writing you back much less bear your children or share matching rocking chairs on the porch of the retirement facility.  “Ok”, you think, “how about this one, she’s an 88% match?!”  This process continues until you find yourself, late one Saturday night, after one too many rum and cokes, writing to a 65% match that is 10 years, 80 pounds and 120 miles outside of your acceptable range, then waking up the next morning with a hangover and a vague recollection of the romantic promises you made to this mystery woman only to reach the sad realization that she too has chosen not to respond.

Having exhausted my pool of prospects in this manner I start to consider perhaps it’s not me (of course, how could it be); perhaps I’m just not on the right site!  In this age of online dating the variety of sites that has cropped up is staggering.  Now days I can sign up for a specific site based on my age, race, religion, occupation (at least if I’m a farmer) or even my chemical composition.  This all sounds like a fantastic idea until you consider that any restrictive classification only further limits the pool of available prospects.  Think about it; you can fill out as many questionnaires as you like detailing your preferences and ideal qualities but if there are only three 40+ year old, Jewish farmers in the Sacramento area how meaningful is any of that amassed information really going to be?  It’d be like if I walked up to a vending machine looking to score a package of peanut M&M’s only to have it spit out a bag of stale trail mix with carob chips because that was the closet match.  Did I benefit any from finding my own personal vending machine?  I could have stepped into Costco and ended up with the same bag of trail mix but at least I would have had more options for substitution.  I could have settled for a jumbo bag of Goobers,… like that night I had one too many rum and cokes.

So am I bitter because the online dating world isn’t magically dispensing the girl of my dreams?  Wasn’t that subliminal marketing promise?  Isn’t it written somewhere in the cosmic small print that your efforts will be rewarded?   Ok, so maybe it is just me.  Maybe if Gerald Butler felt he needed online dating to meet the perfect woman he too would find a flooded inbox filled with provocative propositions.  Maybe that’s the part I’m bitter about.  Why can’t I lie down and be the proverbial prey for a while?  I want the woman to abandon the old fashion traditions and take some initiative damn it.  I did find one site that was basically the online equivalent of a Sadie Hawkins dance; it’s all about the woman being in control and initiating the selection process.   This sounds great in theory but doesn’t it come down to the same principle; woman having the ultimate power of selection over multiple suitors.  I guess the only real difference is I enter into the process accepting my passive role as the bag of Gooblers.

Either way I’m getting the impression that online dating is not the magical panacea I once thought it to be.  Just because we’ve transitioned to a virtual bar scene doesn’t make it any more glamorous or me any better suited to navigate it.

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Five Houses

My first house was snug, and shiny.  We arrived with empty arms.  We left a few years later cradling a toddler and dreams of more.

My second house was large, and promising.  We made it a home and grew a family.  And grew apart.  Several years later I left with a broken heart and a broken family.

My third house was a renovation.  It started with tears and welcomed love.  It was my shelter in a storm of transition.  I left two years later, my heart soaring for a new beginning and a new family.

My fourth house was idyllic, and pristine at the start.  We exploded into it with passion and fury.  It was a struggle to endure and more so to let go.  I left three years later with a broken heart and another broken family.

My fifth house is a blank slate.  It starts with tears and my arms wide empty.  I hope it fills with love.

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Quit It

“Nobody likes a quitter”.  This was the sentiment my mother instilled in me from an early age.  She identified what she saw as an emerging pattern during my childhood years that became cause for concern.  It started with Boy Scouts, after a poor showing at the Pinewood derby.  My dad didn’t have time to help me build my car and neither parent had the time or inclination to attend the event, missing the dramatic moment when my car lost a tire in the first race and flew off the track as I watched in horror.  For soccer I lasted a bit longer with maybe 3-4 seasons under my belt before realizing I wasn’t developing as a top-tier player, a fact I’d be reminded of daily when picked near last for scrimmage teams.  I saw no point in torturing myself or my teammates any longer so I opted out around the time I started middle school.   As the years passed I would go on to quit religious school following my Bar Mitzvah, the clarinet right before starting high school, and the cheesy karate class at the local YMCA almost immediately.

My mom called me a quitter, with nary a word minced or a feeling spared.  She said it had to stop.  I had to quit being a quitter.  The question is “when is quitting really quitting and when is quitting simply stopping”?  You can’t do everything forever, there’s not enough time in the day to continue on with every activity you’ve ever attempted.  There are some things you are just not well suited for.  You need to find your passion, something you have an affinity for and want to pursue indefinitely.  If you start something like martial arts or gymnastics what’s the acceptable endgame; earning a black belt or a regional championship, or do you shoot for grand master and Olympic medalist.  If you eliminate the option to “quit” what is the point at which you can say ‘I’ve given this a fair shot, I’ve learned what I can, I’m gonna move on’?

We can all agree that some things are good to quit.  We quit jobs we’re fed up with.  For Lent or New Year’s Resolutions we quit bad habits.  Smokers try to quit all the time with mixed success.  Actually in the case of smoking you have the opposite problem, where quitting isn’t even close to the endgame.  Every day you might be tempted to surrender the struggle to quit and just pick up the bad habit all over again.  You essentially quit quitting.

With all of that in mind, how does the concept of “quitting” apply to relationships? When is quitting really quitting and when is quitting realizing you are not the perfect match you once hoped for?  There are many opinions on the subject especially when it comes to divorce.  On the one side you’re advised to “stay together for the kids”, and told to work through the conflicts because “you made a commitment”.  On the other side you’re offered “happiness above all else” and “you only live once” as friends try to help you move on.  Blind commitment to a relationship seems to leave no room for the potential of a mismatch, whether it takes you seven days or seven years to discover it.  Certainly this sentiment can be overused and exploited as flimsy support of the male polygamy, but I’m talking about honest heart-felt relationships where a deal breaker surfaces for either party or someone simply falls out of love.  How much should you work through it in an attempt to keep the relationship alive and at what point is it time to cut bait and move on.    What is a valid reason to quit?  What differences are too different?  What offenses are too great to overlook?

A sense of commitment is the secret of a successful relationship.  Having a long view perspective on the relationship reduces stress and conflict in the daily grind.  If you can focus on the “we” and “us” in the long-term rather than the “you” and “me” of the short-term you will naturally approach hardships differently.  A national survey stated that 73% of couples sited “lack of commitment” as the major reason for divorce.  But what about conflicts with preexisting commitments; a friend they can’t stand, an in-law that doesn’t approve, or a child they don’t understand.  This leads to worse of all possible endings, where the love never quits.  The expression “sometimes love isn’t enough” sounds like a weak excuse until you’re grappling with it firsthand.  Conflicts with kids and parenting can cause a rift in a relationship that is elsewise resilient.  Can you justify breaking an earlier commitment to make a new commitment work?  How do you quit a relationship you don’t want to leave?

Oprah’s frequent guest, Gary Zukav, spoke of relationships in terms of growth and spiritual connections; a spiritual partnerships is a relationship between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.  Each is responsible for their own spiritual growth but if the relationship should reach a point where one person is no longer able to grow then the relationship should be terminated.  Thus Mr. Zukav wisely provides a logical end point; when either person stops growing spiritually within the confines of the relationship.  Sounds great in theory but spiritual stagnation may be a difficult metric to measure. How do you separate stagnation from the many spiritual wounds a struggling couple may naturally inflict?

I become paralyzed in indecision, over thinking the whole dilemma but unable to ignore my mom’s voice in my head calling my childhood self a quitter.  I want to make sure it’s not true.  I want to be sure that quitting isn’t a faulty personal trait but a natural expression of free will.  There are plenty of things I didn’t quit.  I never stopped drawing. I never stopped gaming. I never stopped writing.  Some things, the important things, you don’t quit.  I will never stop loving my kids no matter what happens and I know I’m capable of a relationship I won’t quit.

I think in the end we never really know if the decision to quit is right, until after we’ve made it.  If quitting was the wrong call, we feel the strangling of our hearts almost instantly.  If quitting is the right call we feel a lightness in our hearts as it soars with relief and release.  Sometimes that choice is taken from us, and quitting is the only option. Either way we must continue forward.  We must continue to live, and to grow.  We will make mistakes and we will learn, hopefully, from those mistakes.  We must quit torturing ourselves for quitting, even if it was a mistake.

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Tales from the Mid-point