Category Archives: Culture

people and living and how we bump up against each other for better and worse

Your Choices: Tangled and Thinking About Leaving?

Disclaimer: I am not a relationship counselor, nor do I play one on television. My thoughts are mine alone. Grain of salt and all that.

Talking authentically about unhappy relationships can be like broaching the topic of venereal disease at Bible Study. The response is likely to be neither neutral nor welcoming. Friends may have their own bitterness which gets stirred up by our wooden spoons; we might have to fight the ‘I told you so’s’ by the people in our lives who need better hobbies; our partners may be genuine turds who don’t appear that way to the world beyond our four walls and so WE appear to be the crazy people; maybe we just found out our love has betrayed our most sacred trust, and we don’t know how to begin the rebuild or if we want to; maybe parts of our support network are also unhappy and our admission of a shakeup pokes the elephant in their rooms which they respond to by getting angry at us. It’s easier than evicting an elephant. And, realistically, sometimes we’re just bored as humans and we blame it on our partners.

The tangles inside can feel heart-crushing, and when they do, it is a gift. Pain and discomfort are strong motivators, if nothing else, to stop and listen. What are our souls trying to tell us that our carefully crafted lives don’t have ears to hear? We resist going to these exploratory places inside ourselves because we intuitively know it will result in hard internal work and massive physical, social, emotional, and financial upheaval. These are not on par with decisions on what to have for dinner or which shoes look better with what skirt (always pick the boots!) — these are really big questions.

I am not advocating leaving relationships. I am extending the freedom to acknowledge possible tangles and presenting pragmatic options for consideration. Feeling stuck is, in my perfectly right and indisputable opinion, the WORST state in the world. And when we feel stuck and lonely with the person who is supposed to be our biggest source of comfort and companionship, it can be the loneliest kind of stuck ever.

The Choices: Whatever s/he’s done or hasn’t done or what we have or haven’t done, there are basically four tracks.

  1. Stay. Stay in the relationship and keep the status quo. Don’t change a thing. Carry on. See how long this can go on before true pathology appears or until our souls die.
  2. Stay and change. Stay and radically re-engineer it, probably with outside support. This choice may require purposeful and well-intentioned separation. Both partners need buy in, accountability, and support. (Givens no matter what — if we had the support we needed we probably wouldn’t have the feelings we do.)
  3. Leave. Go out on our own and get ourselves rebuilt.  Enter the game again when that work is done. That work involves a lot of self-examination and emotional digging and is not for the faint of heart. Start building support networks now.
  4. Take our dirty laundry and go start a new mess. Go get involved with someone else immediately. Deal with none of our baggage and set the stopwatch to see how long it takes until that implodes.

None of these is for the faint of heart!

Do we want to stay but only if vast AND sweeping changes are made? Or do we want to end this and need to figure out how? Do we not know yet? Whether we decide to stay and change or leave and go out on our own, there is tremendous change coming. This is okay. It is hard, but it is okay. There’s a reason that all the great faith traditions have parables about life coming out of death. Or the new cannot be brought forth without the passing of the old. It just seems to work that way. Our jobs right now are to be honest with ourselves, be gentle with ourselves, and start setting up a MATURE and supportive network.

I welcome your feedback and stories 🙂  I would love to hear stories from people who took all four of the tracks and what their processes were.

We give up a lot to keep things fair, and I cleaned out the car

…about contextual happiness…

I was in the car with the kids the other day (this was before Chloe and a friend tried to wax their legs with zebra-print duct tape) and the boys were fighting about how much money they had. I’d dispensed it out of sheer kindness and not as a link to any work performed. They had coins — fifty-five cents each, a pretty strong feeling I had based on the fact that I actually cleaned out my car the other day and thought it was kind of cute they’d both made nests for the coins I give them from my spare change.

(How many dirty socks can one person tote around before shame tips the balance? At least a dozen, it turns out.)

Zach thought he needed another quarter to make it equal, so I gave him a quarter. I couldn’t be sure.

(How I capitulate shamelessly to keep from going bat guano nuts in the car with complaining children is NOT the topic of this post.)

Matt thought he needed another nickel. Then Zach was mad because Matt had more nickels even though Zach had more money. It was insane.

Naturally, aside from the fact that I was just flinging bits of change at them in an effort to make them shut up, I was flawlessly adult in my speech.


I had them both stop and count their money which they did mostly because they find my flawless adult speech to be somewhat intimidating. They found they were, indeed uneven. But if you took Zach’s quarter and Matt’s nickel away, they were back to even, where they’d started.

You thought you were the only one, but you’re not. We all do this: compare ourselves with each other. As soon as the little critters perceived unevenness, the squawking began. They hadn’t done anything to earn the money in the first place. They both got more than when they started, but the unevenness made them unhappy and rather than let someone have more than they, they were willing to give up their gain.

We humans need to quit worrying about our neighbors’ flow and focus, instead, on the size of our own hoses. If our neighbors have big flow, how are they doing that and what can we learn? If we want more flow, quit comparing ourselves with our neighbors, and start learning about how to expand our own hoses.