I’ve seen a lot of variations on this question pretty much since the day I started writing this blog, and I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot:
Something happened, now I think I’m going to lose them. How do I fix our relationship?
There’s something to be said for wanting to fight to keep a relationship, and I genuinely believe that you should give a crap about working on your relationships. Some of the time, at least. I think you should put in effort to work on building and even repairing a relationship, but, there comes a point where you have to realize that not every relationship can or even should be fixed.
First, some quick information about me that might give you more insight into my biases, because I’m definitely biased. Relationships, especially marriage, for me, are not inherently a good or bad thing, or a goal that I think everyone should aspire to. It’s cool that you’re married and that you’re happy, but that holds the same value to me as someone choosing to remain single, as long as they’re happy. Making a relationship work through hardship is cool, but not something that’s more laudable to me than choosing to leave a relationship because you think it can’t be fixed. Maintaining a relationship for the sake of children, or for religious reasons, or any reason other than just wanting to work to build a happy and loving relationship holds no value for me on its own. If it does for you, that is perfectly okay, I’m just telling you where I come from. I think we should applaud people for choosing to do things because they want to, not just because they think they should. Yes, I’m aware that I’d probably make for a pretty terrible marriage counselor.
I just don’t think that every relationship can be fixed. I also don’t think that every relationship should be fixed. If you wanted to, you could stay in a broken relationship for the rest of your life, and I’m sure there are countless people today who plan on doing that. There are people who work hard to stay with people not because they actually want to build a happy relationship, but because they want to build a relationship that will last, regardless of how healthy or happy the relationship is. I wouldn’t do either of those, and I don’t think that everyone should feel like they have to either. If you want to, no judgment, it’s just not my cup of tea. “We’ve been married for 30 years” is a neutral statement to me, what I think matters more is “We’ve been married for 30 years and we’re still happy together“.
I read this Reddit question and it’s part of what inspired me to write today’s post. If you’re too lazy to read it: He cheated early on in the relationship, then months later, surprise, he’s a got a kid on the way from the woman he cheated with. His girlfriend gave him an ultimatum, choose her or the kid, though eventually she acquiesced and decided that he could see the kid periodically with a lot of communication to reassure her that he still wants to be with her. He clearly wants to make things work but…maybe he shouldn’t? Maybe cheating, then having a kid, then having a girlfriend who tells you “Choose between your newborn or dating me”, then having to bargain with her to see your kid is a sign that MAYBE this isn’t a relationship that can or should be fixed. I’m not saying you need to leave her and enter into a romantic relationship with your kid’s mom, but that doesn’t mean you should stay with someone who suggests choosing between them or your child. That example is a pretty extreme one, but think of how many people you know, it might even be yourself, who worked to fix a relationship they should have just let go of. I’ve been in at least one relationship where I worked hard (or thought I did at least) to repair a relationship and honestly, I think deciding to end things worked out way better for myself, and the person I was dating at the time. I’m happier, she seems (and I hope she is) happier, and that happiness is directly tied to ending a relationship that couldn’t be fixed.
I can’t speak for every single nuance in every single relationship, but I believe that there is a point, not in all relationships but definitely in some of them, where you can neither fix nor should you try to fix your relationship. At some point you aren’t fighting for a relationship anymore, you’re fighting to maintain the status quo, no matter how utterly terrible that status quo is. Relationships are like houses. You build a foundation, then build up the house step by step, then you live in it and maintain it. You make repairs as the need arises, but for the most part your house should be something you’re happy to be in and something you’re proud of. If, down the line, your foundation is compromised to the point where it poses a risk to you and cannot be repaired, you don’t try fixing the roof, or painting the walls, you get out. If you lived in a house that would be condemned because it’s in such a state of disrepair and neglect, you don’t replace the doorknobs, you get out before you get hurt. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re just maintaining a crumbling relationship, one that brings you no joy, one where all you do is try to get back to a point where you’re slightly less unhappy, sometimes it’s better to just move on. You can and should try to work on your relationships, but not every relationship can or should be fixed. Give it an earnest shot, don’t give up easily, but sometimes letting go is the best thing you can do for yourself and your partner.
The questions you should ask yourself, when you’re fighting to stay with someone, fighting to keep what you have or what you had, is: Why? Why am I fighting for this? If you can answer it in a way that you think justifies sticking things out and working hard to repair or build a stronger relationship, go for it. If you don’t like your own answer, well, I think you know what I think you should do.
Good Luck Out There.