Relationships: Know when to Hold Them and When to Fold Them

On a warm summer’s eve
On a train bound for nowhere
I met up with the gambler
We were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a-starin’
Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us, and he began to speak. (Kenny Rogers)

Love is the greatest gift life affords us. Two people unite and become one, as both strive to make sense of their individual life journey as it stands in relationship to the other. As the lyrics to the song The Gambler suggests, when faced with a journey into uncharted waters, sometimes the tension that exists between solitude and belonging will give way, as the two parties learn ways to overcome the chasm that divides them.

In love, we oftentimes know not where we are going. However, we move into this unknown territory by taking blind leaps of faith, placing trust into the irrational world of emotions, hoping life, love, and happiness will fill the emptiness of a heart we have opened to love’s gift. At its best, the relationships we chose can create and add to our individual journey. They can give us a means to measure and take part in all that life has to offer. Love is a means by which we can foster our life path forward. It’s creative potential is unfathomable, and with it comes the utmost responsibility of naturing the path and the decisions we have engaged. Through the loving relationships we create, the waiting vessel of our soul is allowed to grow, as we learn not only to nurture ourselves, but also to nurture the individual growth and development of those that we love. At its worst, when love fails, we are left to pick up the pieces, face the emptiness of a heart left broken, as we strive to make sense of what was, so we will not be doomed to make the same mistakes again.

So when a relationship ends, why is it so hard to say goodbye to what was? Why is is it so difficult for people to move on with their lives, reclaim their individual happiness, and in turn, begin to love themselves so that they may again open themselves up to love from others?

In a few words, sometimes the hell of being involved in a relationship that goes nowhere, yet is known, far outweighs the hell of throwing in the towel and facing the uncertainty of the unknown and uncharted waters of being single.

We strive to be with people. From a psychological perspective, our relationships with others provide a mirror by which we can determine our individual growth. Relationships provide markers by which we can determine the success or failure rate of the life visions we create. In healthy relationships, individual growth is assured through the capacity the relationship has to encapsulate and nurture new areas of individual interest. In other words, if travel is an area of individual interest, the relationship must grow to encapsulate this interest. If not, a position of sacrifice will be assumed by one party, which will in turn foster negative feelings regarding both the relationship and the individual that stands in opposition to pursued dream. However, in the case of healthy relationships, their is a sense of give and a take, where the relationship will nurture the goals and dreams of the individual within the context of relational growth.

So, when should you hold onto the the relationship, and when should you feel justified to let it go?

This is a question that most likely will take therapeutic intervention, especially if you are in the decision making process of whether to stay or go. Because you are not removed from the good and bad aspects of your relationship, it will benefit you to seek independent counsel, so that you can determine if your relationship is indeed nurturing your individual growth forward. A marriage counselor can help. However, there are steps you can take before counseling, that will help you determine if your relationship is worth doubling down or letting go of.

  1. How do you feel in your relationship? Your individual needs must be met within the context of your relationship. By assuming a position of sacrifice, you assume there is not enough of you to love for who you are. The only commodity in life you will never get back is your time. Quit waisting it! If you are unhappy, identify what you want, ask for it, make room in your life to receive, and then be grateful for the gifts you are afforded. If your significant other provides this, double down and nurture the areas of life you feel most happy within. You and your partner will flourish, as you both learn new areas of personal joy and interests. If your needs are not being met, let go. It will be easier to deal with the grief in the here and now than regret spending more time fighting against the relationship tide.
  2. What’s your individual vision, and does your relationship support this? Let’s say you are focused on your career. You want to move up the corporate ladder. But you also feel the need to have a family, and assure they are cared for. Does your relationship support this scenario. Are one, or both of you willing to support the other in the attainment of this dream. Can one party assure your children’s wellbeing, while the other becomes the breadwinner of the home. This is important, because if both you and your partner stand in opposite directions, your relationship, and those involved in its wake will see no movement, no individual growth, and will, like the vision you have, stagnate in the wake of having too many directions.
  3. Prioritize your vision and FOCUS your efforts. While having multiple visions is a natural part of life, they must be prioritized and focused upon. Having one vision, and promoting 100% of your energy towards it will be far more beneficial than having four visions and focusing 25 % of your time towards realizing all four. As you prioritize and focus, your relationship should fall into order, and stand in support of your mutual individual and relational goals. If not, it is time to let it go.
  4. Prepping your exit – If you have decided to let it go, you must prepare your exit strategy. When involved in a relationship, numerous financial, social, and emotional dependencies exist. When two people unite, they co-mingle their financial, social, and emotional lives with one another. It is imperative to prepare your exit, so you can get back on track to support your future growth individually.
  5. Know thyself – If your relationship is not supporting your personal growth, get to know thyself. You may have developed interests that only you and your partner shared, but in becoming single again, you must get reacquainted with yourself. Try things that you had fun with pre-relationship. Starting over, you may find you enjoy things you once did before you got involved in your relationship. If not, drop them and experiment with other areas of interest. Remember, your life is an experiment, and if you find areas of interest that bring joy into your life, you will ultimately make room for others who share in those interests.
  6. Don’t confuse social media for being social – You may have 3,000 friends on Facebook and 4,000 pins on your Pinterest. But how well do you really know these virtual friends. It is imperative to socialize around areas of interest you find and develop. Remember, social media has been shown not to be as social as it is thought. Instead, it is more of a reflection of who we are as individuals and who we want to portray ourselves to be to others. You already know your areas of interest. Instead of being behind a computer screen get out and find others (real people) that share in the areas of interest you developed.
  7. Be grateful for the journey – whether a relationship succeeds or fails, it is imperative to assume a position of gratitude for the lessons learned. There is no such thing as failure in a relationship. There are only lessons to be learned. Do not approach a break-up from a perspective of failure. It is simply one, or both of you grew apart from the other. By learning about your expectations, you have new interview material from which to judge whether a person will, or will not meet the expectations you have about a relationship. Be true to who you are, and love will follow. Get to know thyself, love thyself, and then you can get to know and love others as they relate to your individual life journey.

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