Romantic relationships are funny. Unlike anything else, we knowingly use them as the basis for committing some of the most asinine behaviors in recorded human history. For example, Henry VIII gave Pope Clemet VII the middle finger, was summarily excommunicated from the Catholic Church and supposedly entry into heaven, and in turn launched an entirely new religion, all to be with a woman – Anne Boylen – whom he eventually beheaded because she couldn’t conceive a male heir. Who got the short end of that stick depends on whom you ask.
When I think back to some of my own relationship catastrophes I immediately sense an exponential drop in my IQ. How can someone smart enough tie his own shoes have been so blatantly blind and incredibly stupid in affairs of the heart? There’s the one with the former ‘entertainer’ and rehabilitated ‘sugar baby’ who just couldn’t seem to keep other dudes’ pens out of her ink. Or the soon-to-be divorcee who just so happened to still be living with her soon-to-be ex-husband (separate rooms of course) as she waited for the house to sell. I fortunately never let it get as far as the well-worn phrase “I’m leaving him, I promise”.
Today I could spew a laundry list of reasons why these two romances and several others were a Titanic waiting to happen. But in that moment whether it was loneliness, insecurity, or just plain idiocy I had convinced myself, at least partially, that each one was destined to be something more – the magic sauce was there. Or maybe in the recesses of my naive mind, or just my ego, I thought that my chivalrous behavior, honesty, intelligence, and trustworthiness would overcome their more dubious histories. Like a modern day Robin Hood with a dash of Casanova I believed I could save these beautiful maidens from the clutches of the evil villain – notably themselves.
I often think back to those experiences when I hear of someone who has finally decided to cut bait on a relationship because ‘things aren’t getting any better’. Customarily this tragedy befalls the fairer gender who, after giving her sweetheart/boyfriend/FWB 46 different chances to cease and desist any plethora of character flaws decides that she deserves much better and the time has come to start ‘living for me’. Yet what should mark a new beginning too often ends up turning into a scene from Groundhog Day.
It usually goes something like this. Mr. Right falls off his lofty pedestal once the last and final straw has been broken. Which prompts pledges much like he did the other times she tried to leave ‘this time will be different’, ‘I’ll do better I promise’, even ‘I’ll get help’ with each new plea being more desperate than the next. And should she actually give in and stay initially things take a turn for the better. He stops going to strip clubs, finding himself in strange women’s beds, or doing lines of cocaine. But eventually, like the proverbial leopard, those spots are too deeply stained and he’s knee-deep in it all once again while she’s left beating herself up at being so foolish.
Or his reindeer games don’t have an affect and she actually puts her big girl panties on and kicks him out. Though saddened at the loss she feels so much better about herself, she’s free, independent, confident and self-assured. She did what needed to be done and she knows she’ll be better for it in the long run. Then one day – which is scientifically proven to be around 90 days after the breakup – she gets a random “I miss you” text or “I’m sorry” email. This happens to be exactly when that new-car-smell of freedom and self assurance she was basking in before before starts wearing off because the new life she anticipated isn’t working out like the brochure promised. And now considering it all she suddenly begins wondering if she made a huge mistake and even persuades herself that maybe he has changed. He says all the right things swearing the break was his wakeup call, it’s given him room to think and look at his life and he’s now gotten his act together. As if a lifetime of bad habits has been erased in less time than the gestation cycle of a chinchilla.
GNO’s and Hollywood romantic comedies have been built on what happens now. After constant urging and ample sweet talking she decides to meet him for coffee – besides it’s just coffee what can happen? The Salted Carmel Mocha tastes as good as he looks and smells and like Cinderella she’s suddenly swept up in the golden carriage where at the stoke of midnight she’s finds herself picking her bra off his bedroom floor wondering what the hell just happened! Did she just agree to get back together or did she simply let him cash in some frequent flier points?
Almost overnight they’re right back where they left off, and no sooner has she changed her relationship status on Facebook then the old shenanigans start all over again. And now all she wants is five feet of rope, two cement blocks, and a deep river. She just needs to figure out whether to use it on him or herself.
I’m convinced that people can change. Given the right frame of mind and the proper circumstances people have the innate ability to buckle their chinstraps and get down and dirty to fix what needs to be fixed. But what I’m not convinced of is real change when it’s tied to an ultimatum – fix it or we’re over! That signifies more than a few opportunities were given to make things right without success and now it’s time to bring out the big guns.
Really? Is that what love is about? To be reduced to relationship extortion in order to get someone to change? I pray that the Queen and I understand each other enough to never do something that would knowingly cause the other pain, but God forbid if it should happen that we would do whatever necessary to stop once we were confronted about it– not as a last resort.
In a loving and secure relationship one partner should never ever need to force the other to change. If one person’s actions are causing the other heartbreak and misery they should want to change out of love. Because if there is mutual respect and admiration in the relationship the willingness to change is simply a manifestation of those feelings, something one does for the other out of love not by way of a threat.