You can never give up on the relationships that really matter
Things weren’t going right in a very close relationship of mine. No matter how much I did, no matter what I said, no matter what I became, it never seemed enough. I was questioned, I was condescended to and I was made to feel I would never be good enough. I was at my wit’s end. There was love, there was respect, but there was just no more joy in the relationship. Leaving the relationship was not an option either. Often, I felt stuck and troubled. The predominant emotion was one of resentment and self-pity – how much more could I give? What more could I do? Why wasn’t something changing – either within my friend, or me or in our relationship?
It was at this time that I visited a dear friend, Francis. Somehow, her calm and always introspective mood made me feel good. I especially enjoyed watching her teach her little son, Elias. That day, the child seemed to be in an especially bad mood and it seemed almost impossible to make him say his A, B, C properly. And yet she didn’t give up. Ultimately, after hours of cajoling, and making studies appear like a game, he gave way and completed everything he was supposed to.
She gave him a big smile and sent him down to play. Making a cup of coffee for both of us, she sat beside me and asked what was up. I immediately blurted, “How are you so patient with Elias?”
She laughed and said, “What other option do I have?” I said, “Come on, you know what I mean. Don’t you ever feel like you can’t do any more? Don’t you ever just feel like giving up?”
She said, “Sandra, in close relationships, in relationships that really matter, you can never give up. There is no such word as enough. You have to keep doing till you get the result you want – there is no other way out!”
I watched her closely, and asked, “There is no other way out?”
“No”, she said firmly, “And when you know there is no other way out – why not do what you need to do happily and with a lot more love and enthusiasm?”
I just watched her, silently.
She continued, “Either you take the tough decision and step out of the relationship. And if you can’t, stay in it happily. Give it whatever it takes. Someday, something will change. But until then you have to keep giving it everything it takes. You have to give it your best shot. The surprising fact is that while it may initially seem difficult, over time, it becomes easier. What’s more – you feel like a much better person. After all, whether it is you who is loving, or you who is being loved, the fact is that love remains in the relationship. If you also give up, what hope do you have for things to change?”
Everything about me changed within those few moments. Suddenly, I was ready to give and give happily. In close relationships, it was never about giving enough; it was about giving until the transformation took place.
Today, I would love to say it with authority – when you give happily, without a sense of ‘see how much I am doing for us’, things do change. Either you reach the point where you realise that the relationship is just not going to work out – but at least then when you step out you do so with the knowledge that you gave it all you had. There is no guilt. It is a matter-of-fact decision that despite giving it everything you had, it didn’t happen.
Or, the happier consequence would be that the relationship improves, blossoms and transforms.