It’s weirdly full circle being in Greece again in 2022. 11 years ago, I traveled to Greece for the first time. Two years earlier, I moved from Minnesota to Arizona, in a slow emotional recovery from a 7-year on-and-off verbally abusive relationship during high school, college, and post-graduation.
During that momentous Greece trip in 2011, I decided: I was healed, and I was ready for another relationship.
I met a guy a few months later who I stayed with for three years. After that ended, I had two more long-term-ish relationships in my late 20s.
And if any of those men saw me now, they wouldn’t recognize the person I’ve become, because: to each of them I repeatedly asked (or insinuated) this question, with a hint of panic, “Sooooo, when are we getting engaged?!?!”
(Of course, I was feeling the pressure from society, and reflecting that onto my partners: the pressures that women in relationships on the brink of age 30 face about hitting those milestones while the clock was ticking.)
Now, I’m in my mid-30s, and my attitude has completely changed: marriage is not even on my radar. Don’t tell my family, but… I actually kind of DON’T want to get married. (Not that there are any contenders right now, mind you.)
It’s because I’ve finally come to the realization that for me, longevity is not the goal. Impact is.
And that’s because some people are only meant to stay in your life for a season.
Of course, I can appreciate my long-term friendships and romantic relationships. When bonds continue to prove fruitful and rewarding, when we continue growing, making good memories, when we contribute to each other’s lives and inspire each other, and take care of each other… that is a beautiful thing.
But my mistake in the past has been to hold on to something long past its due date… when it is unhealthy, when it isn’t working, when it isn’t contributing to my well-being… even through poor behavior or abuse… because I’ve already invested in and committed to so much.
Case in point… that 7-year on-and-off relationship, the man I kept coming back to in spite of numerous lies, infidelities, insults and name-calling. An extreme example, but a pattern of mine — I hesitate to cut loose the men who I KNOW are wrong for me (even the most innocuous ones), while making excuses for them and sacrificing far too much of myself.
In this example, I went back to him because 1) I didn’t have the self-esteem I have today, and 2) I was experiencing something I like to call — feeling “pot-committed.”
“Pot-committed” is a poker term for when there’s almost no chance you can win with the hand you have, but you continue to bet because so many of your chips are already in the pot. It’s also called the sunk cost fallacy. It’s psychology — when people have invested a significant level of time, money or effort, they are averse to call it a day — even when the evidence shows there’s no likelihood of positive outcome or improvement.
It’s why unwinnable wars continue at the incredible cost of human life, so “soldiers’ lives aren’t in vain.”
The truth is… many relationships end. As many relationships should.
And let me add: I am not wounded. I am not bitter, angsty, or jaded. I am not a product of a broken marriage, just the opposite — my parents were happily married 49 years until my dad died. Nor do I consider myself unlucky in love: I had relationships that ended. I had relationships that never got off the ground. I met men who were not willing to invest in getting to know me, but were after instant gratification. There were many times I did not invest either, because I didn’t see a match.
I say all that because there are some people who might consider my take polarizing, or unorthodox. People who have been told all their lives that there is one person for each of us, that soulmates exist, that marriages are commitments that can’t end, that a failed marriage means a failed person, or that a person who’s never been married has something wrong with them, or a commitment that’s not been codified is not commitment.
That no matter what, people should stay together: that longevity is the primary, praiseworthy goal.
I’m ok with relationships being short-term if they’re not right in the long-term.
I’m ok with being in a relationship that is never codified by law, where both parties are not forced to stay in something they both don’t want for financial or familial reasons or to please others.
I’m ok with meeting people at certain times in my life, having meaningful, impactful friendships and relationships… and then letting go when it’s run its course:
- Friendships that are no longer mutually beneficial or serving one another.
- People who stop contributing, caring, or investing, and love that expires.
- Or, people who want different things, where one person has to be less of themself to accommodate the other.
- And people who become the worst versions of themselves when they are together.
- It’s called a breakup because it’s broken, and likewise, a broken relationship should become a breakup.
People change, and relationships change with them.
Longevity is a wonderful thing to mark and celebrate… but it should not be at the expense of a positive, beneficial impact… or at the expense of yourself.