Do relationships end because people change, or because they finally realise who they’re with? Or is it closer to going in with a belief that growth is possible, only to discover that their partner was uninterested in growth? Or maybe the possibility of growth spawned an immature competition between the two, and they grew apart instead of growing together?
I’ve seen and lived through my fair share (and then some) of bad relationships. The haunting reality of every single one of them was the amount of self-denial if not self-destruction that was insisted upon by one or both parties. In my mind, I visualise relationships as a glass half full. No, not that glass, another glass. We’re all semi-filled glasses of water in a way. Any person that claims to be entirely fulfilled by their own endeavours and independent of the contribution of others to feel completely whole is a liar.
Back to that glass. We hold on to many glasses in our lifetimes with each glass representing a major area of interest, or passion in our lives. When it comes to relationships, our relationship glass is half full as we invite others into that space. We only invite those that hold the promise of adding to that half full glass so that we can top it up, realistically only trying to approach the brim while knowing that getting it to overflow is rarely, if ever possible in this lifetime. This world was simply not created for such perfect fulfilment.
Nonetheless, when we invite others in, we hold an innate expectation that they will contribute towards that glass which will serve as inspiration for us to contribute to theirs. Sometimes, we’re not aware of how full or how empty the glass of the other is. We assume, based on our own perceptions and life stage, that those that appear similarly inclined have glasses filled similar to our own. This assumption, based on superficial interactions, inform our decisions to invite them in or pull them closer, all the while looking to draw on those expectations we never realised we had. It all seems natural until it’s put to the test.
The gaps that exist in the souls of others only become evident when they’re exposed to the prying eyes of one who appears less vapid. Often, this awareness is news to them as well because in our efforts to protect our vulnerabilities from the world, we’re easily convinced of our completeness in the face of adversity. Believing that we’re victorious over our adversities steels us against the harsh reality of our weakness or neediness. No one wants to appear weak, except where such appearances promise to solicit the affection of those we seek.
It’s quite the charade. When we desire the embrace of another, we’ll easily allow our weakness to show if there is reason to believe that such weakness will be perceived as tenderness, rather than impotence. Similarly, we go out seeking such weakness if we wish to be perceived as strong and dependable. But almost always, unless we’re self-destructive by inclination, we look for one that counter balances who we are. Our strengths must complement their weaknesses, and their strengths our weaknesses. Otherwise we encourage competition in a space where we seek harmony, and so the cycle plays out in varying permutations, all the while reflecting nothing more than the glass that needs to be filled, just in different ways.
When our expectations are failed, we respond in one of three ways. We cut our losses and focus on our investment in our own glass, protecting what little we’ve accumulated over time by extricating the drain on that precious life source that gives us reason to pursue a new day leaving the empty glass to find another source of affirmation from which to fill its voids.
At other times we compensate for what is lacking by complementing our lives with the contributions from others that are not fully invested in our intimate relationships, but fill the gaps of the plutonic needs that remain unfulfilled by the ones closest to us. Some see this as infidelity, depending entirely on your cultural or religious subscriptions, while others see this as a balanced reality that can’t be avoided. Again, entirely dependent on how you view the innocence or deviousness of such an effort. What it does do for the ones closer to us is it eases the burden of expectation that we place on them because we effectively buy ourselves time while waiting for them to catch up. We see their weakness and trust their sincerity to improve their state, so we offer them support while we nurture ourselves through other means in the hope that such alternate nurturing will be temporary only. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it taints us to the point of needing such variety of nurturing as a permanent feature in our lives.
The third response is the most destructive of them all. Pride, ego, commitment, or simply a rigidity informed by all of the above drives us to allow that drain to suck the life out of us as we wait patiently for the other to catch up. Their glass slowly filling up while ours drains, eventually resulting in them feeling emboldened in the face of our growing weakness. Their newfound confidence leading them to believe that they’re worth more than the spent soul they see before them, convinced that they were not the problem to begin with. In allowing ourselves to be exhausted in so many ways by contributing to a vacuum, we become the masters of our own demise. This is only ever possible if we feel responsible for the poor choices of others.
As I mentioned in my thoughts about unconditional love, sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others in fact denies those that are worthy of your full contribution to begin with. Allowing your glass to empty because of some irrational commitment to an outcome that causes more destruction than it contributes towards a wholesome life is not martyrdom, it’s foolishness. Worse than this, it is reckless and selfish, because that moment of self-indulgence, when we reduce the purpose of our lives to propping up those around us at the expense of our own well being is nothing more than a statement of ingratitude for all that we are, and all that we’re capable of being.
My glass will never be full, but I will never willingly allow it to be exhausted by others either. It’s the least I owe to myself, and to those that have a legitimate reliance on me to contribute towards their glasses as well. Anything less is unacceptable.