Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sometimes relationships fail. People grow apart, their goals shift, they realize a mistake was made, or they simply change their minds. My philosophy regarding relationships is that they are transient. I accept that relationships may end for any number of reasons. That doesn't mean relationships aren't valuable to me, they are. I don't enter into them lightly, nor do I give them up easily. Entering into a relationship for me involves a psychological as well as an emotional commitment. When I agree to a relationship I am committing to do everything I can to work through problems. I'm agreeing to try and compromise, to communicate, to understand, respect, and meet my partners needs as best I can.
Prior to entering into a relationship I like to have a lot of conversations with a potential partner. Just a few are things like how important communication is to me, that I am willing to try to work out any and every problem we may encounter, that we will do our best to support each other. Essentially I want to ensure we both understand the commitment we are making. This way of approaching relationships has worked fairly well for me. Rarely do I lose the friendship when a relationship ends or changes. There usually aren't hard feelings afterwards nor are there huge emotional explosions. Most of the time my relationships morph into a good friendship with both myself and my partner agreeing it is the healthiest thing for us both. Other times my relationships will naturally change to a friendship without the need for conversation.
Recently I had a romantic relationship dissolve that threw me for a bit of a spin. Being a fairly new relationship I wasn't completely surprised it happened. We had only been dating a couple of months and though we had what I thought was a good connection we were still learning about each other. What surprised me was how the relationship ended.
Prior to entering into the relationship we had the requisite talks. My existing partner was present for many of the conversations since she was also entering into a relationship, though separately, with the new person. We were all in agreement about things and the relationships moved forward. My relationship with the new partner quickly became romantic and we began depending upon each other. Soon after, my new partner went out of town for a couple of weeks on a trip where communication wouldn't be possible. Upon their return I expected some communication but didn't get any. I reached out a couple of times but each time my new partner was busy or unable to talk at the moment, so I let it go figuring they would contact me when there was some free time. After some time with no communication I finally got a hold of my new partner and ask them what was going on and why they weren't communicating with me.
The answer, "I changed my mind".
Further conversation basically revealed my new partner didn't feel we had the connection originally felt and had decided that our relationship should be a friendship rather than romantic. And they were very persistent about my agreeing to maintain a friendship. There was no allowance for compromise or working out what they felt were differences. There was no room to consider that since our relationship was new we were still adjusting to each other. They had made up their mind, with no input from me, and were essentially telling me how things would be. It was stated by the person that we would be good friends now.
Now, I'm a realist and I know that sometimes you can try to work with someone in every way possible and still come to an impasse. When you have put in your best effort, invested time and energy, and still can't resolve things then of course it is time to make a decision for yourself which may include ending the relationship despite the other persons desires. But we never got to that point since they had never even told me their feelings were in question or changing.
Much to their dissatisfaction I refused to agree to a friendship at this time. I wasn't happy about that decision but feel I had no other choice. You see, with all the conversations we had together this person had agreed to commitment within our relationship. They had agreed to communication, resolving problems, respect, and other things I mentioned above. In general, they had agreed to partnering with me to make a relationship. Instead they had made a decision for us both. I felt they had disregarded our agreements about communication and partnering to build our relationship. In my mind a friendship is still a relationship though the expectations are largely unspoken. You expect a certain amount of respect and for your friend to keep their word. This person hadn't kept their word when it came to our agreements and in doing so showed a lack of respect. If they couldn't keep specific agreements we had made about a romantic relationship how could I expect them to keep the unspoken agreements of a friendship? How could I agree to a friendship knowing they might suddenly change their mind again?
So what I'm asking for today is a reality check. What do you think about my decision? Do you agree or disagree? And why? Would you have handled things differently, and if so how? Have you been in this situation before?