As I’m doing my radio shows I’m finding that each host has questions that they ask about relationships that I can tell are a bit personal; they want their own questions answered. It’s very sweet.
One such question was, “What is a healthy time frame to give a relationship before you leave?”
Many people ask, how long; what is healthy; when will I know if its…
We all want a guideline and we think it looks like a timeline. “You have six months to start picking your socks up off the floor, or I’m outta here!”
How engaging is that? If you ever have a counsellor that tells you to set a deadline or else…I would run away screaming with your hands in the air as quickly as possible.
I say we should start asking different questions. How about these: Do we both want the same things (connection, commitment, etc) and are we heading in the same direction? Even though we have setbacks, or go through times of questioning, am I still heading in the direction I want to go?
If you have watched my videos, you know that Liz, my BFF and I struggle sometimes with our emotional responses to each other. And we have an ongoing commitment to get to the other side, no matter what.
I was really tested with this commitment very recently. We had gone on a trip to Mexico together in February and spent most of the time uncomfortable and disconnected. It wasn’t very fun.
Since then I have felt very shut down and every time I thought of reaching out to her, I would stop. I just didn’t want to connect. And it stayed that way until a couple of weeks ago-for seven months. I really questioned whether I wanted to be in a relationship with her.
And, regardless of that, I still was committed to being open and available for what wanted to happen. It didn’t mean I had to stay friends if I really didn’t want to, but it did mean that I had to stay open to a new possibility and that if I was to walk away, it would be with love in my heart, not resentment.
The reason I wanted this so badly is because I knew this was my wall. This exact thing is what kept me walking out of relationship after relationship and I knew I didn’t want that anymore.
So I asked Liz to go for a walk where we could talk. I told her everything that was going on for me. I told her I had been mad at her since we went to Mexico and I blamed her for us having a crappy time. I told her that it felt easier for me to walk away than to get past this wall I had. I told her I didn’t know what to do. And we left it at that. We knew we didn’t have to have an answer; that it would come when it was ready.
And, of course, given our commitment to openness and connection, within a week an opportunity opened up. We were in the thick of an emotionally reactive situation when I did something different than what I normally do. What I normally would do is cower and start being nicer and nicer to Liz, trying to get her to stop being mad. That always resulted in her becoming more and more angry.
Instead I said, OK-enough! I don’t want to fight with you, so you are going to have to leave. That was when she also did something different as she knew I was serious. She asked me what I really wanted. I searched my heart and found that what I really wanted was to get re-connected. So I said we need to go have a conversation and get this sorted or she was to leave (not the friendship forever, just in the moment) as I’m not willing to walk around on eggshells around each other anymore. It wasn’t exactly pretty, it was new, but it was a step in the right direction. Toddling steps.
I don’t remember what we said, but in the end we cried and hugged and my heart felt open and loving again. We spend the rest of the day laughing until we cried. Fun stuff.
Can you imagine what would have happened if I had given the situation only six months and if I didn’t feel any different, I was going to walk away?
Again and again and again, any time I am open and willing to have a new experience, it happens. And that is and always will be our commitment to each other. If that ever changed for one of us, I would imagine the friendship would end as I wouldn’t be able to say yes to the question: Do we both want the same things? It would be clear after we kept struggling and one of us wasn’t willing or able to do something different, then our hearts would eventually tell us when it was time to leave.
If you are married for 50 years there are going to be some tough times. And sometimes those tough times can last for months or even years. The question always remains: Are you on the same page and are you headed in the right direction regardless of how it may look sometimes? It’s the commitment to each other and to the marriage that keeps it together for 50 years.
And you don’t have to be in a marriage or relationship to practice. Is there someone in your life you want to get more connected to, but have something in the way? Go tell them and see what happens.
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