The elderly man, married for 57 years, who spelled out the secret to a long-lasting marriage as “When you want to leave, don’t!” was born, married, and had children in a completely different relationship paradigm. What if some relationships are not worth having and there’s an opportunity cost of staying?
Just a few decades ago, the last two sentences would be unthinkable. A few willingly endured the stigma and consequences of singlehood. Today, we see a preference for staying single among a huge percentage of the population. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health scientists found that unmarried women live healthier lives and had lower BMI’s, waist sizes, and much lower risks of abusing smoking and alcohol. 45 percent of all Americans ages 18 or older are unmarried, more than ever in history, according to a 2017 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Relationship expert Esther Perel poses that we’ve shifted towards a desire for personal fulfillment and defining ourselves in our own authentic terms, which makes us less interested in conforming to tradition and compromising. Also, less prone to judge ourselves by the standards of our parents and more willing to defend our personal space, goals, and desires as part of an ever-evolving and unique identity. In a relationship, “ever-evolving” and “unique” could contradict stability and certainty. While people used to separate because things were bad, now they separate because things are not good enough, not fulfilling, not interesting, not stimulating, not exciting, not erotic enough.
Which way is the better way? The way of “death does us apart” or the way of independence and personal fulfillment? We praise couples in long marriages, but we know nothing of what life looks like behind closed doors. No one gets a medal for endurance at the end of a long-lasting, miserable relationship.
Consider a 10, 20, 30-year cold marriage, boring sex, if any, passing each other around the house like the furniture you put there in the ’80s vs the possibility of feeling alive, vibrant, energized, and sexy! Staying because you don’t know what to do, is just doing time. Time, you can’t ever get back.
Consider the possibility of a partner who’s not there for you, but uses you to raise the kids, or pay the bills, or buy the house, or do the laundry. Who prefers TV over talking about your day, or your future together. Imagine a spouse that overtime stops taking care of him or herself and starts to look, smell, and feel like nothing you can stand to be around. How about two different career trajectories, one successful and the other a dismal failure, resulting in resentment, finger-pointing, and worse.
Perhaps, your relationship ended a long time ago and the habit of living together is the only thing left. Perhaps, “until death does us apart” is really about pieces of your dreams, your wild side, your creativity and passion dying slowly for years. Perhaps, you’re no longer good for each other.
Here’s the thing, if you’re single, you can find someone you like to be with. Not so if you are locked into a depressing relationship. Unless you want to add infidelity and guilt to your circumstances. Should you try to improve your relationship? Yes, do! Also, remember, you cannot singlehandedly fix it. If, despite your sincere attempts you see no meaningful changes, consider cutting your losses short.
Leave to love another day.
Valentina Petrova has been helping people with life, health, relationships, financial, career, professional, and business challenges since 2015. She has a Master’s in Psychology and is a certified Life Coach. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org (805)909-1401, and watch her at http://www.youtube.com/c/ValentinaPetrova