(Is it Still?) Worth the Fight??
(This is an updated version of this article from Jan. 13, 2017)
In honor of Valentine’s Day… let’s talk about relationships, perceptions and points of view. The He said/She said” component of life that is the basis of so many communication and relationship problems. Recently I have been reading up on what makes for successful or failing relationships and issues regarding how people change over the years. The most interesting thing I’ve found, almost universally, is even the experts present the examples based upon only one side of the equation. Having been fairly good at math, I know that’s not the way to solve a problem.
As an example, I offer up an article I recently read on the Good Men’s Project (a site I highly recommend, by the way). It was an article, written by Gretchen Kelly who is well respected and has been featured in numerous reputable news outlets. The topic of the article was being willing to fight for the woman you love. She gave all the signs a man needs to watch out for; the reasons behind the loss of relationship, and the signals showing the woman was trying her best. And essentially that a man would need to fight to not suffer the fate of “sudden divorce syndrome.” It was a good article… but then she got into all of the steps a man must do resurrect the relationship before it’s too late.
At a base level, I didn’t disagree with any of it. Not a single word. The problem is the article asked men to go into a “battle” without any weapons. “Go charge that hill with your pocketknife and paper shield”.
For the vast majority of men, growing up devoid of conversational skills; being told our feelings are not something to be discussed even if we could, and that any emotion other than lust, anger or laughter are “unmanly”; the concept of a conversation regarding relationships is both terrifying and exhausting.
Those of you who have read my novels are probably aware that I frequently throw my own gender under the bus. We can be cruel, unthinking and ridiculous animals upon occasion. I write strong female characters that are both powerful, in their own way, and yet completely female in nature. I find females to be more complete individuals than males in most cases. That being said…
…I’m going to run to men’s defense. When men are young and single, no family or children to be responsible for, they are essentially free to be who they are. That’s the guy women fell in love with; that’s they guy they married. The emotional connection the woman found, with the man, was based on someone that was free to walk away if he chose, so the woman tried harder as well. Let me rephrase that, both individuals were trying to impress and woo the other. Let’s face it… when you were dating the man, there were probably lots of parties, friends, dates and sex… probably lots and lots of sex. It’s what the man understood… you knew that intuitively. The deep conversations may have revolved around future dreams, successes and hopes. Generally great in-depth conversations… after sex. Just sayin’… think back… am I wrong?
As time goes by, the future becomes the present. Dreams and hopes go by the wayside to bills and children and daily living. The conversations become about the now and the stresses of the day; the sex goes by the wayside, the conversations become about the now and the stresses of the day; the sex goes by the wayside… (see what I did there?)
It’s a strange circle of pain for most men and women. Women want emotions and conversational intimacy before becoming “intimate.” Men want physical intimacy before becoming emotionally intimate. It’s a chicken-or-egg, catch-22 conundrum. Who goes first?
It comes down to the nature of the relationship. Like any warrior entering a battle, the cause needs to be something worth fighting for. There are certainly times that there is so little left that the fight in question is without heart or meaning, in which case the battle is lost before it even began. Stating that, if you know your heart and you want to save the relationship, then take the risk, open yourself up and stand before your partner naked and unarmed and say, “take your best shot, if I die I die, but I’m not going down without fight.”
All I can say is, look into your own hearts and desires and know that one way or the other, it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
Before I just leave it at that… which I could, let me throw a few important caveats into the mix. If your husband or boyfriend is physically or emotionally abusive in any way, the above does not apply and you should get out of the relationship at any cost, even if there are children involved. The person is in a pattern of physical or emotional violence that will not change, will not go away, and will not get better and by staying you are simply enabling the behavior to continue.
If he has a drug or alcohol problem, the above does not apply (drugs and alcohol change the very nature of people’s personalities, so y’all have a different problem) and you should get out of the relationship, at any cost, until he’s been clean and sober for years… not weeks… not months…but years. You can’t help them, cure them or otherwise end the cycle, only they can. Once again, you are simply enabling them to continue their behavior at the risk to your own health and happiness.
If you need a quote to read over and over in your head to remind you, here’s a good one: “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”
In case you missed them in the text, here are the links to the two articles I mentioned
The Fight Men Need to Win Before ‘Too Late’ Becomes a Lifetime (by Gretchen Kelly on The Good Men Project)
Sudden Divorce Syndrome: Reality or Myth (co-written by a male attorney and a female psychotherapist)
I’ve compiled a list of marriage and relationship articles and books I hope you’ll find helpful. There might even be one in there a man might read. Drop me a line if you like it.
You can find it here right next to my book S.M.A.F.U. (Situation Married All F****ed Up).