Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Suess
“To be, or not to be: that is the question,” is undoubtedly one of the most famous lines of all Shakespearean literature. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet questions whether it is better to live or die. He compares the pain and struggles of life with the uncertainties and fears of death. Which is better, he ponders?
There are many couples out there staying together for the benefit of the children. A recent study, however, showed that 82% of young people aged 14 to 22 who have gone through family divorce and breakups prefer their parents’ divorce than stay unhappy. (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/nov/22/children-divorce-resolution-survey-rather-parents-separate)
Many couples are there but not really there. For example, they are in the same room together but not paying any attention to each other. One may be watching television while the other is reading or at the computer. This is, of course, OK sometimes but it’s not OK when it’s the norm.
As I get older, I am both surprised and not surprised by how often I have heard this. Just recently I ran into an old friend who told me that though she remains married, she and her husband actually live separate lives.
We had a lengthy chat about it and her feeling was that far too often one partner changes and the other doesn’t. Eventually one or both partners realizes that they are no longer compatible and one even begins to lose respect for the other.
Why do so many people stay together? The main reason is fear. Fear of being alone and not being able to make it on our own. Or maybe you’re afraid there is nothing better out there. As my mother always says, “The grass is not always greener on the other side.” That may be true but it doesn’t mean we have to stay in a muddy relationship in the meantime. But this is not limited to romantic relationships. This also includes our relationships with other family members and friends.
We may put up with abuse from a family member because they are family. Or we may put up with an arrogant friend because we ironically don’t “want to hurt their feelings.”
How many times have you stayed in a friendship because of “the history” you both have together? Maybe you put up with abuse because you don’t want to lose your mutual circle of friends. Or maybe you are afraid of making the wrong decision. Some people reason it’s better to stay in a bad relationship than no relationship at all.
I get it. I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t stayed in a bad relationship or two. Change is not easy. Sometimes it’s easier to stay within our comfort zone.
But rather than just maintaining the status quo, here are a few things to consider:
- Be honest with yourself. If you’ve tried everything to improve a relationship and it isn’t working, then you have a decision to make. Do you love your partner or friend enough to stay in the relationship as is? Or do you love yourself enough to move on?
- Acknowledge your feelings. You can’t be honest with yourself if you don’t first recognize how you feel and why you feel the way that you do. If your partner is refusing to see a therapist, go yourself.
- Welcome change. You can’t improve what you don’t change. Without change, there are no opportunities and no areas for personal growth. You’ll never know what you are missing.
Far too often, we stay in a relationship hoping to change our partner. Truthfully, the only person you can change is you. You have no control over the other person. But you certainly have control over your thoughts and actions. You certainly have control over how you respond to any given situation.
Being in a relationship whether it is platonic or romantic does not make you happy. You make yourself happy. No one else has control over your emotional state at the moment. So don’t give up control.
Think of it this way. Relationships can be wonderful and they certainly add to our lives but they don’t complete them. The people in our lives don’t make us whole. We are the only ones who can make ourselves and our lives complete.
As Hamlet says, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” One that only you can answer.