I saw this particular meme years ago and I saved it immediately. It struck me as both profound and mildly comedic.
It’s harsh but ultimately true. I share it with you here because I believe that it provides a good jumping off point to a question that comes up a lot in relationships whether they’re budding, newly formed or well established… “Should I stay in this relationship?”
I believe there are two key factors to consider when it comes to evaluating a relationship this way… Alignment and Investment
I’ve heard it beautifully described that the healthiest relationships are not where we hold each other up, nor the ones where we face each other and shut out the world but the ones where we face the horizon and move boldly toward it together. This illustrates alignment beautifully. Do our values and vision for a future we want together allow us to walk the same path hand in hand? How many of you have experienced or seen a couple come undone because they became different people? They may have started on the same path but slowly their paths diverged and they lost their connection… only to find themselves far away and wondering why.
The best relationship therapists and coaches will tell you time and again how important and healthy it is to book a time together and evaluate what’s going right, what’s going wrong, are we “on course” or do we need to correct or maybe even change course altogether. It may seem uncomfortable but making the time to verify where you are and that you’re both in simpatico can make all the difference. How often? Some say every week, some every month, some say once a year… ultimately it’s up to you to find the timing that works for you.
There’s a lot of talk out there about relationships should be 50/50. I think that depends whether you’re talking about investment or outcomes. I think Chris Rock of all people puts it best.
“People say, “Oh, relationships are tough.
No, they’re not. They’re only tough when one person’s working on it.
That’s right. Two people could move a couch real easy. One person can’t move it at all.” […]
“There is no equality in a relationship. […]
When you’re in a relationship, you’re in a band.
And when you’re in a band, you have roles that you play in the band.
Sometimes you sing lead and sometimes you’re on tambourine.
And if you’re on tambourine, play it right. Play it with a fucking smile.
‘Cause nobody wants to see a mad tambourine player.”
– Chris Rock: Tamborine ©2018 Netflix
He’s absolutely right about the fact that we have our roles and how we show up and contribute can be very different from day to day. We need to be adaptive and support in the way that our partner needs. These are outcomes or what you do… but one thing that needs to be similar is the effort and enthusiasm that we put in regardless of what role we’re playing. Even on a bad day we need to show up, be present, engaged, open, and clear about what we need. That is where the magic happens. You can be fully aligned but if one person is gearing up to run while the partner is trudging along that’s going to be frustrating and off-putting for both… doesn’t make for a strong relationship.
Wrapping it up
These two factors are how I look at relationships that are not working. In many cases coming together and having a good and open discussion can course correct so we’re walking with our partner and not the expectation we have of them in our head (a very common issue over time). Sometimes we need to review our roles or see if there’s a disparity in the effort and enthusiasm that makes a couple feel detached. This applies equally to parenting, business partnerships, and friendships… this is true of all relationships.
To go back to the meme that started all of this… I’m not usually about “abandoning ship” as such. I believe that in cases where corrections are not enough, where there are true incompatibilities, very different paths that it is for the best to gracefully and mutually bring it to an end. Doing so is uncomfortable in the moment but definitely worth the effort in the long run and allows us closure to move forward to find those with whom we want to and do align and who we’d be happy to “play tambourine” for.
Richard Strother is also The Widower’s Wingman. After losing his best friend and wife in October of 2018 after 20 years together Richard decided to find a new path that put all the best of his skills to use. After finding the most incredible relationship and helping several others do the same he started The Widower’s Wingman to continue helping men who’ve lost find their amazing and life altering relationships.
You can find Richard and more content, media and resources at http://thewidowerswingman.com