Gather close Interwebs, I have a secret to tell you: Broadduses suck at relationships. I know, I know, but it’s true. I’ll use myself as an example ad not toss my siblings under a bus. My wife and I dated over a two year period before we got married. That is to say, the length of time we dated covered a two year span. The problem was that over that that time, the longest we dated for any stretch before our engagement was two weeks. (In fact, as not to stress ourselves, our engagement was only about six weeks long.)
All relationships have to find their own course, but had my wife come to be for counseling and laid out the specifics of her/our relationship, I’d have told her to run. Actually, many of her friends advised her to do exactly that (but, well, sometimes there’s just no talking any sense into her and every April 1st I’m sure she thinks “I should’ve run.”)
Why would I have said run?
Obviously something in the dynamic of the relationship abhorred stability. There was an element of fear at play that needed to be rooted out. Maybe an inability to commit that caused the trigger-happy party in the relationship to either break up, drive her away, or otherwise sabotage the relationship. Unless it was addressed, and people are loathe to deal with their own issues, it would haunt the relationship.
Continuity is important in a relationship. You learn about each other and a lot of information can slip through the cracks when you’re always breaking up when things get tough or inconvenient.
On the flip side, there are some positives.
The relationship breaks can give time to process and come to terms with a few things. To get at the root cause of that fear requires introspection, intense reflection, and time. Applying the brakes slows things down, allowing the scared party to get their head around the concept of a partnership, a relationship, and commitment.
The on gain/off again nature of a relationship comes with its own stressors:
-trust. It’s hard to establish stability when the trust is rocked every few weeks. It’s hard to rest comfortably in the relationship when you fear it will all go to crap at any minute. It drains the fun out of being in a relationship and increases the sense of drama. Imagine your attitude at the prospect of crossing a bridge prone to collapsing.
-break ups. Even at their best, break ups aren’t easy to navigate and “survive”. The things that first attracted you to that person are still present, and it’s easy to fall back into that routine and established comfort levels. You have to remember that the things that drove you apart are also there. To continue to jump back in is the equivalent of ripping the Band Aid from a wound that hasn’t been allowed to heal.
-resolutions. In marriage, you don’t have the luxury of solving your problems by breaking up. (Well, you do, but it costs you half your stuff. I may have fear of commitment issues, but I love my comic book and DVD collection, too). Regardless, running away is not real conducive to the health of a relationship. The process of facing your fears together and resolving conflicts together builds trust, dependence, communication, and coping skills, all of which will come in handy later.
I look back and marvel that the two of us ever got together. Was the on again/off again a necessary part of our journey. Probably (he rationalizes knowing that despite 8 years of marriage, my wife still acts likes she’s suffering from post traumatic stress any time someone brings up our dating history). I wasn’t even close to being in a place to settle down, but when the right person comes along, and won’t wait around forever for you to get your act together, the paradigm shift in thinking and behavior can be an abrupt and ugly process.
If the on again/off again can be seen as one, or both, of you working your way toward, or through, something, and the person is worth the pain of the process (and let me tell you, I am PURE JOY!!!), then go with God. Do what you need to do. Otherwise … run!!!
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.