The relationship continuum

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 21, 2009, 1:37 AM | comments: 2

We went to a huge family reunion today in Toledo, where everyone was generally related, but didn't necessarily know how. Some people hadn't seen each other in decades, and there were all manner of new children and spouses there. While acquiring a microphone and sorting out how everyone was related, Diana's dad proposed to Helen Ann. What a way to be formally invited into the family!

We all have relationship stories. I shared a bit with one of the aunts concerning Stephanie.  This led to more discussion in the car ride home about the overall continuum of relationships in our lives. Much of the drama in our personal lives ends up being rooted in relationships, and it doesn't make any sense.

It's probably easy for me to think that, because despite my divorce being one of the most painful things I've ever been through, I wouldn't trade my time with Steph for anything. She was my wife and best friend for years, and for better or worse, that's part of who I am. How could I ever be angry or bitter for having those times? That I'm now married to Diana is additive in nature. She's not a replacement, she's someone completely different in a different time and in different circumstances. You don't replace people in relationships, you add them to the history of your life. I think that's the healthy way to approach all of your relationships. If you're looking for replacements, you aren't learning anything, and you're just looking for a warm body to sleep next to.

We know someone on a fairly destructive path like that. She's getting divorced, spends a great deal of energy disliking the guy, and now is throwing herself into a new relationship with very little regard or reflection as to why the marriage failed. She's angry and lonely, and maybe making a lot of the same mistakes. I wish she'd learn to look at the failed marriage as having given her this and that, and she takes those things with her, good or bad.

Dad-in-law's situation I suspect is an even more difficult scenario. The end of his previous relationship certainly wasn't anyone's choice. It was decided for everyone by cancer. Diana and I have made it very clear that if one of us gets hit by a bus, cry at the funeral, and then get back out there to find a happy compliment. We both know that if we're gone, we're not coming back, and we wouldn't want the other to sulk and feel some kind of obligation not to get on with life. Today's announcement was wonderful.

The reality is that people come in and out of our lives. It's just the way it is. You can treat it like a single slot in your life where you keep swapping out parts, or you can treat it as a continuum from which you learn, grow, and hopefully, land with someone who is there with you until the end, and without drama, guilt and toxicity.


Brad, September 21, 2009, 10:15 AM #

Yikes, very powerful article and eye opener. I have a friend that is in your Dad-in-law's situation, but most of the family gives Dad guilt and asks, "How can you do this to Mom?"

Jeff, September 21, 2009, 10:56 AM #

In such a case, you have to ask, does dad deserve to be indefinitely alone, and would mom want that? I think the answers are pretty obvious.

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