One of many very helpful things I’ve learned from Captain Awkward is that the belief that “relationships take work” should be set on fire and rolled down a hill and into a river, never to be seen or heard from again. Okay, I might have been putting my own spin on things there 🙂
But seriously, the idea that relationships take work has led to so many sad comments on Captain Awkward from people who spent multiple years in terrible relationships (I’m entirely too lazy to link all of them but check out the relationships category for examples) because they thought it was normal to be miserable. Relationships take work, right?
Now, there is a tiny little hint of something worthwhile in the idea that relationships take work. If you’ve watched entirely too many Disney movies, you may have the idea that the right relationship is absolutely always effortless and ever disagreeing with your partner about anything means something is wrong and that every minute you’re with them you should feel like you’re floating on air. That really is an idea worth combating – if you’re in your teens and have no experience with relationships.
On the other hand, if you’re an actual grownup you’ve figured out that if you want to stay friends with someone, you suck it up and go out for drinks with them when you really wanted to stay home in your jammies (IRL friends, I do recognize the irony in me of all people saying that). That’s the kind of work relationships should take – sometimes you put the other person’s needs ahead of your wants because you like them and you want them to be happy.
There’s a reason I chose friendship as an example there rather than a romantic relationship – if a friendship was a thankless grind, we would all agree that it would be reasonable to run, right? So why don’t we do that for romantic relationships?
Personally, I think it’s because western society has some fucked up ideas about romantic relationships. We have this idea that romantic relationships are somehow totally different from platonic friendship relationships and they’re just not. While all relationships take some effort, no relationship is worth making yourself miserable. If you wouldn’t kill yourself to keep a friendship going, don’t do it to keep a romantic relationship going.
Fuck the idea that relationships take work. If you’re unhappy, that’s a good enough reason to leave (note that I did not say you should abruptly end an otherwise happy many year relationship because your partner starts annoying you. That would be ridiculous and is not even slightly what I’m talking about). You are not required to work yourself to death trying to force a relationship to work. I promise you are not a bad person if you decide not to put your relationship on life support for another year and just pull the plug instead.
If you need to, think of it this way: wouldn’t your partner be happier with someone who was sincerely happy to see them every day and didn’t see their relationship as an endless slog? Leaving sets you both free to find the right people.
You know what’s funny? I just realized I’m publishing this post on Valentine’s Day. That wasn’t on purpose, I just can’t keep track of time. But since it is Valentine’s day, I want to remind you all that while arranging something nice for your partner may not be effortless, if it’s exhausting and doesn’t feel worth it, you are not required to stay. Just maybe wait until tomorrow to break the news, dumping someone on Valentine’s day is just tacky 🙂