Is Your Relationship Living in the Past?

by Connie

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I’ve got two friends in separate relationships.  One’s a guy and the other a girlfriend but they’re both at what I call ‘relationship crossroads’.

Typing these words, I hear The Clash singing ‘Should I stay or should I go’ in my head.  Yep, who among us hasn’t asked themselves that question?

Uncertain of their next moves, they’ve enlisted friends to be their sounding boards, only.

I guess they’ve already heard the quote from Erica Jong:

‘Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but we wish we didn’t.’

They sought the assurance of our safe harbors.  Places they could vent frustrations while verbally processing, without us sharing our opinions and advice.

They’re both looking for compassionate friends to support them on their journeys.

More Similar Than Different

While the relationships and circumstances are distinctly different, what became apparent to me, an observer, is how they’re in parallel places.

Both friends love their partners.  They don’t want to hurt their mates, nor do they wish to be hurt more by them.  They’re in committed relationships yet frustrated with their unchanging situations.

The following two commonalities are what I found to be truly striking:

  1. They’re Both Living in the Past

When asked why she’s choosing to stay with her husband, after citing a laundry list of his legitimate betrayals and broken trust, my girlfriend said it’s because ‘they have so much history together’.

When asked why he’s choosing to remain in an unfulfilling relationship that takes a lot of compromising and effort on his part and very little on hers, my friend said he’s ‘with his girlfriend because they had so much in common when they first started dating and their past was incredibly memorable’.

It’s easy to spot what’s lacking in each relationship, isn’t it?

Both statements are based on history.

They’re living in the past.

They’re being sentimental and nostalgic for what they once had.

They’re clinging to memories of ‘what was’, hoping to somehow recapture it.

They’re not assessing ‘what is’.

Neither couple has specific plans for ‘what might be’ in their future.

Relationships should enhance and add to your quality of Life. They shouldn’t detract from it.

Neither spoke of their relationship in the present tense.

Present thinking would be:

  • ‘We both know he’ll have to re-earn my trust, but we’re working towards that.’
  • ‘As time goes on, we realize we don’t have much in common.  But, she always puts me and our relationship first; before work, before anything else, always.’

Neither spoke about where their relationship is going in the future.

Planning for the future might sound like:

  • ‘We’re aware our foundation needs significant repair, but we’re committed to getting things on track.  We both want this to work.’
  • ‘Since realizing we’ve grown apart, each of us is planning new activities for us to try.  Both of us want to find new things we’ll enjoy doing together.’

They’re holding on to their history.  They’re focusing on what’s behind them, instead of living in the moment or making detailed action plans for their future as a couple.

  1. They’re both Dazed and Confused.

Each friend is uncertain and hesitant about what to do and when to do it.

I reminded both friends of these facts:

  • You were born into this Life with all the answers you will ever need. Therefore, you do know what to do. This innate knowledge is as much a part of you as your DNA.  Yep, you arrived with all the options.  You’re ready to go, fully loaded with all the bells and whistles.
  • You’re not confused, at all.  You’re in the Waiting Place. You’re not ready to look in the mirror.  You’re not prepared to take the next step.  You’re not up for the emotional upheaval that’s to come.  But you always know what to do.  So be patient.  Be kind.  And wait it out, until something inside of you whispers that you can’t wait any longer.  Because then you know you’re ready to take action.

I call this the ‘one drop of water, too much’.  You can’t predict when it’ll happen or what’ll cause it to begin.

When this chain reaction begins you’ll be compelled to act in some way, shape or form.

The response you choose may come in many different ways:

  • You may choose to change your own behavior or reaction.
  • You may prefer to change your situation.
  • Or, you may decide to accept things as they are and to release any frustrations you’ve allowed your relationship to create in your Life.

That one tiny, drop of water too much sets things in motion that were inevitable, but unscheduled.

Once this process starts, there’s no stopping it.

It’s a force of nature.

It’s the force of change.

It’s the energy of breaking open and quite possibly of breaking free.

And when the time comes, you’re true friends will be there for you.

When you’re ready for your next stage of growth to reveal itself and you’re prepared to make whatever decision is right for you, they’ll be there to support you, because you’re their friend.

And, because that’s exactly what they would want and expect from you, if they were walking a mile in your shoes.

Have you been in a stagnant relationship?   What did you learn from that experience?  What choice did you make when that ‘one drop of water too much’ compelled you to act?

I’d love for you to share your experience.  Email me, using the form below.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg August 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm

When I hear the phrase, “Should I Stay or Should I Go, ” I think of the Sandra Boynton book, But Not the Hippopotamus. I guess it’s a daddy thing.


Connie September 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm


Luckily though for the Hippopotamus, ‘Then the animal pack comes scurrying back, saying, ‘Hey! Come join the lot of us!’

It’s good to know there are those of us in this world who can make the jump from The Clash to Sandra Boynton, isn’t it?



Greg September 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Anything is possible if your believe it!!
I posted this to my network so others can benefit!!


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