Over the years, I have sat with several friends as they told me their tales of romantic woe - cheating boyfriends, lazy girlfriends, self-involved girlfriends, no money and too lazy to work boyfriends, drunk husbands and blah blah blah.
There are some very obvious reasons to break up with someone like violence and infidelity; but what about when you are simply unhappy with someone? He or she isn’t a bad person, just not the person for you, what then?
So why do we stay? Why do we hang on to situations that have us feeling less than ideal? Why do we hang on when we are clear we are getting hurt? Is our conditioning that families need to be together so deeply engraved on our psyche? Are we incorrigible optimists who believe that the happiness we so desire in our relationships, is just around the corner?
I think it is fear. I think that we are so afraid of being alone that we stay despite being miserable. Being ‘alone’ after being in a long term relationship means that you will lose some friends as they chose your partner over you. Being ‘alone’ means having to create a new routine for yourself, so that your nights don’t yawn in front of you when you leave work. Being ‘alone’ means dating, and frankly most of us hate that.
In the movie Unfaithful, Diane Lane (the unfaithful wife) tells her lover, Olivier Martinez that their affair is a mistake and he aptly responds, "There are no mistakes; there is what you do and what you don’t do". I love that line and in the moments when I catch myself judging my actions harshly, I have found it very freeing.
Perhaps it is evidence of how self-involved I am but I have recently realized that I live my life envisioning that it will one day be retold, in a book no less. Living that way means that my audience, the readers of my autobiography and their judgment are never far from my mind. Any writer will tell you that once they start thinking about their reader when they are writing, the reader morphs into an editor and the writer’s work changes. Living my life with this autobiography in mind has kept me vacillating between the terror of making mistakes and rebelling against my reader’s judgment. Are you exhausted on my behalf? Yes it has been tiring and I am practising how to let it go and live my life for me, autobiography be damned.
Maybe I am a writer and that is why the reader of my autobiography is my judge; but trust me we all have a judge. Perhaps it is the members of your church; it may be your parents, members of your chama or other close friends. Whoever your judge is, fear of their disapproval or ostracisation can also keep you in a relationship that no longer works for you.
Breaking up with someone you love but who isn’t making you happy is an act of courage and faith.