11.15.2010

Tough Decisions

When I was in my early 20s and looking to settle down romantically, it never really dawned on me the importance of finding a person with the long-term quality of reliability.

I thought I was looking into long-term territory, yet what I was actually looking into was a shadowy, dark place where I couldn't tell the shapes from the shadows. I hate it when that happens!

Now, when I say reliability, which is also the same thing as stability or sameness, routine, etc....obviously, the actual definition and consequences of reliability/stability vary incredibly from person to person, and even between phases in a particular person's life cycle.

What we once thought were important changes and landmarks, are not as urgent when we grow into our older selves. One day you wake up, look at your stuffed animal/cup/travel post cards/shaped erasers collection and wonder...what the heck am I going to do with all this stuff? What was I thinking!

These changes in perspective are especially marked if you undergo life-altering experiences and landmarks along the way, like say divorce, buying a house, moving, getting a pet, caring for an older family member, pursuing an advanced degree, buying a new car, etc.

So what grounds us or makes us joyful (or sorrowful) at different stages varies incredibly. What keeps us centered through all the phases and changes are some basic values that are at the center of our foundation. It's during one of these changes in philosophy and perspective that we kind of almost have to start from scratch, and ask some very important questions.

Are you just looking for emotional reliability/stability?--same emotional engagement throughout? That's hard to maintain. And make sure you don't get the reliability of a negative emotional relationship!

Are you looking for financial reliability/stability?--the other person makes a ton of money and you can't/won't and want to be maintained by another. This isn't very sustainable now is it?

Are you looking for family reliability/stability?--this entails large family gatherings and social interaction with same large family, and also the likelihood you'll have a large brood of your own as well to contend with. You may think you're finally out...but they always find a way to bring you back in!

Are you looking for pastime reliability/stability?--same hobbies, same likes and dislikes, same political philosophy, same religion? Many people are more comfortable with people very much like themselves. There is no conflict and no abrupt change...but what if one day you wake up and need a change? It's upsetting to those around you.

I remember some of the best advice I got once during a conversation with a counselor. The advice was: decide what you can compromise on and what can't.

Buying a house is a variable decision: you can buy that house, or another one. You can not buy a house. You can buy an apartment instead. There are many options. Maybe you just need a change of scenery and just moving elsewhere will fix it. These are decisions that include many opportunities for win-win and compromise or "lighter" versions of a particular decision that doesn't really affect a couple long-term.

Then there are decisions that aren't variable, such as one person insisting they must move for their job and the other must decide whether to join in or separate. Other non-variable decisions include getting a pet, getting in the family way, having to care for an elderly family member. These are decisions where the two halves of a couple may have opposing or differing points of view. The result must either be a) consensus/agreement/compromise or b) the decision to separate.

These certainly apply to work related relationships and partnerships as well as personal and love relationships. The interesting question is, where do you draw the line between compromise and separation? If you tend to be passionate you will have great difficulty allowing the other person breadth to discuss the options. You'll become stubborn to options. If you are more compromising, you'll potentially regret giving in so easily and possibly begin holding secret grudges.

When situations are happening it's hard to separate oneself emotionally, for long enough, to make a proper decision. Essentially, at the end of the day, we can only do the best we can. And make the best decision we're able to with the information we have at hand at the time.