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The Question to Ask Yourself in Every Relationship

The Question to Ask Yourself in Every Relationship

There is nothing worse than being exhausted on a long flight and sitting next to someone that likes to chat.  OK, there are far worse things, but in the moment it feels like the worse thing ever. Every now and again, however, that chatty neighbor will drop a nugget or pass along a story that sits with you. 

A few years back - I can't remember the specifics - I was flying from somewhere going to someplace. All I remember is that my flight had been delayed by 4 hours and it was extremely late in the evening by the time we boarded. As luck would have it, my row-mate was a serious Chatty Cathy.  Immediately upon storing her carry on bag, she introduced herself and said something unfunny about the delays in an attempt at wit.  I've already tipped you off that she was unexpectedly wise about some things, but my initial reaction was that she lacked self-awareness. How did I come to this conclusion? She missed the "I don't want to talk to you" vibe I was giving off when I pretended to fall asleep multiple times before takeoff. Nevertheless...her talking persisted. 

In addition to being chatty, she was a classic oversharer. She went on and on about her ex-husband, her new husband, and all of her private drama about both. My annoyance began to fade while listening to her saga.  Her story was actually fascinating and her delivery was charming. As over-sharers do, she would give me a story and then ask a question attempting to pull some nuggets out of me.  The most I would give her was that I was a young lawyer, recently engaged, and from Houston.  

Not that I was asking, but immediately upon the mention of "fiance", Chatty Cathy grabbed my arm, put her face a little too close to mine, looked me right in the eyes and said, "all love is worth it if it makes you better." 

It was a moment. 

The conversation lasted all 3 hours and 4 minutes of the flight, at least that's how long the pilot said it took over the intercom.  I don't remember much of what we talked about but I do remember that when we said goodbye between yawns and the uncomfortable taste of cotton mouth, I was grateful for this row partner of mine. We didn't exchange information and we didn't have to. She left me with much more than I expected with that one phrase. 

From that day forward I have asked myself that question about all the various relationships in my life. Relationships can be tricky.  Most of us stay in relationships for one of three reasons: love, longevity, or loyalty.  This particularly applies to the romantic ones, but the question, "am I better" applies also to the others.

Too often we hold onto friends, lovers, doctors, stylists, therapists - YOU NAME IT - longer than we should.  Imagine the time we would have saved if we had simply asked, "is this relationship making me better?"  Set love, loyalty and longevity to the side for a moment.  If you conclude that you are not "better" from being in that relationship, then the question remains - why are you still in it?  

If you are holding onto a friendship that leaves you feeling empty, why are you in it? If your relationship with your partner leaves you feeling anxious and angry and undervalued, why are you in it?  If your relationship with your personal trainer leaves you feeling uninspired, unhealthy, and discouraged, why are you in it?  You see - this question applies across the board. 

I'm not saying that tough times are a sure sign that you aren't better.  Momentary feelings of irritation, disappointment and sadness are expected in any type of relationship.  But if at the end of the day, you do not feel elevated above where you could be on your own or in a different relationship - then there's something to be said about that... 

Extra credit:  Are you A Control Freak? Also check out How To Get Over a Break-up.

Photo Credit:  Desiree Fawn

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