We had girl’s night last night and a friend was sharing with us her relationship dilemmas. As girlfriends often do, we try to help those we love make the right choices. Some of us in the group had extremely limited life experience (i.e. married the only person they ever dated), while others of us had lots of relationship experience we could share. I fall into the second category, so I always try to share practical wisdom with examples of lessons learned.
The gist of my friend’s dilemmas are: 1.) Go back to a stale relationship where there was no love to repair her emptiness, or 2.) Stay in a new relationship just blossoming.
I had a few nuggets of wisdom to offer which would help her decide.
Instead of giving my exact thoughts on what my friend should do about her love life, I asked her why was she considering the broken, almost empty pitcher to reattach herself to instead of considering the new pitcher full of life water without the holes?
She looked at me shocked, almost in tears, because she hadn’t thought about her dilemma in this way. Based on her descriptions of both relationships, the choice was obvious to me. But when our emotions get in the way, sometimes it’s hard for us to think rationally. Why settle for a broken water pitcher that can’t be filled when you could have a new one.
The Old Pitcher
My friend (let’s call her Patricia) and her partner (we’ll call him Kelly) broke up last year after a six year long relationship, with two of those years being a long-distance relationship. Patricia had retired from her job and moved to the Florida from New York to be closer to Kelly because Kelly said the long distance relationship was too much, he had to have Patricia. Over time, the relationship between Kelly and Patricia soured, evolving into the two sleeping in separate bedrooms, bill sharing, and cohabitation. There was no intimacy. From time to time we all would get together for dinner and none of knew anything was going on. They appeared to be in love and happy from the outside looking in. In reality they both were miserable. They’d share that separately.
Patricia was in love with Kelly and had concluded their relationship would be a sexless, emotionless one. She purchased sex toys to fulfill her sexual desires, but admitted she still felt empty and alone.
Kelly apparently had other plans. He got a job transfer to Hawaii without discussing it with Patricia. He broke the news to her in a very crude way at the same time he told her their relationship of six years wasn’t working out and that she should find someone else.
Patricia was devastated.
She and Kelly agreed that Patricia would live in the home they’d shared for the past four years (which is really Kelly’s home) and that they were no longer in a relationship. Kelly packed up, moved to Hawaii to work, leaving Patricia in the home all alone and in a town where she had no family or support system outside of our small friend circle.
While I’m not familiar with all the intimate details of their relationship, I am familiar with the breakup and the move having heard both sides. Kelly treated Patricia like disposable garbage. Kelly was selfish and crude and he doesn’t care about anyone except himself. He does whatever he wants and doesn’t care about the collateral damage along the way. The near empty, damaged water pitcher in this scenario represents Patricia’s empty relationship with Kelly and how her soul was not poured into. The hole in the bottom represents all the damage by Kelly, a deficit that would likely remain no matter how much he tried to pour into Patricia.
Although Patricia was left empty, she still loved Kelly. She would do anything for him and Kelly knew this and took advantage of Patricia’s emotional availability frequently even though they are no longer together. Patricia’s pitcher is almost useless, yet she still considers it worthy of keeping. She’s holding onto something for someone no longer there.
The New Pitcher
Kelly is in Hawaii doing Kelly while Patricia has been home alone mourning the loss of the relationship for months. She finally joined an online dating site and found someone she really likes. He’s single, and an all around good catch from all that I’ve seen and heard. They started out slowly and the relationship has evolved into a nice love. Patricia was very transparent and shared the situation about her old relationship and even her current living arrangement.
New guy is very understanding, but ready to be exclusive (he’s been interested in exclusivity from the onset). He’s filling Patricia up in all the areas there was lacking. He provides her with that missing companionship left by Kelly’s unexpected leaving, love in a way meaningful to Patricia, and sexual and emotional intimacy absent for the last two years of Kelly and Patricia’s relationship. New guy gave Patricia a brand new, a full pitcher of water with lemons on top. The pitcher representing the relationship doesn’t have any holes yet because new guy has done nothing to put any there.
The new, unblemished pitcher has been filled with all the things Patricia values. They are all the things Patricia said she wanted and needed in her next relationship.
We’re all happy for her new boo, but we fear she may sabotage herself by exchanging her new, full pitcher for the old, empty one.
Kelly may have realized now he made a mistake. Instead of communicating his issues and working on the relationship, he opted for an abrupt, crude relationship departure to do what he wanted. Patricia thinks Kelly make see the grass isn’t greener on the other side.
For the first time since Kelly left to embark on his new solo life, he texted Patricia a cryptic message saying he had something to tell her. When she inquired about what it could be, Kelly told Patricia that he loved her. She’s suddenly all confused by his actions.
Patricia was forced to move on because Kelly dumped her. New guy came in bringing life and filling voids left from the breakup. She finally left her almost empty water pitcher with the hole in the bottom behind her to get a brand new pitcher filled to the brim with clean, fresh water and no holes in it.
Kelly’s newly announced (and inconsiderate) love declaration puts a question mark on what Patricia and the new guy have. I’m not sure there is a dilemma. Kelly showed Patricia who he was, and she’s having a difficult time believing it. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.
I believe who Kelly is. I don’t understand why Patricia doesn’t. There are two pitchers available to Patricia. A near empty, broken one and a new, full one. The choice is hers.
In Relationships, We Need To Be Filled Constantly
Everyone wants to be loved, validated, appreciated, accepted with most of their flaws, and cherished. How that is done is up to the people in the relationship. It’s up to us to teach people how to treat us. If we teach people we’re in relationships, with we are vessels that need to be filled and cared for, they’ll fill us when it’s time unless they lack the social and emotional intelligence to do so. People with social and emotional intelligence can sense when things aren’t well and they’ll work to get things back on track.
Those among us who aren’t blessed with social and emotional intelligence will need to be told their partners they are empty. Partners refusing to address the lack aren’t in relationships with their partners. They are in relationships with themselves. Loving people who don’t love you back is difficult and it drains the life out of you, leaving those in relationships with them empty, broken pitchers. People who lack empathy do this frequently.
Kindness and respect are based on respect for other people. When people show us they don’t respect us and we remain in a relationship with them, we are teaching them how to treat us. When we remain in relationships with people who people who treat us badly we are saying it’s okay for them to do so, and that it’s okay for them to subtract from our lives. We are saying they need not add anything to our lives to sustain the relationship, when nothing could be further from the truth.
This is how so many of us end up carrying around empty relationships representing empty water pitchers with holes in the bottom of them. I did a physical demonstration of the watcher pitchers for Patricia last night to help her see what I was hearing when she described her feelings about the old love and her new one. One left her on empty, the other filled her up. Seems like an easy choice to me, but it’s not my decision to make. I cannot make a choice for her. I will support whatever decision she makes.
Relationships are hard to maintain as it is, but if someone is taking from you and not pouring anything back in, eventually you will end up with an empty, weakened vessel, possibly damaged beyond repair.
I wonder why we so often will chose the damaged pitcher instead of enjoying the new one we’re blessed with. We could have a full pitcher if we’d let go of the old empty one. Let’s stop pouring into people who don’t pour into us, and let’s stop holding onto old relationships that should be discarded.
Be filled with love.