“Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” – Lewis Carroll
Like any good story, it’s hard to understand why relationships end until we understand why they begin. So we’ll listen to the wise King’s advice and take it from the top.
Relationships begin for two reasons: one is because you have a lesson to learn; the other is because you have a lesson to teach.
You may never know which lesson you tutored in the classroom of Life, and that’s just fine. You teach your best lessons and make your most meaningful contributions by simply being yourself. What’s important is that you pay attention and learn as much as you can from your time as a student.
Why did you choose your last relationship? On the surface it was probably a combination of physical attraction and feelings of happiness, passion, excitement and intrigue. Humans are more strongly influenced by biology and emotion than we like to admit. Choosing a relationship however goes deeper than mere attraction. Ask yourself – who was your last relationship with?
If you said your partner, you’d be wrong. Your last relationship – and the one before that, and the one before that – was with yourself.
As much as we’d like to think we’re entirely altruistic and love our partners (or any person or thing for that matter), what we really love is our perception of how our partners make us feel.
Relationships are a complex mental construct – an intricate web of neural associations linking intensely positive feelings such as pleasure, excitement, and happiness to a stimulus – i.e., your partner. If you have experienced more than one relationship then you have created these strong positive associations to more than one person. You don’t retain that intensity of emotion for each partner after separation.
How than, can your source of happiness be your partner when those associations can just as easily be tied to another person?
Your source of happiness isn’t your partner. Great partners tap into and bring out the best parts of you. When you’re being the best you can be, you naturally feel good. The relationship is simply a very powerful association you’ve created for those feelings. When you lose a partner, you lose a key that enabled you to tap into some of the great parts of yourself. Those parts are within you, but they remain locked away until you find your own key and learn to access them without your partner as the catalyst.
So what actually causes a relationship to end? Relationships end when your expectations of the relationship and of your partner are violated to the point that the perceived downside of staying together outweighs the perceived upside.
Think of relationships like a scale. When one side is full, the scales are very stable. The relationship is bliss – loving, happy, and on solid ground. When the other side is full, the relationship is stable in the opposite direction – straight down the toilet. It is when those scales are close to the tipping point that a relationship becomes unstable. Once that scale flips past the tipping point, it’s all over.
No relationship is ever a waste of time. There are always positive lessons that are learned or taught in a relationship. Perhaps your partner challenged you to think in new ways. Perhaps they introduced you to people who will play a key role in your life who you wouldn’t have met otherwise. Perhaps they inspired you. Perhaps you introduced them to a new activity that becomes their passion. Perhaps they saw things to love about you of which you weren’t even aware. Perhaps you showed someone how to love. Perhaps you challenged them in an area they needed to grow. Perhaps they were able to confide in you and learn about themselves in the process.
There are many reasons why people enter and leave your life and vice-versa, so try not to feel badly about your relationships ending. Consider the experience a gift of knowledge from the classroom of Life.
Relationships begin because you have a lesson to learn, and relationships end because you’ve learned it.
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