Written by Terri Crosby for In Care of Relationships
Are you in a relationship that seems exponentially difficult? Is it just too hard? You want to dump your fancy altitude gear and take a leisurely hike in the flatlands? Or lie down in a field of bright yellow daisies and watch the clouds go by?
Maybe your relationship is not working and you don’t see how it ever will, ’cause there’s way too much tough stuff going on. You’re weary and worn down, and sometimes — if you could wave a magic wand — you’d wipe the slate clean as a whistle and start over. You’d take time off and be with yourself. Heck, you might even take up meditation and regular exercise.
Again, I understand.
Whatever Mt. Everest relationship you’re talking about — your rebellious child, your difficult work relationship, your interesting mother in law, your impossible partner, or your ridiculous boss — you think to yourself that this climbing-all-the-time has got to stop. It’s simply wearing you out.
You might feel relieved to know that this “shall I stay or go” question is one of the most frequently asked questions. Clients say things like shall I stop trying or shall I hang in there? Is it me or is it them? Is this a deal-breaker, or can we make this work? Is this situation hopeless, or am I just missing something?
WHAT’S YOUR MT. EVEREST?
Before we talk about hanging in there vs. hanging up your gear, allow me to offer a few more Mt. Everest variations. Some of these examples may have you thinking of a friend or two as well.
- With your parents, your efforts have never been quite good enough. According to them, you could do better, try harder, scale the heights, make them proud. You still feel criticized, judged and clearly — you don’t measure up. They drop hints to make sure you know that. Boy, do they drop hints! Can this ever change? Should I stop talking to them for a while? Maybe forever?
- You and your potential partner are pretty far apart on the subject of children. He already raised his kids, and as a single dad helped with enough recitals, school events, and slumber parties for two lifetimes. He’s ready for a new chapter called “Footloose and Fancy-Free.” You agree, he deserves it — but you’ve got a ten-year-old. Can you make it work? Will your love for each other get you through this? Maybe, maybe not. How much compromise is OK?
- Your partner is driven, and lately, you’re just not. Your partner is building an empire, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that! But you’re doing your best to relax more, and be healthy and happy for a change, which, by the way, is a major achievement for you! You’ve finally figured out how to be less Type A and more easy going. You’re done with fast and furious. You’re over it. You crave slow Sunday afternoon conversations while sitting by the pool. Or a talk over lunch on the deck — minus the bullet points, hovering deadlines, or phone interruptions from far-off lands after hours. You want to go slower and you want your moments to feel more l-u-x-u-r-i-o-u-s. It’s time to stop and smell the roses. In fact, you realize, it has always been time to stop and smell the roses — you just forgot for a while. Isn’t that what life is really about? So how do you spend pleasant time together with two radically different lifestyles?
- Your — business associate/boss? intimate partner? celebrity employer? — is kind, caring, and quite professional on the outside, but has a dark side you can’t really talk about publicly. First, no one would believe you. And, second, you’re in a position to put that person in an unfavorable spotlight, and maybe even cause the crumbling of their empire if you chose to unveil details to the world. (This situation happens way more often than you might think!) What should you do — look the other way? Focus on the positive, ignore the negative? Or wear shades, look cool, develop your ability to keep secrets and keep right on pretending everything is just plain peachy?
- You got married and adapted to your husband’s lifestyle. You’ve catered to his needs and forgotten your own. You’re drowning in an ocean of sacrifice. You’ve lost yourself. Your heart is aching for who you know yourself to be. You’re longing to make use of your true skills — what were they now??? Surely you can find them again. Oh where oh where has the real you gone? Do you have the strength to call YOU back?
- In your intimate relationship, your partner throws a monkey wrench into even the simplest situations: an innocent conversation, cooking a meal together or an outing with friends. There is an astonishing variety and never-ending stream of misunderstandings, upsets and drama. It’s downright jaw-dropping. Your friends think you’re crazy to stay in that relationship, but rather than dealing with the confusion and chaos around you, they simply begin to avoid you. It’s subtle at first. And then suddenly, you look around and your friends are GONE. Way gone. Even when things appear to be better with your partner, you can be sure there’s always somethin’ comin’ around the mountain. There is always backlash or repercussions. Makes you wanna say, Holy Cow, shall I moooooo-ve on?
- Your boss is asking you to run his company and produce miraculous results (which you do every single day, thank you very much) without the staff support and cooperation you need — whoa there! You’re doing the work of at least three additional people. Is it him? Is it me? Why is this happening? How did this start? Is this totally out of control? Should I walk away? Do I stand up for myself enough? Is it possible to make progress on this giant ball of un-workablility, or should I go elsewhere and start over? Could I climb this Mt. Everest if I wanted to? Should I climb? Is it worth it?
CAN WE MAKE THIS WORK?
In a complicated situation, ask simple questions.
Do I see that this as mine? Do I see that I built this step by step? (yes or no)
What can I see? What’s obvious? What stands before me? (word, phrase, or sentence)
What feeling is present in this situation for me? (one or two words)
What feeling is present for others? (one or two words)
What is the foundation of this relationship? What’s it built on? (word or phrase)
Is this supporting me? (yes or no)
What is my preferred relationship foundation? (word or phrase)
What do I love? How do I want to live? (one sentence)
Do I believe I can have that? (yes or no)
How shall I begin? (how can you be true to yourself in this next small moment, and the next and so on)
“Responsibility begins with the willingness to take the stand that one is cause in the matter of one’s life. It is a declaration not an assertion, that is, it is a context from which one chooses to live. Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. In responsibility, there is no evaluation of good or bad, right or wrong. There is simply what’s so, and the stand you choose to take on what’s so. Being responsible starts with the willingness to deal with a situation from the view of life that you are the generator of what you do, what you have and what you are. That is not the truth. It is a place to stand. No one can make you responsible, nor can you impose responsibility on another. It is a grace you give yourself – an empowering context that leaves you with a say in the matter of life.”
– Werner Erhard