Monday, February 27, 2012

somebody that i used to know

first, i have listened to this song nonstop for the last five days.  when i'm not listening to it, i'm singing it.

so it was particularly appropriate when this morning, friend tucker posted this article on a popular social network, about getting back together with those somebodys you used to know.  here's the highlight reel:

What are the long-term effects of cyclical patterns (a couple who breaks up and then gets back together) on a relationship?

While movies, books and TV shows may portray rekindling a relationship as romantic, the results of getting back together are less than desirable.

Couples in a cyclical relationship tended to be more impulsive about major relationship transitions -- like moving in together, buying a pet together or having a child together -- than those not in a cyclical relationship. As a result, the couples in cyclical relationships tended to be less satisfied with their partner; had worse communication; made more decisions that negatively affected the relationship; had lower self-esteem; and had a higher uncertainty about their future together.

The idea is that because people aren't making explicit commitments to the relationship, they are less likely to engage in pro-relationship behaviors, such as discussing the state of the relationship or making sacrifices for their partner.

When cyclical couples break up, they tend to be ambiguous about ending the relationship. So it can be unclear to one or both partners if they broke up and why they broke up, which leads to them continuing the romantic relationship. Other times the breakup won't be unilateral, so one person pursues the other until they get back together.

Couples who were cyclical prior to marriage were more uncertain about getting married and began their marriages with lower satisfaction and higher conflict than noncyclical couples. Over time, satisfaction with the marriage continued to decrease for cyclical couples. The more you are cyclical, the more your relationship quality tends to decrease and that creates a lack of trust and uncertainty about the future of the relationship, perpetuating the pattern.

first, this is oddly very comforting to me.  it gives me peace about all those past failed relationships that, try though i did, never worked out post-breakup.

however, if i were married to someone i'd had a cyclical relationship with, this article would probably freak me out a little (i'm easily freak-out-able).  and i'll be the first to say i think i'm a cyclical relationship kind of person.  i believe in second chances, i believe in the timing being just right, and i believe in sappy romance movies that give me false ideas about marriage.  in too many relationships in my past, i've held on longer than i should have because i really thought the relationship was salvageable--we just both needed time apart to get on the same page again.  (that has yet to ever actually work.)

and that leads me to this: there seems to be a deeper issue at work here, beyond relationship patterns, and it is this:  whether or not a person can stick to a decision.  deciding to be in a relationship for the long haul takes commitment--as does deciding to break off a relationship.  there are those who are either in or they're out, and there are those who are endlessly waffling between the two.  thankfully most of the boys i have dated have been excellent at this: they're in the relationship no matter what, and when it's time to break up, they cut ties, move on, and don't let either of us entertain thoughts of getting back together.  the first guy i really fell in love with--we'll call him joe because that was his name--was so good about this.  when we broke up, it was over.  it was hard and there was lots of crying, but it was over.  that "clean getaway" made it so much easier to move on and (i think) helped both of us have healthier future relationships.

i've also dated some wafflers though, and i have been a waffler myself.  waffling is when it's never really clear what your relationship is (and you're usually afraid to ask because of fear it will somehow ruin the burgeoning potential you are just sure your relationship has).  and it's never really clear if you broke up or what the terms for that breakup are.  in my experience, those are the kinds of relationships that prevent either person from really moving on.  

now, i think sometimes a breakup period can do wonders for figuring out what you want from the relationship, and i've heard a lot of success stories of couples who were unsure if this was someone they wanted to be with, and the time apart really helped them clear their heads, after which they both realized this relationship was exactly what they wanted.  they were just having cold feet.

a good friend recently told me about a couple who were on and off again for years, the girl always loving the guy, the guy never being sure.  and finally the guy decided, "you know what?  i love her!  i'm doing this!"  and they got married.  

so sometimes it does work.

but then this good friend learned that said couple wasn't so happy in their marriage.  

so maybe sometimes not being utterly sure is your sign?  maybe sometimes being halfway sure it's what you want means it isn't what you want?

or maybe the truth is that there just is no hard and fast rule for happy relationships?  a shout-out to tolstoy feels appropriate here:

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  (Anna Karenina, first line)

who knows.  i surely do not.  

and more interestingly, i'm not sure what the ramifications are...what does this mean for my future relationships?  should i be of the joe-mentality: when it's over, it's over.  no second chances.  ?  and if i'm in a relationship and we need to "take a break" to figure out where we're at, does that actually mean that it would be better for us to just cut all ties (as hard as that is) and move on?  

and what about implications for my larger life? this commitment issue--waffling between projects, between careers, between friends, between summer plans--this is a very real part of my life.  should i just commit to things fiercely, regardless of how sure i am that it is "THE BEST OPTION" for me, trusting that fiercely committing to a less-than-the-BEST-OPTION (say a third or fourth best) will still leave me happier than if i ultimately ended up with the best option but only after months of waffling?

these are things i shall think on.


  1. what i got out of this is that i need to think of some cool hand movements in order to sing better

    1. bingo, nate. well you're already married so you have nothing to worry about in your life, right? right.

    2. also, big bangs probably would help you sing better too.

  2. (Read this like we're driving home in the car): Perhaps there is no "BEST OPTION". People that commit are happy because they committed. Your mind is the only thing that creates an imaginary alternative option that maybe perhaps could have been almost better than what you chose. You aren't living by saying "if only I would have" all the time. If you decide to be happy and enjoy your decisions, letting all fears and uncertainties go, then you are going to be happy. Or you can miss the grand results of your decisions by looking behind you at what you could have done. I've found that there is not only one path labeled "happy". Most paths lead to happiness--if the traveler is looking around and enjoying the view (as Mom would say). So make that decision girl! You've got a level-head and lots of beautiful, inspiring ideas crammed in it. Your guns are worth sticking' to!

  3. Ok. Listen. Why on earth is Rose so much wiser than me?!

    Also, can I just comment on that song. It started and I thought, "What the...this song is kind of weird." But then it reached in, grabbed my soul. I just sat there shocked. Now I can't find my soul ANYWHERE.

    I think I'll listen to it again. Soul-less.