In any relationship, there's usually a silent agreement (or sometimes verbal, depending on the nature of the relationship) based on patterns of behavior for one and/or the other person involved to take up certain duties. Such duties can include phone calls, emails, cards/gifts for special occassions, payment of certain bills, organizing outings/vacations, and generally providing emotional and/or physical support when needed--not necessarily when asked (there's a difference).
In a previous entry, "Men and Women," I spoke about the nature of difference in how men and women communicare by virtue of our physiology. This applies across all relationship types and can sometimes account for temporary "disconnects" between parties. But where there's an emotional-will, there's always a way to build a verbal bridge and reconnect. If you find yourself constantly fighting to build this bridge with no help from the other side, you may be in a committed relationship where you are the only one maintaining that committment...on behalf of yourself AND the other party. Now, there's no need to panic at this point. Though the other party is solely responsible for their own lacks, those lacks may have developed because of your strengths.
People are lazy. We just are. And when someone out there is willing to pick up our slack, we often gladly accept. The thing about relationships is, you can't change the other party. You can only change the way YOU do things. So stop. Stop picking up the slack. Leave verbal cues to communicate your need for shared responsibility. How long you allow time to lapse before you issue reminders or draw the line is up to you. But in my experience, if you're at the point where you have to even say anything about it, and after you express your need it's still not met--reminders aren't necessary. It's time for you to either move on or accept the other person as is.
Many of you will guffaw at this advice--but think it through for a moment. You and your spouse, for example, or child or parent, are not communicating well. You are the only person committed to the relationship. It's very clear. You've attempted patience, change in behavior, direct communication...and nothing is working. But with a parent or child, you can attempt family counseling and it may help temporarily, but ultimately, unless you accept the other person as is, you will find yourself increasingly more miserable with every interaction because your disappointment will be perpetual. With a spouse, our society has made it easier to walk away, but it's still not exactly an easy thing to do.
I see many long-time couples have difficulties after decades, when an outside observer might believe the relationship to be solid. Marriage is effort, hard work. Those decades probably include varying levels of betrayal, from small things like white lies to larger issues like infidelity. And even marital relationships can reach a tipping point, where there is so much negative history, it's difficult for either party to not see the past in every moment of their present. Here is where I do recommend couple's counseling as a second line of defense if a couple finds it too difficult and/or hurtful to verbally navigate on their own. Using an objective third party can be helpful in seeing your way clear again--but in order for counseling to be effective, both parties must fully be present. Even if you both agree, there may hesitation on one or the other's part. You will see such hesitation within your sessions relatively quickly--when the things you discuss aren't being carried through or are being ignored. What you do from there is entirely based on your own needs. If you have children and have financial concerns, you may opt to recognize the dysfunction, stop putting in the same efforts and continue living with your spouse without any kind of emotional expectations. You may also choose to draw the proverbial lline in the sand. Leave. Let your spouse know what needs to happen from here if the relationship is to continue. Always be calm. Always be fair. If you're the committed party, this may be easy or hard, depending on how bad things have become. But no matter what the circumstances, calm and fair are non-negotiable, even if it's not "fair" for you to have to be so.
The inevitable question in any lop-sided relationship scenario is, WHAT DO YOU WANT? Many times, what we want isn't even considered because there are too many other required obligations. But you still need to ask the question. Because, despite whatever obligations you have, you can't continue being the sole support in any relationship.
Many of us try though--for decades. But at some point, whether it is a friend who doesn't get it, or a child, a sibling, a parent, or a spouse, you will go mad with the burden of emotional inequity. And you shouldn't wait for that breaking point to hit before you address the problem. In most cases, that point coul come too late. The damage will be irreparable. And only you can judge that.
The underlying issue of being alone in a relationship is you. You must ask yourself hard questions and be honest with your answers. Why did you continue with such a relationship to begin with? What do you get out of it? Because that's why you're in the position you're in. Maybe you simply fear being alone and so took whatever came your way with friends or partners. With children, parents and siblings--you do not choose those relationships but those same relationships may be the foundation for why, when you can choose, you choose to have friendships and partnerships with those who abandon you in some way.
Breaking deeply-rooted social patterns of behavior can be difficult, but not impossible. Take charge of your life and your relationships will follow. Continue to ask yourself what you want and you will continue to find what you need. The caveat is, you MUST be honest with yourself. Be brave when facing your fears. Your life isn't part of some predictable pattern; you can't order it from a catalogue..."Yes, I'd like to order the house in the burbs with 2.5 children and a dog, please...." ;)
Sometimes, letting go of our preconceived notions, and the illusion of control that goes along with them, can help you clear the way for personal evolution. Because that's what facing the reality of such empty relationships brings, evolution.
Until next time, dearest readers....