Mean, Dumb, Crazy, Ugly or Smelly?  Leave!


Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay

So much of this world is based on illusion, temporariness, and disposability
that I think it's essential that our closest relationships reflect what is real.

- Gillian Anderson

Assumptions are the termites of relationships.  I wrote that.

- Henry Winkler

Relationships - of all kinds - are like sand held in your hand.
Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is.
The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers.
You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled.
A relationship is like that.
Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact.
But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.

- Kaleel Jamison

Is your relationship an equal partnership?

by Neil Rosenthal

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you decide whether to stay in or to get out of your relationship, taken from Mira Kirshenbaum's book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay (Plume):

bulletThink about the time when things between you and your partner were at their best.  Looking back, would you now say things were really good between you then?  If, when your relationship was at its "best", things between you didn't feel right or work well, the prognosis for the relationship is poor.  If it never was very good, it's likely to never be very good.
bulletHave you already made a concrete commitment to pursue a course of action or a lifestyle that definitely excludes your partner?  If so, then on some level you've already decided that you'll be happier if you leave your relationship.  It is as if you have already advised yourself to leave.
bulletDo you and your partner have at least one positively pleasurable activity or interest (besides children) you share and look forward to sharing in the future?  (Sex counts only if it's mutual, pleasurable for both, and if it keeps the two of you close.)  If so, there's the possibility you'll be able to clean up the issues between you and have a good relationship.  Real love needs real loving experiences.
bulletTo you, is your partner basically nice, reasonably intelligent, not too neurotic, okay to look at and smells all right?  When people say yes to this question, the possibility of love still exists.  You just can't love someone who you think is mean, dumb, crazy, ugly or who smells bad.
bulletDoes your partner bombard you with difficulties when you try to get even the littlest thing you want?  Is it your experience that almost any need you have gets obliterated?  If so, you'll be happy in the long run if you leave, and unhappy if you stay.
bulletDo you have a basic, recurring, never-completely-going-away feeling of humiliation or invisibility in your relationship?  If so, then you're in the kind of situation where people report that they are happier when they leave, and unhappy if they stay.
bulletHave you gotten to the point, when your partner says something, that you usually feel it's more likely she or he is lying than that she or he is telling the truth?  If so, you will be happier leaving.  When you are married to a liar, your marriage is a lie.
bulletIs there something your partner does that makes your relationship too bad to stay in but that, for all intent and purposes, she or he is unwilling to do anything about?  If so, you'll be happier if you leave.  If your partner shows a real sign of being able to change with respect to such a problem, there's a really good chance something healthy and alive is at the core of your relationship.  It is the ability to change that turns frogs into princes.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist, specialising in intimate relationships.

Source: The Dominion Thursday 13 April 2000; photo source USA Today Friday 15 March 2002

Getting bent out of shape?
Source: China Daily - 8th Wuhan International Acrobatics Festival in Wuhan, Hubei province, 20 October 2008

Search for a Soulmate, or Love the One You're With?

Romance Wins Out:
Twentysomethings often thought to be cynics, have strong romantic expectations

Source: Gallup poll sponsored by the National Marriage Project, Rutgers University.
Poll of 1,003 ages 20 - 29 has a margin of error of + or - 4 percentage points

by Karen S Peterson

Research suggests it can work out okay either way...

Some people believe there is one special soulmate somewhere in the universe meant just for them.  But others say that's romantic mumbo jumbo.  A deep bond develops only after years of working to make a relationship last.  The soulmate theory is the stuff of movies and fairy tales, as well as fodder for researchers who study love for a living.  But many marital therapists tend to believe the opposite, pitching their tents in the "work it out" camp.  Now, research to be presented to the American Psychological Society says neither belief is "right" or "wrong" - either can lead to a successful relationship.  The work-it-out partners "do manage to work hard on their relationships, but not necessarily harder than those who are satisfied soulmates," says Renae Franiuk, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

The two theories are part of a new field that investigates how attitudes and beliefs about relationships formed before couples even begin dating may influence how the romance plays out.  The idea of a soulmate is often credited to the philosopher Plato, who said a perfect human was tragically split apart and we are destined to spend our lives trying to find our missing other.  The concept has been gaining steam for the past couple of years, ever since a Gallup Poll found that most young adults believe in soulmates.

The idea is catching the public's imagination.  Increasing numbers of self-help books and websites trumpet how to find the mate destiny has reserved for you.  But the idea of soulmates draws stinging reviews from many who monitor the future of marriage.  Atlanta psychiatrist Frank Pittman, author of Grow Up!, says it sounds like "magic.  It is an irresponsible effort at bypassing the hard work, the negotiation, battles and experiences of being together.  The idea is like cotton candy.  It is something that goes down easily without having to chew it."

Franiuk, however, says those who believe in soulmates will fight to make the relationship work.  Those who think they have found the right one "will work very hard to stay with him or her," she adds.  "They will go out of their way to exaggerate their partner's strengths or downplay their flaws.  They will frame a negative as a positive, such as calling a selfish partner 'somebody who will stand up for himself.'"

There is a hitch, however.  If a partner decides his or her love is not a soulmate after all, the disillusioned one may bail out early.  The fear is "well, if this one is a dud, I'd better move on quickly."  These lost souls "will exaggerate a (current) partner's flaws and downplay strengths," Franiuk says.  "They are very dissatisfied."  Franiuk's research team was formed at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign.  She has spent six years formally studying 1,500 college students, most of them single, and interviewing hundreds more.  The majority filled out questionnaires; about 100 were tracked for eight months.  Both men and women tend to the romantic view, she finds.  Overall, about 50% strongly buy into the soulmate theory, while only about 15% strongly endorse the work-it-out concept.  The rest are neutral.  The practical partners, those who believe in working it out, are smack in the middle on the satisfaction charts, Franiuk says.  They are less satisfied than soulmates who believe they have found their one and only, but happier than romantics who think they have linked up with the wrong partner and must move on.

Not all experts concerned about the chances of happily-ever-aftering pooh-pooh the idea of looking for one's soulmate.  Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, refuses to pour cold water on those who believe in a destined love.  But she cautions that looking for a soulmate "is okay if partners realise that finding this mate who feels so right is just the first step in a long process.  And that (process) will focus on how to make love last and to grow together as lifemates," not just soulmates.

Different Visions of Love


Work-it-out partners:

Believe success in love is based on whether people are "right" for each other. Believe effort is more important than compatibility.
Expect a future spouse to be the most amazing person they have ever met. Think love grows and is not "found."
Believe bonds are there before the partners have even met. Believe marriages fail because most people won't work at them.
Couldn't marry unless passionately in love. Could be happy with most reasonable partners.

Source: USA Today 29 May 2003 illustration by Suzy Parker; table information: Renae Franiuk, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point

Signs of a Bad Marriage Show Themselves Early

by Abigail van Buren

Dear Abby:

Two weeks ago, my husband let it slip that he wants a divorce.  Since we were married, his personality has changed completely - he is not the man I married.  I would like to pass along some tips for anyone considering marriage, and share some of the bright red flags I chose to ignore.

bulletIf your parents or siblings have doubts about him, pay attention.  Listen and check it out.
bulletIf your intended has nothing good to say about his ex, beware.  This is a pattern.  Divorce is rarely only one person's fault.
bulletIf his children have nothing to do with him, don't believe him if he says his ex brainwashed them against him.  My stepchildren told me they hated him, and they had good reasons.
bulletLook closely at his credit and job history.  They are sure predictors of what your life will be like.
bulletIf he's over 30 and has no money, do not let him move in with you, and don't marry him until he's financially solvent.  If he has any respect for you (and himself), he'll insist on it.
bulletBe sure in your heart that you can live with him AS IS.  You cannot change another person.
bulletThis is a biggie: Beware if he has no friends.  It is not true that they all chose to side with his ex.
bulletIf your friends dislike him, pay attention.  This is also true if he hates your friends.
bulletIf he has more than one DUI and still drinks, run!
bulletIf he is one personality at work or with others, and another person alone with you, run.
bulletIf he has nothing to do with his parents, investigate why.  Don't take his word for it.
bulletIf he's an expert at everything and brags a lot, understand that he will turn off a lot of people, eventually maybe even you.
bulletIf he has sexual problems, go with him to a doctor before you marry him.  Believe me, his problem will become your problem.
bulletIf he is emotionally or verbally abusive, it will only get worse.  Yelling, name-calling and glowering are classic signs of an abuser.
bulletIf he is never wrong and never apologises, everything will be "your fault" forever.  And after years of hearing it, you may even start to accept the blame.  Or come to hate him.
bulletIf he does something wrong and says, "That wouldn't have happened if you hadn't ()," that's another sign of an abuser.
bulletAnd if he's mean to children, pets or animals, recognise that he's pathological, and the next victim could be you.

I am now 100% disabled and in danger of losing everything.  I was taken in by someone who came to regard me as a disposable item.  I only hope my letter will save someone else from what I'm experiencing.

Eyes Wide Open in Mississippi

Dear Eyes Wide Open:

Your letter is brimming with well-thought out advice, and I hope my readers will heed it.  Now I have some advice for you: Start asking around for the name of the best divorce lawyer you can find, and be prepared for a fight.  I wish you luck.


This article is only written from the woman's point of view (if she's disabled because of her husband and yet HE left HER, one wonders just how valuable her insights actually ARE) - but of course there are women who are to blame if a marriage doesn't succeed.  I would expect some of those causes would include

bulletspending a disproportionate share of the income on image-related items
bulletspending too much time socialisimg (talking on the phone, visiting girlfriends/neighbours)
bulletrelegating children's needs to a low priority, infidelity
bulletcultivated helplessness
bulletinadequate coping skills.

Send me an email if you think of important items I've left off...

Breaking the Silence

To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.

- Abraham Lincoln

Silent gratitude isn't very much to anyone.

- Gertrude Stein

In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface,
we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future.
When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers...
we are ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.

- Alexander Solzehnitsyn

"I have come to believe over and over again," the poet Andre Lorde said, "that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal, and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised and misunderstood.  For it is not difference which immobilises us most but silence."

The Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said we live in strange times "when ordinary common honesty is called courage."  (That's a discouraging thought.)

This interesting painting is meant to illustrate "swathed realities and strained relationships..."

I think it portrays that concept rather well...

Something about the picture reminds me of an advertisement for Viagra (probably that all problems are simple and it only takes one thing and everything will be fixed.  Life's not really that simple, though.)

Source: print of a painting by artist Nilufer Tokay 1998

For articles on affair motivators, changing relationships, do-it-yourself psychotherapy, lies, insincerity, social graces, cosmetic surgery, roots of culture, self-deception, love, and reunions of lost relatives click the "Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this Relationships section.

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