Trust the Robust
How do you know if your relationship is meant to be?
Every so often, I get wrapped up in an agonizing analysis of someone else’s behavior. This used to be routine when I was single and dating. But it has also happened to me with friendships. It has even happened to me with potential jobs and job interviews so this phenomenon is not limited to romantic relationships. It works like this: I start to like someone a lot and it seems as if that person likes me a lot too. We begin to spend lots of time together. Then, for no fathomable reason, an abrupt change happens and I perceive that the other person is pulling back. I begin to analyze. I conclude that I must have done something wrong so I attempt to make things right. I begin to walk on eggshells. I like this person so I focus on behaving just so and doing things just so and giving the other person space and making sure that I do absolutely everything right so as not to lose that person. For a while, the relationship continues in a tentative way until the other person finally decides to let me go. Since I am not an aggressive person, I never fight to get back into that person’s life. I always let them go but I spend even more time analyzing what happened. I ask myself what I could have done differently so that I could get a different outcome. I come to conclusions about how I should have turned left instead of turning right. And on and on and on. Time passes of course and wounds heal and I get over this person.
What I have learned through bitter experience is that the die has already been cast. There is NOTHING that I could have done differently that would have created a different and better outcome. If you are in this situation, stop fighting it because you have no control over this. The other person has already decided to let you go but it’s going to take a little bit of time for them to work through their mixed feelings and guilt before they get up the nerve to show you the door. Think of this as a kindness on their part. The earlier they let you go, the kinder they are. Why? Because your relationship was never robust and never will be. It would have eventually come to an end and there was nothing you could have done to save it.
But what do I mean by robust? In computer science, a robust system (software, operating system, etc.) is one that can keep functioning under many different conditions, including adverse conditions or stressful conditions. In statistics, a robust finding is one that keeps coming up over and over again in different settings and with different variables. Something that is robust performs without failure despite stressful or adverse conditions. If you accidentally send your cell phone through the wash cycle because you left it in your pocket and it still works afterwards, it’s a robust cell phone.
You see, relationships are also either robust or fragile and this is obvious from the beginning. Now, a robust relationship may not necessarily last – it can end for other reasons, but at least in the beginning, you ought to be able to assess immediately whether it is robust or not.
So when you are in the early stages of a relationship and you are analyzing it to death and you feel like you are walking on eggshells, ask yourself, Is this a robust relationship? If you don’t police yourself, if you don’t have to choose your words carefully, if you let it all hang out, if you say goofy or foolish things, does the other person tolerate it? Do they overlook it and like you just the same or do you begin to feel as though you crossed some line that’s an unspoken deal-breaker for them? If you can be yourself without fear that you’ll turn the other person off then your relationship is robust. If you feel that you have to behave a certain way to please the other person then you have a weak relationship to begin with and you shouldn’t bother with trying to hold on to it because sooner or later, that person is going to let you go. So why not end it now and spare yourself the agony?
Trust the robust.