Relationship’s fate turns on a single response

Our relationship hung on my response to one question in an IM. Depending on how I responded, I would either end the highly passionate but sometimes frustrating relationship or would save it from sudden death and allow us to continue to explore our connection.

It reminded me of the movie “Sliding Doors,” staring Gwyneth Paltrow. In it we see how her character’s life unfolds both if she catches the subway train home one day and if she does not. Such a seemingly inconsequential event, but the major repercussions are shown in how her life progresses depending on whether she makes it back to her apartment and catches her lover with another woman or not.

Such was a turning point for me with how I answered his question. However, unlike Paltrow’s character, I was clear how one answer would play out, but not certain how the opposite answer would.

Have you been conscious of such turning points in your relationships, where you are confident one choice would lead in one direction, but unclear where the other would lead? You can choose the certainty of one path, or the excitement that would follow the second choice. The certain path seems easier because of the predictability, but there is no passion. The uncertain path is where your heart lies, but there is no guarantee of happiness.

His IM followed a few days after several pointed email exchanges, which were not angry and hostile, but directly asked for clarification of behaviors incongruent with words. We were both guilty of inconsistencies that were vexing to the other.

His IM began: “I am sitting here wondering should we say ‘goodbye’ here or face to face?” It was an unexpected question based on the previous week’s messages which bespoke adoration and attraction. The assumption was that we would say goodbye soon. The question was not “should we say goodbye” but “when and how should we say goodbye.”

This was troubling to me as we’d had one of those instant connections — that elusive chemistry. It grew as we got to know each other and were drawn to each other on many levels. But there had been some miscommunications, misunderstandings and unspoken desires.

I knew if I said, “Let’s say goodbye now,” I would forever close the door on the possibility of exploring if we might indeed be a great partnership. Yes, there had been challenges, but I know few relationships that don’t, especially after the initial glow has dimmed a tad. Part of the cause of our miscommunications, I felt, was we didn’t spend enough time together to understand each other’s thought processes, priorities, and needs. I felt that with a bit more time together, we’d have more information to determine if we were a good match or not. The parts that were good were very, very good, and in my experience of dating, were very rare.

So I said I didn’t want to say goodbye, and asked if he did. We had a 3-hour discussion about our concerns and needs. We worked out some of the issues causing hesitation and agreed to meet to discuss more in person.

I made a choice about which door to close and which to swing open. We don’t always have the power of such choice. If he had been insistent on saying goodbye, there would have been little I could have done to keep the door open. And if few of my needs were being met, I would have taken him up on his offer to close the door.

When you are faced with a decision of whether to close or leave open a door on a relationship, look inside and determine if you have had enough of your needs met and if your partner will likely want to give you more, and you to give him what he wants. Don’t just take the easy way out by saying goodbye because it looks like working through the issues will be jarring. How you both respond to working through issues tells you a lot about each other, and can bring you closer together.

Don’t slam the door on a relationship which may have a few rough edges, but you feel has the potential to be wonderful. Relationships are like diamonds — they need polishing to become resplendent. However, if the relationship is too rocky and causes too much heartache, best to close that door so another one can be allowed to open.

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3 responses to “Relationship’s fate turns on a single response”

  1. Loving Annie Avatar

    My relationship definitely changed with one enormous mistake of mine.
    I lost something precious which can’t be regained – his trust.
    It makes me stop and really think now before I act out of anxiety.

  2. bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    This is truly food for thought, and remarkably spot on when it comes to my own current situation. I am in a quandary as to whether or not to meet a guy I consider a good friend in person, (we talk on the phone almost every day for hours on end and have been doing so for the past 6 months). Part of me really wants to meet face to face, as we don’t live that far apart, but another part of me is content with having a friend I can talk to about anything and everything, and I’m concerned about taking things to a different level.

    I guess I’m scared to open the door and lose my friend, but I’m also scared of not meeting up and perhaps missing out on a truly wonderful relationship. So, the door is swinging back and forth; maybe one of these days I’ll get up the courage to open it, as you did, and walk through to the other side.

    Good luck and hugs from bookyone 🙂

  3. GiGi Avatar

    Thanks for another timely post.

    I’m going through the same thing myself in a new relationship. I think I sometimes give up too soon and try and “cut my losses” too early.