Surviving a relationship shipwreck

Written by Michelle Robinson

I am an appalling sailor and easily get seasick.

Despite this, Merv and Maggie are two of my closest friends. They live on a catamaran, and if a full risk assessment has been conducted and there is a helicopter on emergency standby for my evacuation, I am sometimes invited to spend time on their boat.

On one of these sojourns, a strong wind sprang up without my permission.

I eyed the white-capped waves dancing just beyond the creek’s mouth uneasily.

Merv took a swig of his beer and seemed genuinely concerned as he asked, “You know the only sure cure for sea-sickness, don’t you?”

I was ready for a miracle.

“No,” I replied with interest. “What’s the sure cure for seasickness?”

“Sitting under a palm tree,” answered Merv wryly.

The point to this seemingly flippant anecdote is that the only safe place to assess a relationship shipwreck is on the beach. It is impossible to let go of the pain while you are on the ocean’s floor, clinging to your love-boat.

At some point you must look up and swim hard for the light.

Taking time out of a relationship gives us the emotional and physical space to look for landmarks in our commitment to our partner. Tuning into our hearts, we can feel whether the relationship is salvageable. If it is, we need to know the costs and whether it is wise to pay.

A decision to pay in effort and promises is not the hard part. The hard part is being able to give these things freely without resentment. This is where wisdom enters the process.

Acts of service are wonderful, but if you play the role of the martyr, history suggests you may get burned. You owe it to everyone in the relationship to make choices that will enrich rather than diminish you.

Ultimately, no matter how others feel, you can take responsibility for only yourself. This life was given to you and the gift of choice is yours. It does not belong to someone who wants to control, manipulate, or guilt you into loving them.

Choosing for your highest aspect of self is never selfish. It requires you to sit under that palm tree in quiet contemplation and feel into your motives for wanting to leave or stay. You need to determine whether these motives are grounded in positive, expansive feelings or if they make you feel uneasy and constricted.

If you are being manipulated by a partner who wants control, you will feel unsettled and perhaps even anxious when you contemplate your relationship.

Do not ignore any shifts in feelings that signal you to have caution. This is an important opportunity to examine whether the relationship you are assessing is worth salvaging. Ignoring subtle messages at this time only invites future pain.

A fulfilling life does not have to be earned; it just needs to be chosen.

It took the death of a close friend for me to realise that.

Kerri-Anne and I had been like sisters since we were four years old, so when she died suddenly in her sleep at the age of 51, it was a tremendous shock. Throughout her life she was vivacious, flirtatious, and oozed energy. She enjoyed champagne, parties, and travel. Although Kerri-Anne had fewer days than most to enjoy whatever love she could embrace, she had taken her opportunities as they came.

Her death highlighted to me that it is okay to lighten up, be carefree and have fun.

You are worthy of a contented, fulfilled life.

When assessing a relationship that is floundering in high seas, allow yourself time to truly consider the best outcome for you. If you can re-build on dry ground, free from resentment and long-term pain, that is wonderful.

If you cannot, then honour the gift of your life. Make the choice that steers you towards happiness.

Until next time.