Welcome to another post on Midlife Encounters.
Today, we’re exploring the dilemma of the question - Should I stay or should I go?
The toughest fight is the one you fight with yourself.
Is it too bad to stay, yet too good to leave? The dilemmas of excellent happy times & the extreme horror of the conflicts.
For Lenar, this was the state she found herself in, a 5-year old relationship with a 3 year old child.
She had experienced pleasant attraction and sour disgust with Ciga, her lover for many years. Lenar had experienced the emotional dilemmas of excitement & fear, yet contempt and envy, and she was undecided on what to do.
After my training session at a Beach Resort in Lome, Togo, Lenar spoke with me at length on these dilemmas. My job was to listen, filter, and ask clarifying questions, not to make judgments or decisions for her. She was exhausted with the back-and-forth, hard swings, and its impact on her mental health and physical stability.
One of the basic life skills we need to acquire is relational intelligence, having knowledge and insight to be able to deal with people at different levels & relationships roles in life. We need to develop relationship language, words, phrases, statements and meanings. We need to learn about emotion, emotional intelligence and the roots of different emotional expressions.
How do you handle the feeling of being loved & hated, wanted & rejected, at the same time?
Sometimes we are happy & excited to be in a relationship, yet at other times, we want to go out and be alone. The level of soft or hard swings you experience in your relationship is dependent on your view of the relationship.
For example, if your partner is your all-in-all (your friend, confidant, co-parent, lover, housekeeper, hangout partner, teacher, and spiritual connection), you will find it very difficult and the swing will be hard on you, because your partner is practically your world, so letting go is like cutting your skin.
If you have a relationship with a wider community, family, and friends and you have different people playing different roles to support you, you will have a better view and appreciation of how to deal with the complex hard swings of your relationship.
Lenar expected Ciga to be her everything and he lived up to her expectation for many years, but that also held the relationship in a fragile state and Lenar became totally dependent on Ciga. Is this wrong?
Today, we have different relationship frameworks:
Social media-driven relationships,
Existential pragmatic relationships,
Cultural relationships, and so on.
You may need to locate yourself and your relationship and intrusively determine where you belong. The behaviours, attitudes and expectations of the partners in each of these relationship types are different and if your partner is diligent, you will see that the hard swings and the challenges of managing expectations will be more pronounced.
Lenar asked me a question during our short conversation, “Should I stay or should I go?”
This question is a big story in itself.
It is not a question of the relationship or a question about Ciga, rather it is an assessment of her life, her existence, her self-esteem, her self-confidence, her dreams and ability as a mother, her career.
If she leaves, how would she define or redefine herself, how would she face the world without her identity as Ciga’s wife or the mother of his child?
I asked Lenar one question, “What does staying mean to you?” She paused for a few minutes and said, “Staying is a sure but slow death and going is the quick death of my passion.”
I sat up, asked her the same question again and she said - “This relationship is all I know and it's all I have, so both ways I am drowning.”
The Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can help you look at yourself and your expectations in life and relationships.
What do you really want and why?
Lenar recognized that she was ‘dying on the vine’ yet it seemed she could not do anything about it.
Click below to read our blog post
Dying On The Vine
Let’s get back to our story…
Lenar asked me two more questions - “Where should I start from?” - “How will I start all over?”
In the course of my work as a management consultant and coach, I have learnt to be calm, patient and listen until a person totally expresses their position or bends on a matter while working for validation.
It was slowly becoming clear to me that deep down, Lenar had decided to leave.
You need to learn to understand the rough patterns and expressions in conversations and listen for the cues.
After some time spent deep in thought, Lenar made the ice breaker statement that confirmed my predictions -
“I will take my daughter to live with my sister and her 4-year old cousin. I know my sister will be okay with it.”
I asked Lenar, “When do you plan to execute all your thoughts?”
She said, “3 months from now, when Ciga travels during his annual leave to see his family in Bassa, about 6 hours’ drive from home.”
Hmm…my predictions were true, I thought to myself.
I looked at Lenar and asked her - “How will you execute this plan?”
She stared out the window for a moment, then she faced me and said…
Watch out for part 2 of Lenar and Ciga’s story.
Do you think Lenar will be able to take her daughter away successfully?
Will Ciga catch her in the act?
Let us know your thoughts.