Conflicts of Interest

Knowing the right thing to do and wanting to do the right thing are not always given sides of the same coin. I'd venture to say that in most cases, they're actually mutually exclusive, especially in matters of the heart.

Typically we characterize it by saying our head wants us to do one thing but our heart just won't listen. We know a person is bad for our lives but we let them stay. My question is why?

I've been there before. In fact, I've gone back to doing a lot of thinking and processing of what it looks like to be a person waist deep in mess but unable to leave. Be in a relationship with someone who either doesn't care for you or the relationship or both and think that if you just stay a little longer, the sinking ship will unsink and right itself.

I'm thinking about that even more watching a friend struggle through a breakup. The last time I watched a friend do this, I wasn't as gracious as I maybe should have been. In my defense it was because I didn't know that what I thought on the matter had any bearing on her feelings, but nevertheless, I made a series of mistakes that I hope to not repeat.

There we are, in the stairwell of her apartment building. She's wiping eyes that won't get dry and she looks like a train hit her head on. We've been having this same conversation for weeks now. This whether or not she should end the relationship conversation. The conversation everyone has had at least once. Either with a friend or with themselves. And we've never come to the same conclusion (I say we, but I just defer to her conclusion, whether I'm in agreement or not). Being with him makes her sad more than it makes her happy, makes her feel inferior more than superior, makes her question both her sexuality (that's major) as well as her genuine good characteristics more than it affirms who she is as a great individual. As is usually the case in these situations, the answer seems obvious. I mean if you have to ask, that speaks volumes.

And yet, again, she looks up at me and asks if she's doing the right thing. The right thing being ending a less than 6 month relationship that isn't presently adding any value to her life. She doesn't ask for reaffirmation, she asks because she doesn't know and a little bit because she's hoping for a reprieve.

I feel growth in myself in this situation. I don't feel irritation as I've felt for friends before, and as I felt for myself when I grappled with this. I feel genuinely hurt for her because it is hard. When you love someone, you sometimes believe (or maybe just hope) that love is enough and friends, I'm here to tell you, it's not. I feel for her that on top of dealing with all the questions this otherwise innocuous relationship brings up for her, she's also got to accept what she perceives as defeat and walk away.

I start to answer her, but hesitate. Someone else answers for me. "Yes." There's a soft chuckle and she wipes her eyes. She looks at me again, her eyes are still not dry and she says, "but it's so hard." I hug her and say, "I know. If it were easy, fewer of us would have war wounds from love."

We leave her to return to him to have the final talk, and we wonder aloud if it really will be the final talk. I think it's over, but I don't think it's done. That's the other thing about these situations. It's hard not to spend the ensuing alone time doing a lot of revisionist history. that is to say, it's hard not to remember things a little bit better than they actually were and to then wonder whether or not you jumped the gun. Those of us who've been through this once, have been through it several times and with the same person.

It's hard work both knowing the right thing to do and wanting to do it. Especially when doing so means admitting defeat. But I think it becomes a little easier when you realize it's not defeat to get your life back and your joy back and your happiness. It's a total win. You may lose a person, but for many of us we get ourselves back and how can you lose when you get yourself back?

One thing I believe very much: Everything is about how you frame it.

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