I often wondered why we stay in unfulfilling, broken relationships, obsessed over fixing them. And then it hit me. They’re not broken! They’re perfectly functional dysfunctional relationships. And the longer we stay, and try to fix or change the dysfunction and make it not dysfunctional, it becomes even more dysfunctional, and thus more functional. It’s a paradox. That’s because we’re not fixing anything. And we’re not fixing anything because nothing is broken. The relationship is a bad dysfunctional one, true. But that’s its job and it can’t be fixed. It is serving its purpose:
- It’s keeping us from facing our fears of being alone
- It’s keeping us from facing ourselves and fixing our own problems
- It’s keeping us from real intimacy, because, let’s face it, we’re not emotionally grown up enough to handle real intimacy (if we were, we wouldn’t be with an emotionally unavailable partner in the first place)
- It’s keeping our partner in a distant, dysfunctional relationship, possibly with no strings attached, because he/she is not capable of real intimacy either
- And it’s keeping us both dependent on drama, obsession, avoidance and pain, because we both thrive on those things.
And when those are the components of a relationship that we refuse to leave, that’s quite telling.
It says, this relationship works perfectly, especially when I am in so much pain and suffering throughout it. Well, let’s think about it realistically: when something doesn’t work, when something’s broken (a kitchen plate, or a glass, for example), what do you do with it? Do you keep eating off half a plate? Do you drink out of a broken glass, with a jagged edge? I’m guessing you don’t. I’m guessing you throw it away, in the trash, where it belongs.
What about something like a car, which has more value and can be repaired. What if you bought a used car and it kept breaking down, month, after month, after month, after month. And you kept repairing it. And the more money you put in the thing to fix it, it just kept breaking down on you. What would you do? I know what I’d do. I’d tell the bum who sold it to me that he sold me a lemon and I’d ask for my money back. I may even take legal action. Eventually, I’d get rid of it because it wasn’t serving its purpose. Somedays it would work, others it wouldn’t. But I couldn’t take my chances! I would have to get to work. I would have to be able to depend on a car, so for me to make any long-term investment in a really crappy car that kept breaking down on me and costing me a fortune with little payback would be completely idiotic of me, not to mention irresponsible.
So, when something doesn’t work for us, we get rid of it. But when something works, we keep it around.
Ask yourself if you’re holding on to a broken dinner plate? A cracked glass? A lemon? Or a fully functioning broken relationship that serves a need you never realized you had.