What Does It Take To Pleasantly Endure?
I’ll start somewhere near my conclusion, which is this: No matter how beautiful you are as a person, no matter how socially attractive, and no matter how good you behave, if you don’t fit into a mold within the parameters hoped for by your romantic partner, then there may be nothing you can do to prevent conflict and irreconcilable differences.
Tonight I’m watching the 2011 film “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt. Whether or not the film accurately portrays what happened with the Oakland A’s under Manager Billy Beane, the story focuses on universal themes of people (ballplayers, managers, scouts, GMs, etc.) growing up with a dream of how they want to live their life to go – then coming face to face with harsh realities, realities where their lives don’t match those expectations.
Many, if not most people, have things they want to do most days, ways they want to spend their time most days, places where they want to live, careers they want to work in, charities they want to support, causes they want to champion - they know what they like and where they want their story to go.
You may discover your partner is a closet gay or bisexual, and thereafter, no matter how good of a person you are and how well you treat them, your efforts won’t make them prefer you.
You may discover your partner wants to live in Milwaukie. Thereafter, no matter how much you want them to live in Seattle, your best behavior won’t change their need to leave for Milwaukie.
Your partner may want to get drunk every night. Thereafter, you may never be able to persuade them to spend their time doing other things with you.
In your relationships, you’re going to run into conflicts that have very little to do with what you’re arguing and fighting about – and a great deal to do with conflicts of interest that are often not discussed, because they cannot be remedied because the two of you want major opposing things. This doesn’t make either of you the good or bad guy. It just makes you unpleasantly incompatible.
Sometimes you’ll fight about every little thing because one of you (maybe both) knows there are big things that cannot work if one of you puts in the necessary time to meet the other’s interests. Things don’t work because the time and efforts needed to please one of you would disable, hinder, or destroy the time and effort needed to do the preferred and mutually-exclusive interests that would please the other.
In “Moneyball,” the main character (the A’s baseball general manager Billy Beane played by Brad Pitt) gets a dream job offer to become the highest paid GM in the history of baseball ($12.5 million dollars), and he turns it down. He turns it down not because it’s a bad offer or bad team, but because in the narrative he wanted to tell about his life, he wanted to live near his daughter. He gave up wealth, a dream job, and fame because he didn’t want his life’s story to be about a father who couldn’t regularly spend time with his daughter during her teen years.
Before going on, I want to mention a related idea that’s been coming to mind recently:
A person who destroys something is often a person who does not understand the depth and diversity of the worth of what he has destroyed. When you better understand something’s value, you’re less likely to be destructive. Seek to understand the values you don’t already perceive. It may make you less destructive.
Sometimes, it’s neither your mistakes, behaviors, nor faults that cause a relationship to collapse.
So what can be done? Sometimes little or nothing . . . no matter how much time or effort you put into it.
But there may be one more option. Whenever you can, try to find out how your partner wants to end their story. What is the ideal narrative they want to describe at the end of their life? If you discover you can’t play the role your partner wants played in that leading role of their story, sometimes you have to concede not that you failed, but that you couldn’t play that very specific and complex role.
Sometimes you can play that role. But either way, try to find out how your partner wants their life story to play out, and how they want it to end.
“Moneyball” ends with a scene where a baseball player hits a long ball, trips over first base, and returns to first base. His first base coach and the opposing players laugh, letting him know the ball was hit 60 feet past the fence for a home run. A little embarrassed, the ballplayer dusts himself off and rounds the bases to home plate.
There are so many great people who get into marriages that end in divorce, great people who end up not being able to play a few of the necessary parts of the role their partner wants. These are great people who got miscast – in exclusive obligation relationships with incompatible people.
Many of these people, like the home run hitter at the end of “Moneyball,” don’t know they hit a home run with their talent and efforts. Sadly or tragically, some of them didn’t have someone there after they fell to let them know they’d hit a home run.
The image atop this post is by Anna Morosini. © All rights reserved by Anna Morosini.
My life is a cocktail of contradictions. I’m a child of divorced parents. I don’t like the institution of marriage because I fear its structure. I fear how the parameters often lead people to behave. Yet I’m someone who has benefited more than most from my long-term romantic relationship. Nevertheless, when my children are old enough – if they get to a place where they ask if I think they should get married, I honestly don’t know what I will say. I wouldn’t wish the framework of marriage on anyone – yet I don’t know what alternative would consistently be a better alternative. Is it not amazing and peculiar that a social institution so central to so many cultures should still be so filled with potential conflicts and lack of certainty? Maybe these concerns and problems are only mine.