I dated a man for six months wherein the entire relationship was like an amusement park ride.
It was equal parts screaming and relieved laughter. Very early on I realized that dating him was not going to be a stroll through the park, but rather a hike up Mount Everest. For example, a month in, he dumped me via Facebook and didn’t bother telling me (I only found out when I logged on to post him a cute message). But what did I do? I took him back, of course. Why? (Insert heavy sigh here.) Because I suffer from extreme optimism.
I’ve always heard people say that relationships take work, to which I’ve always responded with a smug chortle. If you have to work at a relationship, something must be wrong, I’d always thought. You work on a thesis. You work forty hours a week. You work out. You don’t work at scheduling dinner or getting under the covers with someone.
And then I realized they were right.
My relationships were work. Guy after guy, I found myself pulling up my legwarmers, snapping on my sweatband, and rolling on the Arid Extra Dry. When the boyfriend complained that I never called enough, I put him on speed dial. When he had a bad day, I patiently let him rant all evening as dinner went cold. When he showed up for a date and criticized my outfit, I chanted ‘water off a duck’s back’. When he didn’t check up on me when I was sick, I increased the frequency of my therapist visits.
I discovered, in fact, that my romantic liaisons were akin toiling away at an unventilated sweat shop for fifty cents an hour seven days a week.
But that didn’t sit right with me.
I was exhausted all the time. My mind was constantly occupied by trying to figure this shit out. My friends had had it with listening to my daily complaints. If relationships were work, I thought, then sign me up for emotional unemployment insurance.
After friends of mine commented on the amount of time and energy I was putting into these relationships, I couldn’t help but wonder: when it comes to relationships, am I an optimist, or just a masochist? Where do you draw the line between working on a relationship and cutting your losses? If I bail, am I a commitment-phobe? And if I stay, am I a glutton for pain?
Well, as Edgar Bergen once said, “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take the chance?”
So I think the idea is to measure your pain-to-pleasure ratio. As any good masochist will tell you, the sting is not worth it if no gratification is to be gotten.