Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Surrendering the Fight - Are We Giving Up Too Soon?

I was at conference recently where the guest speaker started his speech with a rather unsurprising statistic. Almost 60% of today's marriages end in divorce. Well, there's news. But it did get me thinking.

Do we quit more easily today than we did, say, fifty years ago? Thirty years ago? Ten? Not just in our careers, but in our personal lives? When a friendship seems to be getting sour, do we just turn out backs, cut our losses? Are we really at the stage of humanity when a friend in need is a friend on their own? When the going gets tough, do we all get out?

Sadly, statistics like that do seem to indicate that this is the case.

More and more, we're giving up without a fight. Maybe things don't mean that much. In a world where a nice enough meal with all five food groups is the distance to your freezer, where everything is on the go, and where the latest Dolce & Gabbana dress is at the touch of your computer button (praise online shopping) we are encouraged to be lazy.

Do we really expect everything in life to be that easy? To click your fingers and say, hey I want a degree in Law, doesn't mean your gonna get it. Typing a few thousand words (172,151 to be precise) doesn't mean your gonna get published.

Quitting when you really don't have talent is one thing. Quitting when you just can't be bothered is another. If you hate what you do, there isn't a point in doing it. Life's too short, move on, don't hang on to what's dragging you down. But if you love it, but can't stand the rejections that come with it, the heartache, the trials, the disappointments - you need to sit back and question yourself. Is the end result truly worth the darkness?

You need to weigh up the costs versus the benefits to use my old fashioned legalese. And if it is, then do what you do for your own pleasure not for the end result, do it for the sake of what it brings to you. Don't quit. It's too easy to throw your hands up and surrender.

I recently experienced my own form of divorce - the end of an eleven year friendship. It was startling. I had just returned from an overseas trip, to find out that the person I had thought was my bestest best friend in the entire world had gotten back together with her ex - and hadn't so much as dropped me a line. This doesn't seem like such a big deal - except that this was her first love, the guy we had all thought she was going to marry and were shocked when she dumped. They guy we all knew she was still in love with despite her one year hiatus.

And it wasn't just that she hadn't told me that, she hadn't written to me once on my travels, despite the few emails I managed to shoot off. I took it with a pinch of salt, despite the bitter aftertaste. When I got a phone call from her late one night, I jokingly said in reference to the romance: "I can't believe you didn't tell me, and you call yourself my best friend" - I was told rather flatly that she didn't call herself my best friend anymore.

Huh? What? Where did that come from? This was the person I had spent every day with for over a decade, the person who knew all my secrets, the one I went crying to when I faced heartbreak, the one I laughed with over the most trivial random things. This was supposed to be the godmother of my future-unborn-children.

I listened mutely as she listed every fault of mine on the phone, every error or slight she had preceived. I was shocked. I remember saying in a daze that all relationship take a lot of work and with out hectic schedules, sure, we hadn't spent as much quality time together as we did pre-high-school, pre-university, pre-boyfriends, pre-full-time-work.

"We're better off just hanging out in groups now anyway," was the answer I got in return.

But now we're faced with the awkward situation of a silent custody battle over our friends. Who gets who? Hanging out with the same group of high school friends who all knew that you were going to be each other's maid-of-honours and now are so not, is more than a little awkward. "What, you two were joined at the hip? What happened?"

I, having already been more than a little over the couple-club group before I left on my holiday, I acquised the floor to her and retreated a little. Just until my pride gets a firm leg to stand on again.

Did I quit? Yes. I did. I surrendered. Was it a good move? I think so. In relationships, I realise now, that people don't always grow together. Some relationships can withstand the test of time. Some people, like vines, grow together, remain a part of each others life until they are ripe old crones.

Take for instance my grandmother. She has been in hospital since August suffering a brain-related ailment. Her best-friend drives to visit her every day in the icy cold snowy winter, an hour drive, paying approximately $3000.00 so far in fuel and parking alone. Some people grow together. Others grow apart. And that's all right too.

I used to have very strong views about divorce, having been a child of a pretty bad divorce myself, but now those views have changed a little. I still say: Try, try hard, try until your bones ache and you know you've done your best.

But sometimes, in some cases you need to let go. Give up. Surrender. Sometimes growing apart is better, because it means you're growing up. You're becoming somebody else, hopefully someone better, stronger, and if the person your with can't accept that, isn't it better, for both of you, to let go?

The question is, when? When do you fight and when do you surrender?


  1. I know what you mean. I've got a friend who was like that with me. We were 8 when we became friends, we spent every second together until we were 16 and now I have no contact whatsoever with her. It's weird that someone can be such a big part of your life for so long and then disappear from it.

    I just think we meet a lot of people we will lose touch with or have broken relationships with over the course of our lives, but no matter what, each will have something to teach us.

    As for the fight vs surrender part? I think maybe it depends on the situation, and I think that deep down, you just know.

    Love your blog! You're a great writer!

  2. That's exactly it. I think it's important to put everything into perspective at the end of the day. Losing that friendship was hard, but realising that it was dying and had been dying for a long time kinda put everything back into perspective.

    In a way it has increased my jadedness, my inherent aversion to too much commitment, but the fact is that people come and go. Each of them bring with them a lesson you have to learn, each of them have a message, each of them shape the person you are and help form the person you will one day be.

    So I'm not bitter about the situation anymore. I'm grateful for all the times we shared and all the fun we had. I'm glad I got to experience that teenage-girl-best-friend thing and I'm glad it lasted through the change from child to young adult. So what if it ended before the marriage-child stage of our lives. I've learned a lot from her and I'll never forget that.

    I agree with you on the fight and surrender part. That's something only you can answer for yourself, and at the end of the day you need to start trusting your inner voice.

    Thanks for sharing!