If you want your Relationship to last, invest in yourself

We were doing some spring cleaning and I asked my daughters to get rid of their unwanted toys. Each girl was given a box, and not surprisingly, within minutes both boxes were full.  Before packing up the boxes to be taken away for donation, I did a quick scan of their closets to make sure there was nothing else that needed to be purged. Sure enough, in the back of the closet I noticed a pair of sparkly slippers. These sparkly plastic beauties were once all the rage when my girls played dress up, but now that beads and Beanie Boos took over play time, these radiant slippers lost their sheen and laid long forgotten at the bottom of their toy basket.

Naturally, I went ahead and slipped the slippers into the donation box, when all of a sudden my younger daughter let out a scream protesting to leave her precious slippers alone. These were hers and she wanted to keep them! This objection alerted my older daughter (the original owner of the slippers and the Cinderella costume that came with them, which were handed down to her younger sister), who claimed that the slippers belonged to her and that she wanted to play with them.

A dramatic battle over the slippers ensued. Tears, cries, accusations, and harsh words were poured out over an object that for months, if not years, lay forgotten collecting dust in the back of the closet.

Watching this melodrama unfold, made me wonder how is it possible for an object that lay unnoticed in the back of the closet for months to create such a ruckus in a snap?

We only fear losing something that we perceive to be valuable

In the case of my daughters, the notion of losing these fancy slippers reminded them of the value that this object held to them. Or rather, once held. Not to mention that there was only one pair of slippers, and two eager girls who wanted to posses it. Limited resources are usually the cause behind many terrible wars in human history.

But going back to the battle over the slippers, I think that my kids’ response applies to human behavior in general: we value most that which we either don’t have or what we have the potential of losing.

And same can be applied to relationships. When we chase someone who’s hard to get or difficult to land, we tend to perceive them as more valuable. At least to a certain point. If they become impossible to get, eventually their unattainability can turn into a turn off, or completely discourage us from trying.

The more effort we put into something, the more valuable it is to us

But assuming that they are enough of a challenge worth pursuing, then their value increases in our eyes because winning them over requires effort and work. And the more effort or work we invest into someone, the more valuable we perceive them to be.

Their every text or encounter is worth in gold, and the idea of being with them seems like a win in the jackpot. At least for the first few months. But as date nights morph from head banging at the Red Hot Chilly Peppers followed by parasailing over the Atlantic to eating pizza on the couch while watching a movie on Netflix, routine starts creeping in. You start getting comfortable, putting less effort into planning time spent together. The screen becomes the entertainment, and takeout, your dinning experience. The mystery is gone, as you figure out each other’s tendencies and habits, and before you know it, your relationship slides onto the quick and easy track. And the easier something becomes, the less valuable we perceive it be.

It’s human nature to grow accustomed to something that’s always there. And so like the air that we breathe without much thought, the person who’s always there, keeping us company, also starts being taken for granted.

Generally it’s difficult to always focus our attention on one individual, all of the time. Occasionally we take others for granted, even the people we care for. It’s difficult to keep the same level of focus we had for someone at the beginning of our relationship, five or ten years later. But it’s one thing to get distracted now and then, and another when their presence leaves us feeling indifferent.

Stay flexible not rigid 

In the case of the slippers, my kids became indifferent about them because the slippers were good for one thing only: a five minute stroll around their bedroom. They sure looked good for a few minutes, but those plastic slippers were uncomfortable, not practical for an active child, and could only fit a lucky girl with the size 12 feet. Those shoes offered only one application.

Curiously, in my girls’ toy donation boxes I found dolls, stuffed animals, coloring books, princess dresses, plastic knick knacks they got with their kids meals, beads, or games with missing pieces. The one toy I have never seen them part with is Lego. Why? Because Lego bricks offer them endless possibilities. They can build any structure their minds can imagine. It’s a toy that always stays cool because it adapts to anything their mind can think of. Legos have hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. You can build anything, then destroy it, and then build something new again, whether you’re nine years old or 99! They never get old because they always offer new possibilities.

How do we stay valuable? By reinventing and investing in ourselves. 

Keep building and rebuilding who you are. Create a better version of yourself beyond just the physical. Looks can certainly help at the beginning, but your six-pack abs or killer legs alone can carry you only so far. Without substance, no matter how shapely your legs look as you stretch them on that couch watching Netflix, if those legs can’t carry you further than the fridge and your sofa, and your conversation dies after three sentences, you’ll soon be walking alone.

How to reinvent yourself? through experiences and education. By collecting new experiences and learning new skills, we evolve. And our personal evolution should never end. Just because you landed a warm body to keep you company for a month or two, in the long run, it’s your ability to keep others engaged that will determine if you’re just a stop along their route, or their destination.

Whether you are in a relationship or not, keep trying to be a better version of yourself. Take a class and learn something you were always afraid to try. Maybe it’s cooking, piano or painting classes. Broaden your horizons, and try to push yourself occasionally outside of your comfort zone. Learn a different language, and go ahead, buy that ticket to Rome to see the Coliseum, instead of watching it on your computer screen. Take action and do something, anything that will get your heart pumping a little faster and place you in situations you’ve never been in before. Only by doing something new, will you broaden your experiences that will help you evolve into a better version of yourself. And the more work and effort you put into yourself, the more confidence you’ll gain, if needed, to walk away when you know you’re no longer valued by someone. And therefore, those around you who are conscious of this possibility, will understand your value that much more.

About the Illustration: The Circle of Love


In this picture I wanted to illustrate the circle of love and friendship in a relationship. I painted three stages of this cycle, starting from a simple encounter that progresses to the physical love, that eventually evolves into profound friendship and love. But the circle starts and ends with friendship.

In the illustration I framed each stage of this cycle by painting budding trees around each pair, symbolizing growth and possibilities that come with new growth. Just like trees grow a new canopy after every winter, so do we grow new opportunities with new experiences that we gain.

The cycle begins with awareness of the other person. And as awareness grows into curiosity about that individual, as seen between the two people on the left, the desire to connect deepens.

Then relationship grows more intimate, when touch connects the two physically, as seen by the couple in the middle staring at the sunset. And as the physical pairs with friendship, true love is formed. The pair standing on the highest plane touching hands, exemplify friendship and the physical connection in one.

Without friendship, profound love can’t exist. Relationships that last, start and end with friendship. And therefore it’s a cycle. Friendship means being nimble, willing to adapt, grow and evolve alongside each other. It means being open, and willing to invest in the friendship by investing in oneself and supporting one other. The work and effort we invest into our friendship first, will determine the strength of our relationship in the longterm.


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