When it comes to the topic of relationships, I don’t pretend to be an expert. I’m not sure such a thing as a “relationship expert” even exists. I have certainly made my share of mistakes (and will continue to do so). But recently, I’ve been thinking about the dynamics of a relationship – the push and pull, if you will, of two people who either keep a relationship going or cause it to stop dead in its tracks. In friendship, love, or somewhere in between, relationships are complicated.
I was watching an episode of my favorite TV show recently and a line between the two main characters struck me – so much so that I wrote it down. The man, talking to his lover in a very metaphorical conversation about the sport of boxing, said to her, “Sometimes the biggest winner isn’t the one who throws the hardest punch; it’s the one who absorbs it.”
In life and in love, we’ve all taken our fair share (and in some cases, more than our fair share) of punches. They’ve come from bosses, from co-workers, from strangers, from friends, from lovers, even from family members. Some punches we’ve seen coming (and maybe ignored the signs) and some were a complete surprise. But all punches sting. Some even knock us off our feet.
I suppose there is something wise to be said about how heartbreak and challenge build character. Certainly, the ability to get back on our feet after a stunning blow to the face (or heart) builds our resiliency. And resiliency is an admirable quality; I’d stretch to say it is a requirement for survival. But there is another perspective worth considering. In response to my leading man’s comments, his lover replied to him by saying: “There’s no shame in saying you’ve had enough, and when you’re hurt, there’s no shame in saying so.” Maybe not a good strategy in boxing, but maybe a smart tactic in life.
Perhaps the first step in building the resiliency we need to survive is first admitting that we are hurt and understanding why. So often, we absorb the pain, blame ourselves in some way for it, and even sweep it under the rug like it never happened. In the process, we run the risk of allowing that pain to change us in ways that are detrimental to our long-term well-being. Out of a need to maintain our pride, we sacrifice our right to step up and truly defend ourselves. Why do we allow the one hurting us to feel like that’s ok?
I write this knowing that I am sometimes guilty of getting in the ring with people who continually throw punches at me. And I don’t always express my anguish or disappointment; sometimes I absorb it. But if I’m willing to get in the metaphorical ring of life and go 12 rounds with someone, shouldn’t that person care at least a little bit about my well-being? Perhaps the answer is to make sure I’m in that ring with someone who can let down his guard, who doesn’t hit below the belt, and who – at the end of the day – was in my corner all along.