This past weekend, I was watching television. My channel surfing landed me on the Nat Geo Channel with a cheetah taking down a wild boar. I put the remote down and watched as the boar struggled and fought with this cheetah for over two hours. Just when the boar was ready to give up the fight, two hungry lionesses came out of the tall grass, chased the exhausted cheetah away, and took over the cheetah’s spoils.
All I kept thinking about was how much that had to suck for the Cheetah. She spent hours going after that boar, only to lose her reward to two lionesses who didn’t have to partake in even a minute’s worth of work. And that got me thinking about last week’s episode of ABC’s Scandal. If you watch the show, then you know that Fitz asked the First Lady for a divorce to be with his mistress, Kerry Washington aka Olivia Pope. Millie, (furious, frustrated, and in the middle of venting), screamed out, "I made him better and she gets to reap the benefits!"
If you are not a scandal fan, you can probably relate to the statement anyway. Either you have said it yourself or you’ve heard that same sentiment from one of your friends. The bottom line is when we put time and energy into a relationship, we want to be the person who claims all of the benefits. We introduce our significant other to new restaurants, new clothes, a new circle of friends, a totally different outlook on life, we help them excel in their career, we lift them up and place them in a waaaaay better position in life…. and then it happens…they break up with us, marry someone else, get engaged, or cheat on us. All of that effort, energy, money, and time is now wasted on “the new one.” Although this is a common perspective, it’s not at all how I view break-ups.
When you are a wealthy investor, the first thing you want to know is “What am I going to get for my investment?” In other words, you want to know what your return is going to be. The moment you expect a “return” from a relationship, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Months or years after a break-up, if I still hear things like, “When I first met him, he didn’t have anything! I taught him how to dress, I taught him how to eat…” (Zakia from TLC’s Starter Wives), that tells me that the individual went it with a grass-roots or start-up mentality and expected to come out with a company like Apple. Relationships are not non-profits or companies: there is no tax write-off or publicity if we build someone up. Nor are they vending machines: we can’t put in a commodity (money, time, resources) and expect rings, kids, love, or respect to be handed to us. If we focus on what we invested, we are probably not focusing on issues such as whether our needs are being met, if we share the same values and priorities, or whether passion and happiness exist on a daily basis.
You simply can’t judge a relationship based on how much “work” you put in. All that means is that somebody was “half” of a person walking into the relationship and you think you deserve credit for making them whole. It’s not credit that you deserve. What you really deserve is a stamp across your forehead that says, “I settled.” Because that is really what you did. You settled for someone who was not on your level, who did not have your interests, and who did not have your outlook on life. Instead of finding a whole person, you stayed with this individual, pouring your resources into what was really a “money pit.”
If you are still stuck on how much you did for an ex, that bitterness is keeping you from moving on. It’s human nature to make bad decisions but it is a choice to be angry, bitter, or to dwell on the past. Move on and find a whole person who already has what you are looking for.