Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Relationship Checklist #1

How long do you keep a gallon of milk in the fridge after its expiration date? Do you really trust the smell test?
My rule of thumb is to follow the label on the package. If it says my food has gone bad I heed the warning. Easy enough. No sniffing required. This is a bonus in my opinion because I don't want to know what the rotting contents smell like a week past expiration.
But what about relationships? How long do you hang on after the union has clearly taken a nose dive? How many "deep chats" are appropriate before someone packs their bags? How many second chances are to be given before you draw a line in the sand?
Is there a sniff test for a relationship gone bad?
I'm a fan of Dear "Whoever" columns. Dear Annie, Dear Amy, Dear Whats-her-face. I read them any time I get a newspaper. The questions thrill me. Some are heartfelt and depressing. The woman with a dying mother or suicidal friend get me every time. What do you say to people suffering with such deep pain? Then there are other questions from (mostly) women that leave me going "huh?"
Take, for instance, today's Angry and Suicidal wife who married a man two years ago only to find out now that he is gay and into porn - hard core. He watches it, he pays for it, he participates in it. Angry gave him an ultimatum: stop the porn or I'm history.
Good luck, lady.
Don't be surprised by the outcome of that relationship fix it solution: he went right back at it.
She cried and pleaded. Went to counseling sessions and spent countless hours in deep, heart wrenching conversation. She wanted to work through it with him but it seems as though he didn't want the same thing.
In the end she did some Nancy Drew detective work and still caught him red handed in a mess of online history evidence. His habits, and desires I assume, weren't changing.
Now she was baffled as to what to do next. Stay or leave? According to her letter she had already moved out but hadn't filed for divorce. She wanted to know if she should try to save the marriage.
Umm, really?
Is this even a question worth asking?
Not only is the man leading a double life (aka, lying) but he is gay to boot! He isn't even into women. Does marriage to a man who prefers men make a lick of sense?
Last I checked marriage is more successful when you have a heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman. When one isn't digging the opposite sex we call that a red flag. A big, bright, flag the size of Texas flapping at the pace of hurricane winds.
I don't usually advocate divorce. Running at the first scuffle over tile choice on the kitchen back splash isn't my recommendation. But sometimes you just have to face the facts. There are some issues that warrant leaving. And a man who is into other men would be one of those issues, if you ask me.
If I were to compile of checklist of the must haves in a potential mate I would start it like this: make sure he is into women - only.
Then the checklist can get to some deeper issues such as faith, trustworthiness, respect, morals, a love of Panera Bread and reading. I'm not kidding about those last two. If he can't sit at Panera Bread with a good book we won't make it past the first date. Some things just aren't negotiable.
Or so I say now, when there is no man in sight or even in my peripheral vision. But the plight of a young woman crying on her cell phone in a public restroom reminds me that sometimes the smell test hurts when it comes to spoiled relationship detection. She reminds me that we have all succumb to the trap of letting a relationship linger past its "best before" date.
The girl in question was crying her eyes out, blubbering in the phone to her boyfriend, or maybe soon to be ex-boyfriend. She spit out questions at rapid pace, her throat closing around her words. Don't you care about me at all? How could you have not been there after you promised you would be?
Uh-oh. Broken promises. Another red flag.
Drain the carton and head to the grocery store. That milk has seen its day.
Yet, she cried about how much she loved him and wanted him to show her love in return.
Then she walked out of the room, leaving my eavesdropping self to wonder what ever happened to the devastated, hopeless romantic.
I have a feeling she went back to him. Because haven't we all fallen into the same trap? Cry hysterically, blubber like a fool in public and ruin your makeup? Yep, been there. And then next week be back with the man on the other end of the line, going out on dates like the world is nothing but butterflies and roses.
Moral of the story? Angry and Suicidal - I feel your pain.  Maybe I've never married or had a significant other turn out to be gay, but I get it. Sometimes it is hard to walk away when we have so much of our hearts invested in the outcome. It is hard to see the dream die.
But if our dreams have turned into nightmares it is best to put them to rest, move on and let a new dream take hold. It is scary - don't get me wrong - but the new dream will be better then living with the malfunctioned and broken original version.
Moving on is like ripping off a band-aid. It is going to hurt like the Dickens at first, but in the end you'll be glad you did it. Band-aid's don't go well with pretty dresses and cute shoes.
So rip it off. Do the hard thing now so you can enjoy life, all healed and ready for a night on the town!

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