In the past three weeks, I've seen one close friend and two associates – all men – break off long-term relationships with their women. For these couples, it truly felt like all that was left for them to do was tie the knot. Many years were invested, they lived together, and families were seamlessly integrated. But somehow the end result was the men telling their women, "I think we need to take a break."
As a man who has always believed that breaks were nothing more than childish excuses for people to cowardly bring their relationship to a clean and definitive end, I grilled these dudes as to how they could justify their actions. What was truly remarkable about all of their responses was the fact that these three men, who come from three different backgrounds, each with a very different set of life experiences, all had such similar answers:
"We just weren't connecting as a couple anymore."
One of the guys said that as their relationship became more serious, important issues started to arise between them. The problem was that they never took any time to address or rectify these issues, because all of their focus was on getting engaged and eventually starting a family. But after years of being together, he felt like a rift occurred at some point and they were both too busy to address it because they were hurling towards marriage at a speed too fast to be delayed by introspection.
The second guy said that he felt suffocated in his relationship, especially because both of their families constantly grilled them about when they were getting married. Financial priorities were the reason for the delay, but as they saved for their wedding, he started to feel like he was growing apart from his mate. That particular topic encapsulated so much of their time and energy that the upkeep of their chemistry received no attention. They didn't fight; they just didn't talk, laugh and embrace each other like they once used to.
The third guy simply stated that he fought with his significant other all the time, even over the most innocuous of issues. From his perspective, the fights started more recently during conversations about their future – a topic that comes up so frequently to the point where they rarely got to address and enjoy the present.
Ultimately, these three men are suffering from what I refer to as, "the unbearable burden of marriage momentum."
While it's easy to adopt the ridiculously simplistic ideal that these men are simply scared of commitment and dodging marriage, there's actually a far deeper reality that many men experience that goes far too unnoticed among a lot of women. For many men, the worth of their relationship is equal to the current relative health of their chemistry. And with that in mind, the idea of marriage becomes incredibly confining because these dudes can't see the benefits of a lifelong union when the current emotional health of their relationship is presently terrible.
While I'm sure this is also true for women, it can be unbearably suffocating to feel like you're in a serious relationship that is steadily moving forward to the next big relationship step, while unresolved issues linger in the air. Those concerns will affect a man's interpersonal relationships so severely that the thought of what's next to come will paralyze him with fear. How the hell do we make another big leap forward when we haven't successfully proven that we can handle the leap we just made?
There is a cure for the "unbearable burden of marriage momentum" and it isn't "powering through." It's actually slowing everything down.
In our society, we are constantly told that a "good relationship" is supposed to have set, defined timelines where we don't "wait" too long to "graduate" to the next step of seriousness. We're also told that a "good relationship" will emotionally resemble a straight, upwardly-linear line, and that "happily ever after" means no rough times ever again. The truth is relationships are more akin to experience ebbs and flows.
The men I mentioned didn't need a break as much as they just needed a moment to refocus on their relationship with their significant other.
They needed time to remember how they both made each other laugh.
They needed time to remember how to listen and communicate.
They needed time to remember what made them both so damn happy at the thought of spending the rest of their lives with one another in the first place.
The one thing that must be stressed about the "unbearable burden of marriage momentum" is that it doesn't just affect men; it affects couples. Most likely, their significant others are feeling that stress too. Sometimes in our society, we have a reflexive desire to blame and impugn women in relationships for not being married as if they are rife with unbearable shortcomings. This can cause any person enough stress to make them behave differently.
Once again, slow down. Don't let anyone outside of your relationship dictate what constitutes success and failure for YOU. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that you are fostering a connection with someone you want to be with for the rest of your life, which hopefully will be a long ass time. Don't get so wrapped up in building everything for tomorrow that you forget to enjoy things with your lover and best friend today.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He's author of the book, "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer." He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.