The key lesson of this post is that if you’re going to live a you need to embrace short-term discomforts when they occur in pursuit of long-term benefit. One of the major predictors of life success is the ability to defer gratification, and in an inversion of that paradigm, someone who seeks to avoid short-term discomfort is often setting himself up for bigger problems down the road that could have been solved earlier. “A stitch in time saves nine.”
Early in my blogging career, I penned two long posts concerning the breakup of my two-year LTR:
These were obviously deeply heartfelt pieces, following a long and painful process of discernment that resulted in my conviction that I had to get out and then my executing on that conviction.
With the benefit of a year-plus of hindsight, I can say with even greater certainty that it was the right decision, and in fact would have been better made earlier. Why wasn’t it? Well, a large part of it was wanting to avoid the significant discomfort of breaking up – the waterworks, the redelivery of personal property left at each other’s places, the breaking out of couplehood habits, finding your own dinner plan each night, finding new people to talk to about work and life. Some of the very freedoms I looked forward to in singleness were scary and awkward too. I don’t like to cause people pain, and knowing that she’d be deeply hurt caused me to kick the can down the road repeatedly, until things had gotten so bad that she couldn’t fault me for taking action (she faulted me anyway, another sign that a man can’t put too much stock in a woman’s emotional state when it comes to making decisions).
I realize, later on, that my inability to make the tough call was a harbinger of weakness, a lack of self-efficacy that was out of character for me.
I don’t celebrate the woman’s pain any more than my own (which is to say, I don’t celebrate it at all). I took it as a collateral cost of doing what was, in the long run, best for me and for her. (I did get criticism from one of my personal advisors who accused me of “breaking her heart;” my response was to wonder what the alternative was? Staying in a dying relationship, taking more of her time that she could be using finding someone better fit to her?)
WHEN YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW
It was about a year before the breakup when I got the intuitive sense that we were living on borrowed time (whether I realized that’s what the feeling was at the time, I guess I’ll never know), and about three months after that when we had a major dealbreaker incident that should have formed the backbone of a resolute breakup discussion, the dignified end to an arrangement that had run its course.
Obviously I didn’t, and it was the latest life incident in a series that continues to teach me that when something has to get done, you have to step up and do it or you’re just digging a deeper hole.
I’ve learned that once you get that real sense of finality, every day you don’t act on it a couple of bad things happen.
First, you get deeper into a situation that is highly suboptimal. And it takes more time to dig back out. I estimate that I ended things six to nine months later than I reasonably could/should have. And I had to pay that back – it took about six months of singleness to get my mind right to game with confidence and really connect with women again. Some “relationship hangover” is normal, but it would have been a lot shorter had I not gone down that path of heavy dysfunction in the final months.
Secondly, when you allow yourself to stay in a bad situation, you subconsciously accept the idea of mediocrity – you lower your standards for yourself. That also makes it harder to go get what you want when you are finally free to do so.
EFFICACY IS PART OF MANHOOD
Acting in your best interest when you know you need to do so is a mark of self-actualization. It’s part of being a man in the epic sense of the word – if you have knowledge that would better your life and you fail to act on it, you are backing away from your own self-duty, from your male imperative to act in the world. You’re really abdicating your position as captain of your own life. And men are not judged well for being non-actors. I’m not just talking about all the Man-Up Shaming we’re seeing in the press via the agitations of lonely spinsters. I’m talking about the intra-male community, where men really keep watch over the grooming of other men into their order. Go into a football team and ask them what they think of a guy who won’t step up into the hole to take on the opposition’s best blocker, or a hockey squad and ask about the player who backs away from a fight. Men don’t respect men who won’t compete, who won’t fight for themselves and who back away from the chance to change their world. Neither do women.
Hell, most of a man’s sexual market value is a direct distillation of his ability to affect and influence the world (via physical strength, leadership ability or unique cognitive talents that accumulate influence and prestige).
I noted in the posts above that a man can’t properly show his talents to the world if he’s with the wrong partner, because he will be spending all of his time negotiating a mismatched (or worse) relationship instead of contributing to the world in a positive way. Don’t accept mediocrity. Don’t shy away from some incidental discomfort to play the long game. When something needs to be done, do it and don’t waste a second.