Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cleaning House & Moving On

When our rooms or our houses get too dirty or unorganized, we clean them so we can feel more comfortable. Sometimes, we also need to “clean up” our relationships that have become too uncomfortable or unorganized. This tidying up might mean making changes to the relationship or ending it altogether. Either way, when a relationship becomes too “dirty,” something must be done in order to ensure that the rapport remains healthy and helps the individuals grow.

There are numerous reasons why a relationship would need to be cleaned up. One reason is when the costs of a relationship outweigh the rewards. In other words, when someone is taking advantage of a friend, lover, spouse, or family member. An example of this exchange comes from an episode of the ABC show According to Jim. In one scene, Cheryl, the mother, cleans the kitchen until it is spotless. She is very proud of this accomplishment because with three children and a husband, this room can get quite messy. When she is finished, she leaves the room with a sense of achievement. However, just after she completes this task, her children and husband come in and make a mess, not even noticing her work. In the show, Cheryl resorts to alcohol to cope with her relationship problems, which indicates that feelings of unimportance in a relationship can have significant negative effects on an individual. According to the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, the threat of being taken advantage of in relationships often results in feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. When feelings of unimportance exist in a relationship, something needs to be done. In a situation like the one from the show, it is unlikely that the mother would decide to end the relationship with her family. Instead, she could do what my mother did when she felt like all of her housework had gone unnoticed — sat her family down, explained her feelings and suggested ways to enhance the relationship; perhaps a simple “thank you” from time to time. As I was watching the clip from According to Jim, I immediately thought about the article from Mercury Reader, “Why I Want A Wife.” The author, Judy Brady, lists all of the reasons why she would want a wife. The list is extremely long and includes the following: someone to take care of the kids while she is at work or at night classes for her college degree, someone who will keep the house clean and pick up after her, someone who will sympathize with her when she is sick and someone who will help entertain her friends. The reasons Brady lists represent the Western idea of the typical wife and mother. However, the way Brady describes the role of a wife indicates that her rewards are very slim and her costs are very high. The above cartoon also illustrates the idea that a wife's many duties are usually taken for granted.

Another reason why a relationship would need to be cleaned up is when the interests of the individuals undergo a drastic change and create two dialectics that do not mesh well together. Sometimes there are desires that cannot coincide with each other, leaving an individual to make a choice. For example, in the movie Keeping the Faith, Edward Norton’s character, father Brian Finn, struggles with the decision between his vows to the priesthood or his love for Jenna Elfman’s character, Anna Reilly. Ben Stiller’s character, Rabbi Jake Schram, deals with a similar choice: his love for Anna or his religion (As a Jew, it is not encouraged that he marries outside of the faith). Anna, who loves Jake, also has a decision to make: whether or not to convert to Judaism. Each character weighs the pros and cons of each choice and makes the best decision to help them all grow. I also had to decide whether or not to end a relationship when I was younger. When I was eight years old, I met my childhood best friend, Sarah. When I met her and for several years after that, she and I shared the same interests — the same movies, music, sports and other pastimes, like drawing, baking and practicing our flutes. We saw each other nearly everyday since she lived down the road from me, and we also did everything together; she was like the sister I never had. However, when we entered middle school, her interests changed. She found a new circle of friends, started listening to hardcore rock music, began to curse, smoke, steal and party, and no longer liked to draw or bake. She was like a completely different person, and the complete opposite of me. I tried to make the friendship last by continuing to spend time with her, but it wasn’t the same. There were times when I felt like she didn’t care about me or that she wanted to get me in trouble. For example, one day when we went to our local pool together, she met a boy and then spent the rest of the day with him. She also tried to persuade me to steal on several occasions, which was something I did not feel comfortable doing. When I realized that her influences were harming my growth as an individual and that our relationship was never going to be the same, I decided that it would be best to end the friendship, which was one of the hardest things I had to do. She was my best friend for five years, and losing her was like losing a significant part of myself. Yet, I knew it was the right thing to do. According to Nicole Thrasher, who wrote about ending a friendship on, although it might be hard to end a friendship, knowing when to end it is an intrinsic quality. “It’s much like a romantic relationship,” she said. “It’s not always that the love is gone, but that there's so many other things blocking it, it’s not really worth fighting for anymore. When the time comes, you will know how to end it.”

Still, another reason that a relationship needs to be cleaned up is when there is a loss of trust and security. For example, when I was six years old, my parents decided that the town we were living in, Clifton, was becoming too unsafe for my me and my brother. My mom heard rumors that the middle school was becoming increasingly dangerous since students were bringing knives into the building and starting fights, and the town in general was just becoming less family-friendly. Therefore, my parents decided to move. When I heard this, I became angry and then started to cry. I didn’t want to move and leave the only home I’ve ever known. Saying goodbye to my room, the house and my friends was really hard for me, especially because we were moving to Vernon, which was more than an hour away. I never understood why we had to leave Clifton, and whenever we were in the area, I would ask to drive by our old house. Seeing the house and the changes that the new residents made to it only made my heartache stronger. However, time eventually healed that wound, and I started to like my new home in a safer environment.

There are many more reasons why a relationship — whether it’s with a spouse, romantic partner, friend, town or lifestyle — should be cleaned up. Those reasons are too many to list here, but the same thinking applies to them all: If a relationship is impeding your growth in any way, try to repair it, and if it cannot be fixed, then think about ending it. In the end, you might realize that this change was for the best.

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