Hump Day Crush: No Magic Words

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people–myself included–get caught up in the idea of the “perfect moment.”

You know what I’m talking about: those movie-induced fantasies of big speeches, grand romantic gestures and fairy tale endings. Be they weddings, proposals, apologies or what have you, the idea is ingrained in us quite heavily. So much so that there’s not much fighting it directly. It is what it is and we have to deal with it.

A side effect of marinating in this shared fantasy is the idea that, if something goes bad in a relationship or if we want to get into a relationship bad enough, there’s some sort of magic word that will make everything OK.

“If he’d just tell me he loves me, it would all be OK.”

“If I can pull this off, she’ll forgive me for everything.”

There’s always an “if” and there’s always a wild hope predicated on those deeply ingrained fantasies.

And then there’s reality.

The reality of it is, half of our problems in relationships are caused by these fantastical, romantic ideas. Very rarely–if at all–are those problems solved by the same ideas.

There are no magic words to make everything OK. Relationships, be they romantic or platonic, either begin or don’t. (I’ll stop short of saying “are meant to be” this time around.) Once they start, there’s work that needs to be done to grow them and keep them healthy. That work has to come from both sides, equally.

When one half of a relationship pair neglects their share of that work, things fall out of sync. Tension of one form or another builds and, sooner or later, spills over the threshold of comfort and joy. This can often be a nasty flash flood of vitriolic acusations, seeming to come out of nowhere, triggered by some small thing.

That small thing is usually one of those deep seated unrealistic, uncommunicated fantasies that we all take for granted.

Once that happens, everyone involved instinctively either pushes for a bigger fight or withdraws into the “safe” hope that one magic word or gesture will fix everything. If the fight instinct engages, things get obviously nasty, at least for a little while. If the “wait for the magic to kick in” instinct is the winner, the nastiness can be much more subversive.

When you’re the one who puts the extra work into a relationship, it’s very painful to have it change in a way that leads to less interaction. You care about the other person, you have good memories of the two of you together. You have plans for the future that include them. Seeing that happy horizon fade away is unpleasant. Even if it’s clear to anyone not directly involved that things can only go that way.

It’s never the words or actions that matter. What matters is the person saying or performing them. While you’re sitting there thinking “If she just says this one thing,” remember all the times you’ve been told that same one thing by other people. If you’re the one looking for that “one thing” to say, remember all the times you’ve heard it and it didn’t make a difference.

There are no magic words, no grand gestures, that will automatically fix a relationship that’s broken. There are, however, many little things and a lot of hard work that can. Most important, though, is an ability to cut through the culturally induced fantasies so you can see the reality of the situation.

It’s not about the signs and symbols, it’s about the people. Relationships are always about the people.

  • Luciferase

    This is one of my top ten reasons for drinking. After a few Sapphire & tonics, it’s *always* the right moment.

    Maybe 40% of the time, it turns out that it was a good-enough moment, even though I wouldn’t have thought so sober. A 60% failure rate looks kinda shabby, but the cliche is that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    • There are always plenty of “good enough” moments for starting things. It’s a little trickier to pick out the ones for ending things… or fixing things.
      And the idea of “missed shots” segues into the next post I have in mind regarding what the ultimate goal of those shots are. 🙂

  • Luciferase

    This is one of my top ten reasons for drinking. After a few Sapphire & tonics, it’s *always* the right moment.

    Maybe 40% of the time, it turns out that it was a good-enough moment, even though I wouldn’t have thought so sober. A 60% failure rate looks kinda shabby, but the cliche is that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    • There are always plenty of “good enough” moments for starting things. It’s a little trickier to pick out the ones for ending things… or fixing things.
      And the idea of “missed shots” segues into the next post I have in mind regarding what the ultimate goal of those shots are. 🙂

  • Autumn Szabo

    Okay. The stark reality of most of this is that there is no such thing as one size fits all. There is no such thing as “do this” and it will all stop or go away. There is no such thing as “say this” and it will make it all stop hurting. There is also no such thing as “be this way” or he may / may not want me.

    People should just be who they are and avoid the games. If the person is smart, they will figure out who you are anyway without all the facades, falsettos, and bullshit that often gets thrust on people. I admit – removing the mask is hard and, in all cases, scary.

    It is the ability to remove that mask and see who you are and who the other person really is before any real meaning comes out of the friendship or the relationship. As reflected in the recent post on LJ, figuring out what is yours and what is theirs is a matter of surpassing that layer….first.

  • Autumn Szabo

    Okay. The stark reality of most of this is that there is no such thing as one size fits all. There is no such thing as “do this” and it will all stop or go away. There is no such thing as “say this” and it will make it all stop hurting. There is also no such thing as “be this way” or he may / may not want me.

    People should just be who they are and avoid the games. If the person is smart, they will figure out who you are anyway without all the facades, falsettos, and bullshit that often gets thrust on people. I admit – removing the mask is hard and, in all cases, scary.

    It is the ability to remove that mask and see who you are and who the other person really is before any real meaning comes out of the friendship or the relationship. As reflected in the recent post on LJ, figuring out what is yours and what is theirs is a matter of surpassing that layer….first.

Get Adobe Flash player