A while back the keypad started to go on my microwave at home. First one number went, then a few months later another one, until finally I only had 2 or 3 working numbers. I have to tell you, it was REALLY annoying. I was coming up with all sorts of bizarre timing combinations in order to heat something up the way I wanted. Stuff like “Hmmm, I need to heat this for 90 seconds? Only my 3 key is working so I guess I’ll heat something up for 33 seconds 3 times, and take it out a bit early on the last time.” Yeah, it was a pain in the ass.
I talked to a buddy who is more mechanically inclined than I and he told me that for the cost of having someone come look at it and repair it I was better off getting a new one. Microwaves are pretty cheap, but I still felt guilty. The microwave itself worked perfectly fine, it was just the keypad that was broken. Yet off I went to an electronics disposal place with a microwave that was probably 90%-95% functional.
This happens all the time. What’s that, my printer isn’t working right? I guess I’ll get a new one. My couch is looking a bit tired? No problem, I’ll replace it. Issues with my camera? Ah, that one was 2 years old anyhow (gasp!!!), I can get a new one that will be WAY better, and have more features for less than it would cost to fix that one.
The Next Shiny Thing
It’s bad enough that we live in a world where it’s easier to throw things out than to fix them, but marketers have also been able to convince us that we need something new when the thing we have is still working perfectly fine.
Have you ever tried getting rid of a CRT television (tube TV)? Landfills are full of perfectly functioning ones, and no one wants them. You literally can’t give them away. Why? Because flat screen TV’s are the way to go. Heck, I know guys who had amazing TV’s and got rid of them to buy new ones because the refresh rate went from 60-120 MHZ. Any sort of feature rich gadgets are bad for this. There are probably massive landfills full of discarded mobile phones and computers/tablets.
Our society is insatiable, we are never satisfied with what we have and we always want more.
The Blame Game
Another societal shift seems to involve attitudes around responsibility. Maybe it’s always been this way, but it seems that in the past ten to twenty people have taken on the role of either passive observers or victims. Things happen, and it’s rarely our own fault. Instead, things happened because of this, or that.
North America has become infected with a litigation mentality. Late night television is full of commercials for “ambulance chaser” lawyers, telling you that all the bad things that happened to you aren’t your fault, and if you hire them they will get you money from the people who are REALLY to blame (If you’ve watched Breaking Bad, think of Saul Goodman – love that guy).
Impacts on Relationships
These attitudes have seeped into views of relationships. There seems to be a rise in the perception that problems in a relationship are unnatural, and that if a relationship is not perfect then it signifies that there is something inherently wrong with it. There is a romanticized notion that you don’t have to work at a relationship if you find “the perfect match”.
As a result people are throwing away relationships that are largely good, because they don’t want to put in the effort to work on the parts that need improving. It’s the same “disposable” attitude that occurs with consumer goods. Many people look at relationship problems and think they are unfix-able. Or they say “yeah I could fix this, but it would take a lot of effort. Besides, I can just get a newer model that’s faster, sleeker, shinier and has more features. It’s not worth the effort.” It’s too difficult to work on something and face the realities of how people got into the situation they are in. It is easier to just walk away.
I’m not suggesting that someone should stay in a relationship no matter what. But I do think that there are many relationships out there that are worth putting the effort in, worth fighting for. Yet many people can’t be bothered to put in the effort.
Instead of just landfills full of “stuff” our societies landscape has become littered with broken families, broken hearts, and lost hopes and dreams.
But He/She did it first!!!
A few months back I was listening to the radio on the way into work, and they were asking people to call in and share their thoughts on the following scenario:
The announcer had a friend who’s husband had an affair. The couple had worked through things and kept the marriage together. But now, the wife felt that because he had strayed she had a “free pass” to do the same.
I was disappointed (but not surprised) that callers largely backed the wife’s idea of having a free pass. Personally, I don’t get this. What the guy did was wrong, and it destroyed any sense of commitment and trust between the couple. For the couple to truly move forward, that commitment and trust needs to be rebuilt. I understand pain, anger and a sense of betrayal. But if your goal really is to move forward with the relationship, retaliation accomplishes nothing. If anything it’s counterproductive, as all it does is layer hurt upon hurt.
In my university days I remember a discussion on rights. It’s common to hear people talk about their rights – I have a right to this, I have a right to that!!! The professor of the class talked about how no one is ever entitled to anything, and rights come hand in hand with responsibilities. In order to claim a “right” FROM someone/something, I have certain responsibilities I must meet TO that someone/something.
I had never thought of it that way before but I loved it. Everything in life has a cost, and this applies to relationships too.
What is the “cost” in relationships? I think that’s an easy one. If you want to get anything out of a relationship, you need to be willing to put into it. In happy times, this exchange is easy and happens naturally. We want to please the other person and make them happy, so we do little things for them to show them we how much we care. And when we are giving of ourselves, we naturally receive in return.
This gets harder when times are tough. During these times we are less inclined to give of ourselves, and we can become suspicious when the other person does. Have you ever had a moment when someone was being nice to you, and you found yourself questioning what their angle was? “He bought me flowers? What did he do? What does he want?”
It’s easy to blame issues in a relationship on the other person. And realistically, there may be one person who owns a larger share of the blame for a distressed relationship. But there are still two people involved. Instead of looking at all the things the other person is or isn’t doing, people need to take a hard look in the mirror.
Take ownership of an issue. Instead of pointing a finger, ask yourself what you can do to help things. How can you help improve a situation?
Built to Last
Relationships require work. Many people say they know that, but don’t understand it and aren’t willing to put in the work when things get difficult. In a relationship, the only way forward is together. You need to communicate. You need to be able to put aside any hurt or resentment
This picture says it all:
Our society is always looking for the quick solution, the easy way out. Think of all the diet fads that profess to allow you to eat all the foods you want and still lose weight. Think of all the get rich quick schemes. The people who market these things succeed because people don’t want to do the hard work. They want to believe there’s a magic wand out there that will make everything better.
Unfortunately there are no magic wands. Actually ever if there were, it wouldn’t matter. I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, and I’m reminded of a scene near the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite book and film btw). There’s a scene where Harry believes something is going to happen, and he’s waiting for it. But at the last minute he realizes that nothing is going to happen, and he will have to take action himself. Even a magic wand is useless without a desire to facilitate change, and make things better.
All relationships hit “rough patches” eventually. And sometimes it can seem like things will never get better, and it’s easier to just walk away. But instead of looking for the “next shiny thing”, look at what you do have. Focus on the good that you do have, and see the difficult times as opportunities for improvement. In the long run, overcoming challenges together will only strengthen a relationship.
No relationships isn’t perfect. Sure it’s possible that there’s someone else out there you could be happier with. There will always be something newer, shinier, and with more features (so to speak). But does that matter? Look to work on improving what you do have, and accepting that it is “enough”.