I’ve played a lot of basketball over the years, and during that time I’ve been part of many wins and loses.
Often the losses that hurt the most are the close ones. The ones where we gave up a lead in the last seconds, or the ones where we made a run that just felt short. For those games, I can still remember some of those closing moments. I can remember the mistakes made either by myself or other teammates, and I can remember the feelings of loss and disappointment that came with it.
When you lose like that, it’s easy to look for what “cost you” the game. And often the things you remember are the mistakes made in those final moments, when it all fell apart.
The thing is, those mistakes are really just the last mistakes. The final ones. They may hurt the most, but in a close game they were never the deciding factors.
Basketball is a game with many possessions. And with all these possessions one of the things that often gets lost is this – every moment you are on the court, whether you are looking to score or looking to defend, you are influencing the outcome of a game.
Every. Single. Moment.
The final score is really just the sum of all the decisions made in the whole game. Positive or negative, each one counts.
So in a close loss, was a missed shot at the end of the game really more important than a miss that happened at the beginning?
The final mistake often takes on more meaning because you know time is running out. When you are down two points with thirteen seconds left, you can feel the weight of your decisions in those seconds. You know this is your last chance.
If you are down two with six minutes left, it doesn’t seem as real, or as immediate. You can tell yourself “there’s still time”. And one unfortunate side effect of feeling there’s still time is a tendency not to take those early mistakes seriously, and to treat them like they aren’t as important as the later ones.
But no game is ever won or lost in the last moments. And on a team, no one member is ever entirely at fault.
Breaking Down Over Time
Often when relationships either struggle or fail, there are strong feelings of loss and disappointment. So we search for answers.
What happened? How did it go wrong? When did it go wrong?
In those moments it’s easy to focus on the latest mistakes. With the immediacy of “the game running out”, they often take on greater meaning for us. But although the final mistakes can be big ones, with people checking out emotionally, and displaying selfish and destructive behaviors, no relationship fails due to the final mistakes.
Like the stone-cutter hammering away at a rock, the final mistake seems to be the one that causes a relationship to fail. But the failure was being built in slowly, with hundreds of little decisions and mistakes over time. All the little times someone was hurt, or didn’t feel valued or appreciated. Taken individually these instances may seems small, but when you add them all up, the relationship has really suffered death from a thousand cuts.
It’s important to understand that for good or for bad you are influencing your relationship every single moment.
When relationships fail, it’s usually due to years of little problems and neglect, combined with poor communication leading to resentment. When this happens, instead of being a place of safety and security relationships become sources of tension and struggles for control.
Sometimes I read other blogs, and I hear people talk about withholding things from their partner. Whether conscious or subconsciously, this is a passive aggressive form of punishment. Sex is a big one, but often kindness, caring and even basic signs of affection and respect are held back.
At some level I understand this. When you are upset with your partner, you probably aren’t feeling loving or affectionate. But at the same time, when this happens I mourn for the people involved. Withholding is a form of control, and love and control do not go together. When a relationship hits this point, it seems it’s just waiting for that final mistake. And that final mistake will not be the one that caused the failure.
Winning and Losing
Thankfully, while a series of mistakes over time will cause anything to break, the opposite is also true. The initial bond of a relationship may be forged in the years when you are first getting to know one another, but to keep that relationship strong you have to work at it and maintain it over time.
In one of my favorite posts I talk about using this idea that every single decision matters, and applying it in a more positive way. If you truly want your relationship to last forever, it doesn’t just happen. You need to work forever into your life with the actions you take each and every day.
Behaviour. Decisions. These are choices that we make.
Don’t wait until your relationship is in the brink before you start fighting for it. Fight for it by not letting the little things go unsaid. Fight for it be accepting that no matter where things are, they can always get better. Fight for it by trying to let go instead of holding onto hurts and withholding affection. Fight for it with consistent effort, each and every day.
Every moment counts.
And it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with them.
17 thoughts on “The Last Mistake”
I love this post. So timely in my life this very moment. I’m just so overwhelmed with the mess that is my life. I’m exhausted with the hurt and anger. The resentment and comment grow constantly. I trust no one completely and question everything. My husband is passive. Believes that only time will heal me and he’s in it for the long haul. He’ll never cheat again and it was a mistake. So I withdraw, emotionally, sexually.. We dance around as if everything is ok. He’s nearly mastered it, while I’m good at faking it. We’re good friends, and I’d say above average parents. He always found a way to balance me when I wanted to hover, and when I mean hover, I mean like micro chip my kids…) they’re 18 son, 16.5 daughter and 14.5 year old daughter. They’re all pretty special and unique, understand how to navigate life responsibly, put certainly not perfect. Thus far they’ve learned from those lessons. They are good people by society standards. I’m incredibly proud of them.
We’ve been together 19 years. So we’re pretty good partners and companions. He was always my safe place when I struggled with mental health issues. Now, for obvious reasons I question how safe that safety net is. The net that dropped me. His wife, of 16 years when I found out that he was having an affair. With a childhood friend of his, she lived with his family when she was in middle school. He “was her first.” My husband is vague and so I’m unsure of the actual duration of his “affair” but properly defined. I define the slippery slop in early 2011. My husband’s timeline is that the affair started in December 2013 when she invited him to her room for a fuck, because she was looking for something “just for her” sort of a FWB, wink wink. He decided that since he was in a sexless marriage, and still remains clueless as to why, because he’s a golden clild… Everyone loves my husband, every. Fucking. One. And honestly he looks really good on paper. He’s got a great resume and we live a moderate life. We have decent kids and were involved and mostly responsible. He adores the kids. Although I truly question his emotional capacity… Anyone would agree, he’s a great guy, and we “are” a great couple. .. That my husband adored me. And I thought he did.. They would never believe that he had an affair. So, it must be her short-coming because, hey..he’s a great guy and he obviously he adores her! He must have a good enough reason (this is blame shifting, and it’s easy to do, Bonus; it’s passive.)
Whoa.. Really sorry.. And I cannot have do anything to fix my post.. I just know I’m so off coarse. With my response.
My shoulders are achy from typing this on my iPad. WP app is terrible 😔
Ill go edit this out if I can..
Again though, I love your post. ❤️
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Hi there rac, thanks for commenting and sharing your story.
Lots of thoughts here, and I’ll throw some things out that may or may not be relevant. I know you’ve read some of my stuff in the past, so hopefully you get that I’m someone who is trying to make some sense out of this “whole relationship thing”, and trying to talk about what I see as common relationship problems and bridge the gap between men and women. I believe in marriage, and believe that for the majority of couples out there life can be better than it is today. If anything in here offends, please know that is not my intent – but is just another example of how freaking hard communication can be (my last post was about exactly that).
I don’t believe in cheating – ever. Never have, and I never will. I think it’s one of the worst things that someone can do. Not only to their partner, but to themselves. I don’t see how someone could look at themselves in the mirror at night if they were doing that, I really don’t.
And here comes the “but”…
…I also think that in a marriage, both parties have to *always* maintain being not only good partners and companions, but also lovers. Couples start with some sort of interest that extends beyond friendship, and in 99.9% of cases they are lovers before they marry or co-habitate. But somewhere along the way, being lovers gets lost.
A lot of women seem to think that guys have their minds on sex all the time, and yeah there is some truth to that, but I think we are fundamentally different when it comes to the sexual side of a relationship. I tried to explain my thoughts on this in a post called “it’s not about the sex”, a while back. Guys generally need sex – not just because they like how it makes them feel and not because they are seeing their partner as a physical outlet. But because a sexual relationship with their partner is how they feel connected, and how they feel loved. It’s a natural form of expression and communication for us. When that gets removed from the relationship, it destroys us, and makes us question everything. We also feel betrayed in some ways, because when we stood at the altar in the church and swore fidelity for all time, we meant it, and we believed it. But we also thought that swearing to be true to the person that we love the most meant that they would always be there for us too, and being lovers is part of how we express that.
When that goes away, it hurts. A lot. And guys start to shut down. To them sex is part of the natural act of loving their partner. And if their partner won’t be sexual with them, what does that mean about the rest of the relationship. The absolute worst feeling as a guy is to know that your partner sees you as a good friend/companion/co-parent, and nothing more.
I won’t pretend to represent all guys here, but from stories I hear and people I’ve talked to, I think what I have said above is pretty accurate.
The thing is, it’s TOTALLY different for women. I’m trying to understand what things are like for women, believe me I am. But I can’t. Just as I’ll never know what it feels like to give birth, or have my period (and I’m pretty happy about that one actually), all I can ever do is listen and try my best to understand. I’ll never “get it” though – and like men, every woman is slightly different anyhow. From my limited (and probably generalized) understanding, I get that women have different pressures then men. They are often stuck with an unfair burden when it comes to maintaining a household (though I see cases where the guy tries to help more, and is shut down because he’s not doing things the way his partner wants). Childbirth causes all sorts of changes, and between changes in their bodies and general exhaustion from being a mom women sometimes just don’t feel sexual. Plus women seem to worry about things a lot more than men (3-4 times as many women as men are diagnosed with anxiety and depression), and stress is a great killer of libido. I don’t know, there’s lots of stuff going on, and I don’t pretend to understand it.
So whatever the reason, someone (commonly the wife) is feeling overwhelmed, stressed, whatever. And maybe she turns to her partner for help, or to have him just be there for her to support her. And he isn’t. Probably he thinks he is, and doesn’t even realize how badly he’s dropping the ball. Or maybe he thinks because he’s not feeling overwhelmed he doesn’t get why she is, so he downplays it. And she feels like her feelings are invalidated.
And this is where the real problem comes in.
She doesn’t tell him. Or she tries at first, but because he’s not getting it she feels worse. And she gets upset and starts to shut down.
And the guy, in his little bubble of his “guy world” and probably thinking to himself “look at me, I’m a great husband/father” doesn’t notice at first. Because, well, he’s a guy. And he has different triggers. In fact, he doesn’t notice until his wife won’t touch him, and has no interest in sex.
At first he buys the notion that she’s too tired, or that she’s not in the mood. But eventually it becomes a pattern, and when he figures it out he’s confused as hell. He’s thinking hmm, what the hell happened?
Now he realizes he’s been shut out, and it hurts, because he doesn’t understand why.
At that point the couple is in a lot of trouble – simply because they are each doing and reacting in a way that feels natural and makes sense to them. She doesn’t understand why he’s an insensitive ass, and he doesn’t understand her at all. Both people are at fault and neither are at fault at the time time.
At this point, a couple has a choice. And this is where I think we all go wrong.
The “right” thing to do, and the thing that will result in the best chance of happiness, is to sit down and figure this out. Get help if needed, but both sides need to stop shutting down and start talking to each other. Help each other understand how they are feeling, why they are hurt, and figure out how to get past this. Use it as a chance to understand each other better, and strengthen the bond between them.
But that rarely happens.
Instead, people slowly pull apart. The become roommates, and companions. They stop turning to each other for emotional support because what’s the point. Sex, which is supposed to be a special think between a couple that only they share, is reduced to special occasions, and even then it often feels like duty sex. And people become miserable.
Meanwhile, they both probably do still love each other. But that love is buried under layers of hurt, resentment, and misunderstanding.
It happens so often, and it’s sad.
I believe in marriage. But I believe in healthy, fulfilling marriages. That sort of scenario drains the life out of everyone, and is good for no one.
In my mind, it’s never too late.
But it’s very, very difficult to move forward until both people can let go. They need to let go of the hurt, and resentment. Then need to accept that no matter what has happened, it’s happened. It’s in the past, and what matters is how they move forward now.
Sorry for my meandering thoughts on this, but I just find it so sad to see couples in this spot. I think it’s so avoidable, and love should be so simple. But instead we all make it so hard.
I feel for you. I know it hurts like hell, but know you aren’t alone.
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I love the Jacob Riis saying. I’m going to have to start reading your blog.
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Well welcome to thezombieshuffle. I’m always happy to have new readers, and encourage any feedback or dialogue.
I’m big on relationships, self-improvement and personal accountability, and try to have posts that will make people think.
As for the Jacob Riis saying, I saw that quote a while back, and I’ve been holding onto it waiting for an appropriate time to use it. It seemed a good fit for this post.
I tend to offer feedback and comments and I welcome them as well. I really enjoy reading others’ posts and I have received so much love and support from my followers. It really does help.
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I totally understand. I write for me, and wrote for a long time with pretty much no one reading. But having some support and dialogue with readers makes the whole process even more enjoyable. As you said, it really does help.
It took a while for readers to “discover’ my blog…partly because I had no clue what I was doing.
It’s amazing (and sickening) to see just how many of us have suffered at the hands of these narcissistic scumbags…not to mention the damage that has been done…but as I said…the support is tremendous.
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Ha, I still have no idea what I’m doing. I just plug along, doing my own thing, and sometimes people find me along the way.
You mention narcissistic scumbags, and I definitely won’t argue that one. I do think that many people struggle with the concept of “me” vs. “we” in a relationship. Many people are only in relationships because of what it does for them. Sure, they love the other person. But they love them for entirely selfish reason – for what that person does for them physically/emotionally/whatever.
Others put too much into the “we”, and lose themselves completely. And sadly, the “takers” often end up with the people who are willing to give up too much. It’s that whole narcissistic/co-dependent thing.
Finding a healthy balance is damned hard. To me it requires being a giver, but recognizing that you have your own needs and boundaries, and they matter too. In a relationship both people matter, but that’s not always an easy balance to find.
It sure isn’t easy to find that balance. Too many of us end up living with the aftermath…while the offenders carry on without a care in the world. The children suffer the most and quite often, they are so conditioned to the damage, they actually think things are normal.
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My husband and I often fight due to lack of communication. And when we fight I get so angry at him I often think of leaving. But being committed in a relationship, you need to accept everything about the relationship unless of course it’s abusive. Although sometimes you don’t think while angry and mean words are said that you later regret. By the time you realize it, it’s too late, the damage has been done. Fortunately, we always have a way to repair it and move on. I don’t think there is a “secret” to a good relationship. After twenty years of marriage and 26 years of being together, I still haven’t a clue what makes it work well. I suppose you just keep working on it as years go by. 😄
Hi Boots, thanks for the comment – I find it fascinating that you say “when we fight I get so angry at him I often think of leaving”.
I’m not sure if that’s a guy vs. girl thing, or just something that differs based on personality types. But for me, I have always seen conflict as an unfortunate reality in relationships. And even during the worst of times, the thought of leaving the relationship had never even crossed my mind.
I guess that’s why I was so stunned/shocked a few years back when my wife indicated she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be in the marriage anymore. My brain pretty much couldn’t make sense of what was happening.
I saw issues as normal, and conflict as normal, and more as a reason to work on things then a reason to walk away.
I think you’re right when you say there’s no “secret” to a good relationship, because every person and every couple is a bit different.
I did write a post a few weeks back on my “3 keys to a sucessful relationship”, and I think they are generic enough that they apply in pretty much all cases:
love each other, don’t be selfish, and communicate.
Those are high level, but I think focusing on those things will always lead to higher levels of happiness. Or at the very least, they won’t do harm.
Thanks for commenting.
My husband, as far as I’m concerned, has never thought of leaving me even when we’ve had the worst fights. I hate the stereotype but I think women are dreamier and men are more practical in general. So when it gets tough, women can’t handle the disappointment because they’ve always had this perceived idea of romance. Of course I’ve seen women who aren’t that way. And I’ve also seen men who are the dreamy kind.
Those three things you mentioned are the key to a successful relationship. I suppose what I meant with “secret” is having a great relationship, one that doesn’t need much work, and are happy and content. I’m just not sure if I’ve seen one 😄
When I have thoughts of leaving, it never lasts. I believe in long lasting relationships and just because my husband is no longer as fun and adventurous as he used to be in his younger days doesn’t mean it’s time for me to leave. I think before someone decides to leave a marriage, they should use all kinds of resources first to save it. It blows my mind how people can leave, just like that, by the snap of their fingers and yet have no qualms about it.
Thanks for your posts!
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Like yourself, I don’t like a lot of the stereotypes about men vs. women. But I guess stereotypes exist for a reason, and it’s because there are certain trends that are associated more with one person/gender/ethnic background/whatever then another. It doesn’t mean they are “true”, and it doesn’t mean they apply to all people that fall under the specific umbrella.
So building on your comment, I have also observed that women tend to be dreamier than men, and have very different notions of romance. In the past I’ve called it the “disney syndrome”, when women seem to grow up with this notion that if they just meet “the right guy” then everything will be perfect and great, and they will live happily ever after. And I think that notion is so terrible, and so broken.
Relationships (and anything in life) require effort. There is no magic person or thing that will make things better. The only thing that can make things better is you, and that is done with those three things.
One thing that may be a throwback to old gender roles that people haven’t really grown out of is there seems to be a notion in relationships that it’s the guys responsibility to “take care” of the girl. So if the girl isn’t happy, the first reaction is to think it’s because of something that’s missing, or something that the guy isn’t doing – before looking in the mirror and seeing what she isn’t doing.
Guys can be terrible at romance, I won’t deny it. And yes, we should always put in more effort. But it’s not just on us.
Sometimes I read blogs and comments where people talk about all the things that their partner isn’t doing or should be doing, and usually those things are valid. But I wonder, what are these people doing to do their part. Often it seems easier to blame then to take ownership of our own role in the problems we face.
I’m a big believer in relationships as partnerships, where each member is a co-owner, and has equal responsibility for the success and happiness of the relationship. So to me the idea that the guy should be the one to “take care” of things is very, very broken.
As you said though, these things aren’t absolutes. Guys and girls each do some things well, and others not as well. And stereotypes may apply to some people but not others.
Not sure if that makes any sense, but thank’s for your comment and your honesty on this. It’s always appreciated.
I totally agree. But we are starting to stray (slowly anyway but we are getting there) from the stereotype that men need to take care of women. I know several women here in Texas whose hubs bands stay home because they have a stellar career. Besides just because a woman doesn’t work for s living doesn’t mean that she is being taken care of by the guy. I became a stay at home mom because I want to make sure my kids will grow up without nannies. I stayed home to take care of my kids but I never expected my husband to take care of me. Financially, yes, he is the bread winner but I don’t consider that taking care of me.
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Totally agree with the notion that someone being the bread winner doesn’t mean they are taking care of you.
To me, the idea of “taking care of someone” is about the responsibilities towards each other in the relationship. When someone expects to be “taken care of”, they have a sense of entitlement where what they receive is more important than what they give.
As partners, I see a couple as each equally responsible for taking care of themselves and each other. And finances has very little to do with that.
Of course, you get some guys who think that as long as they are providing financially they are doing their part. That notion is just as broken and antiquated as the idea that women should be taken care of.
There are men who think just because they are the financial source in the relationship they assume they have the right to call all the shots. It is up to the woman to allow that to happen. I know so many women who can’t make any decisions because they need their husband’s approval. The relationship become so imbalanced. When we lived in Tokyo, my husband was working a lot and came home each night at around 9-10 pm and sometimes later. He thought just because he was providing that was fine, to leave me all day alone in our house. I knew the culture in Japan regarding married couples where the men are practically non existent in the family. But I insisted to be shown some respect (after all, I quit my job and moved thousands of miles for his dream job). So it becomes a problem too when somebody in the relationship give in too much. And my advice is never to allow it, stand on your ground and demand to be respected (even if the other is the breadwinner). My husband isn’t perfect but he allows me to be me and I let him be the weird person that he is (hahaha!). That is why we are still married I guess 😄
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Love your advice Boots. Both member should be equally represented in a relationship. Neither member should be able to do what they want, or do things the way they want. Each person should be able to do their own thing to a degree, but many decisions impact both people – and those decisions should never be made by one person alone.
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