How to know when to leave (and when to stay)

THERE ARE TIMES IN A RELATIONSHIP when it seems the only thing keeping you with him (or her) is the fact that you’re comfortable with him (or her).

Recognizing that every relationship goes through its ups and downs, and that you can’t be head-over-heels in love with someone too constantly, there comes a time where you need to decide whether the compromise between the two ends of the spectrum for the state of a relationship — that is, great and godawful — falls above par, and whether it’s really worth all the heartache and headache to catch that increasingly elusive glimmer of ecstasy that seemed ever abundant before.

I remember a time in college, when I was shedding bitter tears over the decision of whether to leave my boyfriend at the time. It wasn’t that he was a bad person or douchebag, or even that I wasn’t in love with him anymore, but mostly that shouldering his burden of a lack of direction in his life and, rather than being able to pick him up out of the murky depths of the deep depression of feeling lost, feeling haplessly dragged down into that gloom alongside him was growing too much to bear. But, as is custom, I felt that he was the “only one” in the world for me — the “only one” who had charm and charisma, the “only one” who understood me, the “only one” who made me feel so at ease around him. (It was ironic because, for quite some time, I had wondered whether I had true romantic feelings for him at all, and whether I didn’t think of him as more like a brother. But that’s a story for some other time.)

And this is what the Koreans refer to as jung (or 정, or 情).

I confided in an older friend my frustrations and the ensuing heartbreak that came every time I pondered whether to cut my ties. She immediately asked, “Well, what do you like about him?”

I found myself without a clear answer and all the more surprised for it. “I’m comfortable with him?” was the first reply that came to mind.

“Yeah, but what else?” she prodded.

“I mean… he cares a lot.”

“Anyone can be caring.”

“I just like him. I don’t know.”

Lana nodded. Then she replied, “I know John is a good guy, but if you don’t know what you like about him, how can you justify being with him?”

I couldn’t respond. On the one hand, I felt such strong feelings for John and would be hard-pressed to claim that I’ve experienced such intense sentiment for anyone else before or since. On the other hand, she was right that I couldn’t justify loving someone just for the sake of loving them — especially when reason clearly pointed to my inner peace being restored by our parting.

“What do you like about him?” became my prerequisite self-survey for determining whether a guy was worth the trouble of commitment. But I wonder whether sometimes, I start coming up with good reasons to be dating someone, and feel temporary solidarity in those conjured justifications, only to admit later to myself that I was grasping for straws. Or I wonder whether I’ve ended up convincing myself that I like a guy based on a concrete rationale, for the sake of wanting to believe I had the ability and fortune to find someone, rather than truly feeling the solidity of that rationale. Piggybacking off of my posts last month about nice guys and finding the one who can change for you, do I sincerely feel that whoever I’m with is someone genuinely unique and that I’m absolutely certain is the best I can do, or am I merely impressed by their sweetness after dealing with a string of douchey conquistadors, or tired by the time and effort that goes into the search while single?

(To be continued…)

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