Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Relationship Killers: Unbalanced Priorities

It's an occurence that most of us can relate to. A close friend, after being single for a while, gets into a romantic relationship. Suddenly, the friend becomes a bit more scarce. You see him much less frequently than you used to. He becomes more flaky with his commitments. Then, eventually, the relationship bites the dust, and your friend is mostly back to his normal self. I've seen this precise pattern happen quite a number of times. Recently, this is what happened to a close friend of mine. While excitement about a new relationship is a good thing, overinvestment and poor priorities are very harmful.

There are several major problems with spending too much time with a new romantic partner. First of all, it demonstrates that your priorities aren't properly aligned. The most valuable resource that human beings have is time. Your priorities in life are most vividly shown by how you choose to spend your time. When you spend excessive amounts of time with a romantic partner it communicates the message that your new lover is the most important and valued part of your life. This is communicated to your lover, to your family, to your friends and to yourself. This goes against a cardinal rule of relationships. Overinvestness, like neediness, is unattractive. It signals to others that you aren't satisfied enough with your own life, and that your normal activities aren't exciting and engaging enough.

Silas' Relationship Maxim #1: A romantic relationship is just a part of your life, it should never be your life.

Second, when your priorities are not properly aligned, your other relationships and pursuits tend to suffer. When you overinvest yourself in a relationship, you have insufficient remaining time for your friends, for your family, for your spiritual journey, and for your creative pursuits or hobbies. Friendships will suffer because your actions demonstrate that you don't value your friends as much as they thought you did. Your spirituality begins to decline because you simply don't have enough remaining time to make God a priority. Creative output is diminished substantially, since all creative pursuits take regular time commitment. Given that time is as limited as it is, every hour that you spend doing one thing is an hour that you can't spend doing anything else. Some things can be reasonably cut, but there are many things in life that must remain priorities.

Third, while it might not happen initially, eventually your emotions will trouble you. When you are neglecting relationships that you should be nurturing or neglecting things that you know you should be doing, it catches up to you. Soon, you feel less like yourself. Your life isn't the same, and it begins to bother you. Your self-image begins to nose-dive. Good habits begin to erode and disappear. It isn't a good place to be.

Any one of these three issues has the potential to be a relationship-killer. Overinvesting yourself in a relationship may cause your lover to lose attraction for you. Pressure from friends and family (who love and miss you) will begin to affect the relationship. Negative emotions will profoundly impact your own enthusiasm about the relationship. Yet, the combination of these three factors is positively lethal. For that reason, it is always crucially important to keep a close eye on your priorities, whether you're in a relationship or not. Healthy relationships can only be formed by two people who have proper priorities. Healthy relationships can only grow stronger and more satisfying if proper priorities are consistently maintained.

For that reason, I think that the priorities of a person in a relationship can serve as a useful metric in determining the health and direction of that relationship. Proper priorities strengthen and reinforce a relationship, while unbalanced priorities hasten its demise.

17 comments:

  1. In a marriage, though, ought not your relationship be your highest priority? And once you have children, shouldn't the children be the highest priority? I'm of the work to live mindset, rather than the live to work one. , so whatever job I get will be a means to an end rather than the end itself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Amanda: Marriage should never be the highest priority. Loving God and living righteously should be the first priority. Loving one's spouse should be second. Kids should be third. However, even within a marriage, unbalanced priorities will wreak havoc on a relationship.

    In anything less than a marriage (as is clearly the case in this instance and the sort I am referring to), it's quite important to maintain healthy priorities and not overinvest oneself.

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