There's nothing like a public declaration of ongoing love. While promoting his new album, Plain Spoken, rock musician John Mellencamp said he hopes to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend, actress Meg Ryan. The couple began dating in early 2011, but broke up in August, partly due to distance. "I'm grateful for the three and a half years we've been together. Nothing's over," John said. At an appearance on NBC's Today last Friday, he added, "Meg's an angel. Nothing's over 'til it's over." The ex-lovers are reportedly on good terms as of now, so John's public statement of hope could be a shout out to give it another try, depending on Meg's reaction. The question becomes, how do you know when to call it quits or stick it out?
The issue they may be facing, which might be familiar ground to others, is: what happens when the love doesn't end but the logistics play out in such a way that it makes it almost impossible to maintain intimacy and a life together? For example, what if people live in different places and have no choice about that? When people are young and unencumbered this might not be such a tough call, but when careers, children, mortgages, life-long friends and family come into the equation, the choices might be nil. Or what if two people are still in love but in two very different places in their careers - one working around the clock and the other starting to wind down? In that situation, the one with more time on their hands might want to travel or simply just be together, while the one working might resent the imposition and truly be unable to make any changes without jeopardizing their business or career. In these cases it isn't the feelings people have for each other that threaten the relationship, it is the life/work balance.
The problem that can follow these daunting circumstances is that they each expect the other person to make a sacrifice for them. In my book What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship there is an entire chapter called "If You Loved Me You Would." People operate under the assumption that if their partner truly cared about them they would and should do anything to be with them and make them happy. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes it isn't necessarily about love at all, but about your own self-esteem and what you have to do to feel good about yourself and not be consumed with guilt. If that means living near your kids, or taking care of an ailing parent, or supporting the business you began with a friend a decade ago, or, in the case of John and Meg, continuing with their entertainment careers, then no matter how much you love and want to be with someone it just might not be possible on a regular basis.
At this point people are faced with a decision. Do they end the relationship because it can't become more than it is in the way they would like it to be? Or can it be an option that they maintain the relationship complications, distance and all? In the case of the latter the choice would be made so each person can maintain their lives and responsibilities without giving up the love they share. There is no right answer to this question, but knowing that there are options can give people the chance to make a choice to keep their love alive. Some people are always looking for more, but many can make this work even if they want more by simply shifting their expectations and having a little less. In fact, sometimes reducing what you think you need can generate more fulfillment than you can imagine.
Only time will tell if John and Meg will salvage their relationship, but for them perhaps a smaller amount of togetherness might actually translate into more love in their lives.
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