Regardless of the relationships, be it romances, friend connections, or in professional power and subservient positions with employees and bosses, with shareholders, business owners, or investors, etc., interpersonal relationships, and most especially partnerships are like soup sandwiches: They are always gonna get messy….
…oh not at first. Initially everyone is on their good behavior like they’re in a Sunday meeting with the judge of all judges…. Everybody is all polished up and pressed with teeth clean and hair smoothed. People are mostly polite at this stage. It’s an unwritten rule of newness: Pretending to be nice, or at least cordial, at all costs. That’s because it’s human nature to want others to like us, and so we act nice.
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Or maybe that’s just me.
Okay, so maybe it’s really not an act, and you are authentically nice all of the time. Or, like the bulk of humans with a full spectrum of moods, maybe in all of your interactions with humans you are…well…human.
Maybe your tattered petticoat hem is showing from the beginning. Perhaps your scuffs and tarnish are clear and proudly displayed like a hero’s war wound instead of deeply camouflaged by surface smiles and niceties.
It really doesn’t matter how fast we get to the nitty-gritty authentic center of each other. In time, everyone’s true self is seen. And it doesn’t even matter how nice or polite we are in the beginning, middle, or end. Even the toughest facade cracks, in time.
It’s gonna get messy because humans have stuff. It’s stuff from pre-birth, and maybe beyond and before that, if you consider past life “stuff” in the mix too.
It’s stuff from every other relationship that’s gotten messy before hand. It’s stuff that colors our perspectives, and surrounds our hearts like police caution tape around the crime scene.
Stuff with parents, siblings, lovers, friends, enemies, peers, and co-workers make up the main meat, and that stuff is mixed with layers of institutionalization and generational religious indoctrination, and all that is seasoned with the flavors of culture and race.
It sort of stacks up on that sandwich, layer after layer of emotions, opinions, beliefs, values and fears. (We cannot disregard the importance of fears!) And it remains there in that hefty pile where it deteriorates like old food… remains until the inevitable time when the crumbs will start to fall, and eventually the whole mess will get…messy.
So how do you know when to clean it up, and when to throw it out? How do you know when to stop trying? Is there a scale for that? Maybe a two-column page with pros and cons lined up against each other, a means for weighing the predicted outcome….
- What methods do you use to decide what to keep and what to toss?
- What criteria would you use to decide to end a friendship that went south?
- Does the scale depend on whether the relationship is romantic or friendship?
- Are professional partnerships any less meaningful than personal relations?
- Have you ever ended a partnership prematurely and had regrets?
- Have you ever hung on to the messy soup sandwich for too long?
- What’s next after the messiness is cleaned up?
In a utopian universe, I suppose there would be foresight ahead of hindsight, and there would be no mess to clean up, because we would plan another way to interact. The mess would be avoided before it became a likely outcome. We would all live in harmony all of the time, singing Cumbaya together…and eating smores around the campfire.
But what fun would there be in that?
And without the tongue in my cheek, I’ll sincerely ask, what lessons of cooperation and collaboration and acceptance of differences would be learn without the messiness of entanglements?Relationships are the treats on the smorgasbord of life. It's up to us to decide which ones our palate will enjoy and which we will pass on by. Click To Tweet
And it’s up to us to recognize when it’s time to step away from the banquet.
Each time a human connection ends, even when it’s a painful or particularly messy finish, we benefit by consciously making space for our own expansion, even as we allow for the next mess to form. It may be brutal, like the roughest labor of childbirth, and just like childbirth, we may do it all again, forgetting the intensity…and with no regard for the messiness that will come….
…and we’ll do it all over again with little more than the promise for doing things better this time. Because after so many of these messy experiences, we just have to believe we have earned a PhD in the stuff by now.