Is There A Correct Way To Enter Into A Relationship?

May 22, 2013  |  

Is there a perfect way to enter into a relationship?

The reason I ask this is because of a film I saw the other night, I watched a Natalie Portman film on Netflix called The Other Woman. The synopsis for the film, as accurately described by IMBD, goes like this:

In Manhattan, twenty-two year-old Harvard lawyer Emilia Greenleaf has a crush on her boss, Jack Woolf, and they have an affair. Jack’s marriage is a sham but his son, William, is his pride and joy. Emilia soon discovers she’s pregnant, and Jack divorces his wife, Carolyn, in order to marry her. His son is poisoned against the partnership by his mother, and resented by his stepmother. Emilia, who has issues with her womanizer father, delivers Isabel but the baby dies. The marriage begins to suffer and William unexpectedly steps in to help.”

As you have read, there is a lot of plot happening in this film but for the purpose of this conversation, let’s just focus on the affair-turned-marriage. Here’s a story, which begins with a single woman involved with a relationship with a married man. Eventually their affair would lead to the dissolution of his marriage and a union between the two. Naturally there are problems but what struck me about this film was how little the problems had to do with how these people got together. And despite the less than honorable way the two began their relationship, without spoiling it, the film does end on a happy note. This is not how affairs are usually handled in films.

Matter of fact, in real life, conventional wisdom is that no good can come from a relationship built upon infidelity – or any other situation where two people joined together in less direct ways including one-night stands, false pretenses and other non-traditional partnerings. Yet the reality is that there are tons of relationships that begin in this fashion and they don’t all in doomsday fashion. Some, like in The Other Woman, actually end in long-term loving relationships including marriage. For instance, I had a girlfriend, who met her husband while he was engaged to someone else. They actually knew each other casually for years and decided at that moment to go for it – unfortunately it was horrible timing. She swears up and down that they kept the relationship platonic until he was able to gingerly remove himself from the situation. But nobody believed it, including his former finance, who spread around town that my girlfriend was a home-wrecker. Despite the condemnation they received from family, friends and even strangers, they persevered in their relationship and went on to not only marry but have two children and a house in the suburbs. Even though my friend found the happiness that had eluded her in previous relationships, it was bitter sweet and couldn’t be celebrated in its entirely – at least without the fear of judgment anyways.

I don’t want to romanticize infidelity. I am a firm believer that you don’t cheat on a person if you are not happy and that all unhappy relationships should cease before beginning a new one. It’s just fair to everyone involved. However I am also aware that life, including interpersonal relationships, can be flawed and is often messy and does not always follow social grace and etiquette. As such, it would be foolish to think that a relationship founded on infidelity can’t work, right?

“Well when you deal with relationships, you can never deal with absolutes,” said Hasani Pettiford, best selling author of Black Thighs, Black Guys & Bedroom Lies and Pimpin’ From The Pulpit. “If I ever give you an absolute, you will just give me a situation and an example that disproves the absolute that I just tried to sell you on. So there is the preferred method, there is the correct method, there is the proper method and then there are the alternatives for that.”

Pettiford, who has also co-founded (with his wife Danielle) the Couples Academy, acknowledges that real genuine relationships can come out of what he called “trifling-ness” including witnessing first hand multiple year marriages spawn out of one-night stands and infidelity. Likewise, he said the more preferred method of taking one’s time and getting to know each other doesn’t necessarily guard you against a broken relationship. However he said that there should be traditional wisdom and advice that guides our relationship in order for us to make healthy decisions.

“It’s like if you go to a doctor and they say that you want to live long; don’t eat fried foods, sweets and don’t get three hours of sleep and stop eating at 12 o’clock in the morning. But there are some cultures that eat nothing but pork and live to be 100 years old. I mean, look at George Burns. He smoked cigars until he was a 100 years old. So there are always going to be exceptions to the rule but that doesn’t mean that everyone, who smokes cigars throughout their lives will reach the same milestone.”

I can certainly understand the point about establishing guidelines for a healthy relationship however what accounts for the anomalies? And how are these improper relationships able to flourish if they go against the general guidelines of what is supposed to be a healthy relationship? According to Pettiford, even though a relationship, which began from less honorable means, might have longevity, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is without its problems. He says that there is always the possibility of issues arising based upon the relationships origins. However, he says, “If you implement proper couple skills within that relationship than it can work. If you don’t it will fail. I don’t care how great you start off. IF you don’t know what it takes to be a husband or a wife – or if you don’t know to be faithful and loyal and committed, you are always going to have issues.”

Generally speaking, relationship experts tend to make my skin crawl; however Pettiford does raise valid points so I guess not all relationship experts are bad – but then again he could very well just be an exception to the rule. (See what I did there?) More to his point, all relationships have challenges. And as such there likely is no definitive “right way” to enter into, or even maintain, a relationship other than having a willingness to work at whatever challenges that might arise within the union. If not, we shouldn’t be surprised when there is an The Other Woman, or man for that matter, waiting in the wings.

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