I am one of those people who will never stop talking about personal responsibility. I often talk about how everyone is responsible for their life. And that’s true. We are responsible for what we do, say, how we act, our choices, our mood and mental state. I hate blaming people for my choices. I’d like to think I am responsible for everything I do. Nevertheless, the outside world has a powerful effect on us. Other people influence us, and their mere presence can make us act, talk, or walk in a different manner. So, as much as I want to defend personal responsibility, I must accept the existence of an X factor.

I said X factor, but it is factors, plural. There is an infinite number of factors that can affect someone’s thought process, worldview, personality, actions, etc. Moreover, these X factors are usually unpredictable, unannounced, surprising, and overwhelmingly unexpected like this pandemic that almost brought the entire world to its knees. The X factors come from the outside world, the people, the circumstances, the political and financial climate, the geographic location, etc.

In short, the environment has a substantial amount of influence on people. But I believe the immediate environment, such as family, and especially the romantic partner once we are grown, have an even more substantial impact on people. The family shapes us as children and we carry that baggage as adults and then we make some more choices and the people we surround ourselves as adults shape us as well, if not even more. Today, I want to talk about the choices we make as adults when it comes to romantic partners.

There is this childhood friend of mine. She used to be the sweetest soul. She was kind, optimistic, full of life and energy, always smiling and ready to help whoever needed help. One could say she was like that because life hadn’t hit her yet and one would be somewhat right. You know, in all fairness, when you are young and live with your parents and you don’t pay any bills, then it is safe to say you don’t know much about adult life.

One day, she met a guy. Handsome, nice, charming and she fell in love. They decided to get married, as people do. Her friends warned her not to marry the young man because he was a notorious serial cheater and womanizer. However, his kindness is still spot on, he is pleasant, polite, caring but he cheats, every chance he gets. Unfortunately, she dismissed every warning for reasons we still do not understand. They got married but sadly, it was the wrong man. It happens more often than we think. I know you know some people who married the wrong partner. It happens.

Please understand, her partner isn’t a bad man, not at all. He doesn’t mistreat her, nor does he use any type of violence, whether psychological or physical. He is simply not a faithful partner. He never was and people did warn her. Yet, once again, for reasons no one understands, including her I’d say, she went ahead and married him. And then, her life took a turn for the worst because of his behavior. He still lives this promiscuous life; the way teenagers do because they are still trying to find themselves and they want to experiment. I don’t know why he still sleeps around, or what kind of social experiment he is on. I don’t know what he is trying to discover or prove. Besides, I am sure, he doesn’t even know the reason for sleeping around. He just does it. I’d say he needs therapy, but that’s just me!

Today, after all these years being married to a brazenly unfaithful husband, her spirit is broken. She still has that light in her, but it has dimmed considerably to near darkness. She still smiles and she is still kind but her painful experience with this unworthy partner, has taken away her optimism, her zest for life and she is unfortunately a shell of herself. I guess years of that humiliation, the infidelity, the lies, the powerlessness, the guilt because she thinks she could have done something to make him stop, the sadness, have taken a toll on her soul and she has become somewhat bitter, sad, and cynical. And I actually get it…

To another extent, I also know a wholesome dude who married the wrong woman. Today, she is abrasive, mean and has no consideration for anyone but herself. At first, she wasn’t like that, then slowly, for reasons no one understands, she became this whole other person. Listen, for lack of a better excuse or explanation, I want to say, “it happens”. It’s life. People change. There is no way to accurately predict who or what a person will become as time goes by. My buddy has changed as well, for the worst because of the wrong partner he married. It breaks my heart to see my people be sad but it’s one of those situations where you cannot do anything from afar and you couldn’t do anything at all even if you wanted to.

The wrong partner can easily destroy you. It takes time for the destruction to sink in and it doesn’t happen overnight. The lies, the manipulation, the lack of respect, the disregard for you and your feelings, the complete detachment of how your actions might affect your partner can turn anyone into a bitter, sad, and helpless individual. It could happen to me, to you, to anyone. No one is immune against that. Personally, I don’t feel sorry for them, even if the tone of this text might suggest that. I don’t feel sorry for people because I believe it robs them of their ability to overcome obstacles and to bounce back. I simply am forced to recognize how a person’s influence can take away our own hopeful outlook on life.

Moreover, influence and manipulation take years to do their dirty work. Influence and manipulation are insidious, slow, steady and they are rarely noticeable daily. We only notice their compounded effect. We only notice everything years later. We accumulate all this anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness and then one day, years and years after constant mental anguish, we lose it. If we are lucky, people around us might see the change before us and warn us but usually, we only realize everything once we lose it.

Today, I used a partner’s infidelity to showcase how it can break someone else. Yet, I could have used other causes such as having a partner who suffers a mental breakdown, alcoholism, job loss, health issues, etc. Any of those causes could trigger a change in your partner and then in you. I chose infidelity because being unfaithful is never an accident. Infidelity isn’t a surprise either. Infidelity is a choice. My friend’s husband could stop cheating today, but he won’t. Why? That’s up to the therapist to figure out if he ever goes!

I will never be able to state accurately and adequately the importance of a good, kind, and real partner. And one with whom you can have open discussions and solve problems you face every day. That is the kind of partner that is worthy. A partner who is willing to have the tough talks, to tell you how they feel and what they think, not someone who acts without regard for their partner’s wellbeing.

You might be a strong individual but given enough time, the wrong partner will end up breaking your spirit and probably in a subtle and slow ways, change the very fabric of who you are.

Relationships, right? Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!

Just one man’s opinion.

Now smile and go on with your day!

Freeman. B

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