I could not believe that this was the same woman.
A month ago, she beamed and glowed from within, her happiness growing at the same rate as the baby inside her, but then suddenly something changed, a dark cloud descended so that just before her baby was due to enter the world she fell into despair. Such is the power of broken promises.
“I will stay with you through thick and thin.”
He had said this in different ways, three times over – first when he put a ring on her finger, again when they took out a mortgage (which pushed their finances to the limit), and finally when they made the decision to have a child together.
“Sorry, I’ve met someone else.”
This last thing was said only once, and was probably the only true thing he ever said. He wrote these words on a piece of paper which he left in their apartment for her to find. A small thing amongst other small things, but the force behind the words was enormous. The note went on to say that he had paid enough already, and he did not feel the need to pay any more, especially not towards the mortgage. On the contrary, he had already put so much into the apartment (“her” apartment) and now he wanted it back.
Daniela was left on her own, dealing with all of this emotional and financial fallout, with only maternity benefit to hold back a rising tide of bills and a fractured sense of her own self-worth to keep her sane. Neither was adequate.
She was up to her neck in commitments she should never have accepted, and despite her broken state she had two new eyes looking up hopefully at her every day.
It was unbearable.
She cursed herself for choosing a partner who could discard her so easily and worried that some inner blindness to the faults of others would lead her to do the same thing again.
She was lonely and desperate, tired and defeated.
She could see no escape.
Recently I pointed out the ticking time-bombs, the ones which go unseen until they blow up in relationships like Daniela’s, and I showed how you can disable them.
It seems appropriate to use the image of a bomb ticking away here, because the consequences of ignoring it and hoping it will disappear are pretty much the same as fooling yourself that a partner who is capable of exploding won’t eventually destroy your relationship.
But how do you detect these time-bombs? Emotional metal detectors? Well, until someone invents such things you need to be able to tell that a partner knows the difference between making a commitment and sticking to it. You need to know where he sits on the maturity scale; is he a man or a boy? It might help if I now outline the differences between these two notions of maleness.
1st difference: Boys are irresponsible, men are responsible and reliable.
Each adult should hold themselves responsible for their own actions, but not everyone accepts that. A responsible person accepts that their actions belong to them and the consequences of their actions belong to them.
‘Boys’ (which you’ll understand I’m using here as shorthand for ‘immature men’) don’t realize that they are responsible for their promises, and they feel disengaged from the consequences of their actions. Ownership of one’s actions is a necessary ingredient to cement commitments. Reliable and responsible men will deliver on their promises and commitments, even when doing so is uncomfortable. A man of his word is just that, someone who ‘talks the talk’ and then ‘walks the walk.’
It is nice when he says, “You are beautiful.” It quickens your heart to hear, “I will never leave you.” But nothing can ever beat, “I am yours and yours alone,” six words that show a heart full of loyalty, honesty and love, a heart that doesn’t feel complete without yours.
Responsibility is obligation, and obligation can only be demonstrated through action. Even true words can be spoken and forgotten, but actions live on. They are responsibilities made real.