I once spoke to a relationship counsellor, and she gave me a funny little bit of advice that I sort of brushed aside. Now, ten years later, I realize that this was the most important bit of dating advice I ever received:
“Imagine you went to a restaurant, and you ordered soup. When the soup comes, it is cold. You tell your server that the soup is cold, and ask for it to be remade; when he brings the soup back, it is still cold. The third time you ask, you get cold soup once again. In this situation, you have three choices: You can keep asking for the soup over and over and hope that one day it comes hot, you can leave the restaurant and go elsewhere, or you can drink the soup. In dating, you have the same three options, but relationships are about deciding what soup you are willing to drink”.
Every potential partner you meet is going to come with their own unique set of quirks and their own baggage. As you learn and discover more about a person, it is likely that there will be something they do that you don’t absolutely love. You may even really, really dislike something about a person, despite them seeming perfect in all other elements. You can ask someone to tweak little things about themselves, and inform them that you don’t like their behaviour, but beyond that you need to realize there is nothing more than you can do and that it is up to them to decide if they want to change. If they choose not to change, it is up to you to decide how to react. This is your power; at the end of the day there are two people in a relationship, and you always have the choice to leave.
For me, the soup with Tim is that he is moody. No matter how many times I have tried to get him to not be so darn moody, or to control his moods better, he still struggles with mood swings that affect our relationship. There was a time that this drove my head in – I wasn’t sure if I should find someone else, try counselling, or just continue to get upset and cause a fight every time it happened – then I remembered the soup analogy. Tim has every other quality I have ever wanted in a partner, I love him with my whole heart, and his moodiness is just a part of that package. I realize that the moodiness is something that I am willing to get over, it is frustrating but it is not big enough to be a deal-breaker for me, and so I have chosen to drink the moody soup. Since I stopped trying to change him and instead changed my reaction to his mood swings (I completely ignore them, and give him space until it passes), our entire relationship has changed. We are closer, more connected, and more grounded than ever before, and its all because of one simple shift in attitude.
I am not suggesting that all soups are meant to be drunk (drunken?); if someone is doing something that causes you great pain and agony, then that is a soup you cannot drink, and you need to find the strength to leave that relationship. But if you find yourself having the same fights over and over about the same thing, then ask yourself: Am I willing to get over this? Is this his soup? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, and you might just be leading yourself into a life of insanity. Make your choice and stick with it – you may find you even grow to like cold soup.