Even though her toddler was throwing a furious tantrum, (or, as my southern
American friends might say, pitching a fit) from the seat of a grocery
cart, one mother was unfazed. You may as well give up on the crying, she
said as calmly as if she were soothing her to bed instead of leading her
out of the store. It won’t work. You’re stuck with me for 18 years.

That little child may not know how lucky she is to be stuck with her for 18
years. Even when she’s cranky, out of sorts or otherwise going through a
phase, her mother will be there. She’s stuck with her. Most relationships
that truly matter are built on that kind of sticking-power. And not
everyone has someone they can always count on to stick around.

A university instructor posed a riddle to her graduate education class.
What has four legs and leaves she asked, hoping the students would
realize that by considering alternative meanings to the words legs and
?leaves? that they could arrive at the solution  a table. However, one
woman unexpectedly answered, My last two boyfriends. Maybe you can relate.

People will leave relationships for any number of reasons. And sometimes we
should put certain relationships behind. Not every friendship or romance
has a healthy future. Sometimes we bring along so many destructive problems
and behaviors that a happy relationship has no chance of long-term
survival. Sometimes addictions make staying in a relationship impossible.
Sometimes leaving is necessary.

But there’s also a time to stick around. Something all relationships of
many years have in common is this: every one of them is made up of people
who have had plenty of opportunities to bolt or quit, to move out or to
move on, but they stuck around. Maybe because they knew that the people
they love are not always lovable or easy to be with, and that’s okay.
They want a relationship that matters, one that is important and lasting,
and that kind is nurtured by patience and understanding.

Author John Gray sometimes tells about a young mother who asked her
visiting brother to get her some pain pills. He forgot and, when her
husband returned home, she was upset and in pain more than a bit crazy.
He experienced her anger as a personal assault and exploded in defense.
They exchanged harsh words and he headed for the door.

His wife said, Stop, don’t leave. This is when I need you the most! I?m in
pain. I’ve had no sleep. Please listen. You are a fair-weather friend. If
I’m sweet, you’re okay; but if I’m not, out you go! And then tearfully,
and more subdued, she said, I’m in pain. I have nothing to give. Please
hold me. Don’t speak…just hold me. He held her and neither spoke,  until
she thanked him for being there.

I suspect there will be plenty of other times their relationship will be
tested. And I also suspect that every time it goes through a rough patch
and survives some sort of adversity, every time they decide that being
together is important enough to stick it out and fix what’s wrong, then it
will change. Maybe not much, but a little. And in time, little by little,
that relationship, their togetherness, will become a thing of beauty; a
pearl of great value.

And definitely worth sticking around for.

– Steve Goodier

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