Have you ever broken a bone or witnessed it happen to someone? I’m talking a B level horror movie in which you hear it snap, see the bone, the affected area is physically changed, there are screams of agony, and maybe a prop guy causing blood to spurt everywhere.
It’s clear what needs to be done in this case: vomit, seek medical attention, get surgery or casted (purple, of course), tell your story over and over and over again when asked, and- most importantly- assess what caused your bone to break. Decide whether or not it is a set of circumstances worthy of your return.
The same can be true of relationships. We each have our own set of red flags for relationships. We also have the potential to see those red flags and explain them away as being really yellow or green because of (*insert your rationale here*). We may find ourselves invested in telling the story over and over and over again- perhaps because we are asked, perhaps because we have a need to be heard. Where we put our attention grows. Where we put the attention of those who listen to our stories also grows. And, where we choose to invest our energy in these scenarios is telling. Is it invested in the storytelling, the assessing, or the deciding? Do we expend so much energy in the telling that we do not get to the rest? Is there a cast to fix the relationship? And, who is cleaning up the aftermath of the gore?
But what happens when you have less of a clear and obvious break? What happens when it is a fracture?
I was training for a half marathon. All I remember is training with my partners one afternoon, limping around IKEA the following day, and being in agonizing pain the next. No one believed my pain level. I earned the nickname Delicate Flower. It took two weeks, an X-ray, and an MRI to have my fracture identified and be gifted with crutches.
Relationships have fractures, too. These are harder to see, harder to prove, harder to explain, harder to make clear to the doubters, harder to assess the cause, and harder to decide whether you return.
These fractures can occur in all relationships: New or old. Romantic or work. Family or friends. Your doctor or your mechanic. Neighbor or boss.
Fractures may be less of a red flag issue and more of an intuition inkling that something isn’t “right” at this time. Not broken…simply not as whole. How do fractures repair? Do all fractures need to be repaired? If left untreated, can we function the same, or are we in jeopardy of additional harm?
My old fracture is rarely on my mind. I was unable to compete in the half marathon. I walked (did not run) in the companion 5K. I actually finished 3rd in the 5K- 3rd from last. (They were picking up the orange cones as I passed them.) I did earn a participation medal thanks to my entry fee. I smile when I see it. On a really cold day, I still feel an ache at the fracture site.
Some of my relationships are marathons and I’m still in training but not competing. Some are 5Ks and have been completed. I smile when I see their medals, too. And others have left their own aches that get triggered on colder days. But I’m wiser for having had them, warmed by their memories, and forever grateful.