Why don’t people come with an expiration date?
Or do they?
I am not talking about being expired when we die. That would be end-of-life. I’m talking about a “Best Before” use date. A date, before which, the person in question would be enjoyed best.
Both from my experiences and my social circles’, I believe it would be safe to assume that relations, and thus people, like products in a supermarket, have “best before” dates. For some people, it could be 2 weeks. For others, 2 lifetimes. And anywhere in between.
What do I mean by “best before” date for a person or a relationship? Today I was talking with a dear friend, with whom we mutually agreed that it is natural for some relationships to enter a declining stage. And although we have the capacity and awareness to realize this declining stage since its first moments, we still can tend to hold on to things as if everything was fine. For God knows how long… But I’m sure all of us have been there somehow: The joy of the relationship shows signs of deterioration, the “gentle” part of the gentleman has gone for an extended vacation, so as the willingness of the female counterpart to impress her mate. Surely the excitement of the beginning stages is no longer there, and couples stay in each other’s lives only because it feels more secure than taking the responsibility and accepting that this union has gone beyond its useful life. It no longer gives both parties the same satisfaction and fulfillment it once did, but the prospect of splitting up and entering the dreadful stages of separation is far too heavy to carry. For now, a successful break up and moving on seems too far-fetched.
But if you’ve ever been there, wouldn’t you also agree that ailing relationships eventually cause more harm than good? And by that, I’m not even referring only to the romantic ones. More like, all sorts of relationships, from our families to our offices, from the social clubs we attend to all sorts of friendships… I’m a strong believer that we meet other people for a reason or purpose, and once that purpose is fulfilled, we start drifting apart. Otherwise, I’d be in constant contact with more than a thousand people on my phone book. Hardly ever the case.
Here is something else to think about: When you buy a carton of milk, what is the first thing that you look for on the package? The expiration date, right? And why exactly do we do that? Because we know that milk that has passed its expiration date will, eventually, give us some serious stomach ache. So we go for the fresher one. Doesn’t a relationship that is no longer fulfilling work the same way? Don’t you find yourself wishing that something was different? That after so many years with him/her, they just stopped doing that? How about when in the six years or so you have spent together, there was that thing you’ve said to your significant other and they’ve ignored time and time again?
If you find yourself in a relationship with anyone, your partner, family member, boss, co-worker, etc. not fulfilling anymore, perhaps it’s time to check their label for their “best before” date. Who knows, maybe the expiration date was months ago, and you’re setting yourself up for some serious stomachache in the future.
Having gone through a couple of them myself, and being a Cancer male, I’d be the last person to say that any end to any relationship is pleasant. Yes, it has its serious downs. But ups as well. I won’t tell you that time is a healer for everything. I personally don’t believe that. But, I do believe that time can be a great helper, when the right steps are taken. So here is some relationship advice I can dispense, along with what to look for regarding the expiration dates on people. (Of course, like anything else I say here or anywhere else, I’m not an expert. So take these not with a grain of salt alone, but with the entire salt lake.)
- Observe your feelings when you think about the possibility of people coming with expiration dates. If the idea doesn’t resonate with you, scrap the whole thing. Close this browser, go out and enjoy life.
- If it does resonate with you, and if you feel you’re in a sour relationship with a person whose expiration date has long passed, take no immediate actions. Chances are, you might act hastily and burn some bridges. Not good.
- Consider your relationship with this person. Is it romantic? Professional? Family member? Try to see what it is that makes you feel you two have passed beyond “shelf life”. Is it something repairable? If yes, would it be feasible to put in the effort? Would you be making a lot of concessions? An ideal situation would be one that involves a compromise, rather than exploitation on either side.
- If you truly believe that your relationship’s expiration date with this person has passed, consider the idea that we all enter into each other’s lives for a reason. If this idea resonates with you too, then it will be easier for you to realize that like everything else, relationships too, have life cycles, and you might have reached yours. Instead of being bitter about it, you now have the option to look at things from a broader perspective, and appreciate the time spent together. It is very, very likely that both of you have really benefited from each other. Only now, it is time to set sail to new waters, and keep on growing.
- Explore the idea that life is a journey, not a destination. Be curious about what it will bring you in the short, medium and long runs. Whatever it is that you feel today may be completely irrelevant in the future. But you’ll always benefit from the growth it provided you with.
- Allow yourself the freedom to feel like shit about it. Break ups or any other long-term relationship coming to an end will probably make you feel down. Do not resist. Do not think that you need to stand strong and hold your head high. Sadness and anger, just like other emotions need to be expressed, so if you suppress them, sooner or later, life will come back at you for collection. Plus compounding interest. If you feel down, stay down. Then, when you feel like it, start rising up. Do it slowly.
Repeat this cycle as many times as necessary.
Should you actually arrive one day, in front of a shelf that offers something without an expiration date, you will probably know it in your heart.