Leonard (defensively): We [Penny and I] were just in different places in the relationship!
Sheldon: I fail to see how a relationship can have the qualities of a geographic location.
Walawitz: Well, its simple. Leonard was living in a little town called “Please Don’t Leave Me”; while Penny had just moved to the island of “Bye-Bye”.
If you are a fan of the ever-geeky-yet-wonderful The Big Bang Theory, then this excerpt should come as no surprise. Under its amusing overtones lies a serious problem that many individuals suffer through – being in a different place in a relationship than your partner. ‘Being in a different place’ can mean something as simple as wanting something different from your relationship (e.g. long-term verses a fling) but it can also be something deeper – like whether a person loves you as much, or wants the same things – like going to the same university, having kids, or moving in together.
If somehow your partner ends up on “Bye-Bye” island, the last place you want to be is in “Please Don’t Leave Me” town. Somehow, the backfire and pollution from all those engines as people take off from “Bye-Bye” island, get blown right into the face of those residents in “Please Don’t Leave Me” town. As they sputter and cough from the smoke and dust, they curse themselves for their foolishness of being in such a location; the one place you don’t want to be as you silently plead for your partner to stay, as they jet off like a vacation is in sight.
The trick is making sure that, when you first settle into a geographic location, you are both in the same town. And of course, while some people like to travel faster than others, if you have someone who is willing to wait for you to catch up – and even better, someone who is willing to slow down, then you have yourself a true travel partner.
I know that, for many people, a relationship can sometimes feel so right that you can to grab tight to make sure you don’t lose it. For others, who have maybe been burned before, it is easier not to set your heart on a plot of land than build a whole house and then realize it was all built on the wrong foundation. When two people are in ‘different places’, one person is building up the house, and the other person keeps picking it apart. Unless – only unless – the person who is building the relationship is faster than the one tearing it down, then you have progress.
With honesty, its good to have the person who slows down the relationship: two fast builders can make a house, backyard, white picket fence, an apple tree, and five children so fast it would make your head spin. But if the person slowing down the relationship is more powerful, then you can only be at a standstill – or worse, a regression. Its okay to have someone slowing you down, pulling you back, as long as, in the end, there is decent progression.
How I Met Your Mother fans will know the concept of ‘the reacher’ and ‘the settler’ – the reacher is the person who ends up with a person “too good” for them (hence, the one ‘reaching’ higher), while “the settler” – settles – for a person ‘lower’. The best relationships, contrary to popular myth, is not when both people are on “Happy Island” but when each person is a little bit of a reacher and a setter – like Leonard, who is a reacher, dating a person so much hotter than himself, but less smart (thus settling), and Penny who experience vice-versa.
When people are in ‘different places’ in the relationship, someone tipped the power-scale – and now, someone ends up in “Please Don’t Leave Me” town. I want to be reassuring, but 90% of the time, both parties end up in the same location: “Splitsville”.
I don’t think a relationship has a chance, unless the parties somehow manage to meet – and stay – in the same location of the relationship early-on enough – before the power-scale becomes imbalanced. The progression of a relationship should be two people, travelling together.
Any thoughts on being in a different place in a relationship?