When you imagine your perfect relationship(s), it might be a little bit like a Jenga tower: an eighteen-story stack of 54 wood blocks; organized in pallets of three in alternating directions.
It’s all the pieces you want….like that mental checklist you have of what “happily ever after” is going to look like for you one day.
Then you meet someone. Turns out they have a lot of the stuff you like, but …maybe some of the other stuff doesn’t quite line up. That’s when you start playing the game of relationship Jenga.
At first it’s easy to remove the blocks that aren’t load-bearing. Poke them with a finger and they slip right out without disturbing any of the other blocks nor the tower’s overall stability. You wanted someone who could play a musical instrument. Turns out they’re tone-deaf. No biggie. Those were the wants. Nice to have, but not necessary for happiness.
What gets stacked on top of the tower are the unexpected parts of life. Some of the things were their needs that you want to try to accommodate (they’re vegetarian, but you’re a devout meat eater.). Some of them are your needs that they want to accommodate (you want them to be your +1 to all your family events). There’s also all those pesky realities that come up like money, family, children, new partners, new jobs, illness, and politics. Over time, that tower looks like it’s carrying a pretty heavy load on top, but as long as your basic load-bearing blocks are in place, you’re still feeling pretty good about your relationship’s overall stability.
Every block that gets pulled from your structure leaves it more vulnerable to the pressures of daily life – even the blocks that were easy to pull out. What do you do when you didn’t realize that one of the blocks you pulled was less wanty than you thought it was? When, while not load-bearing – it still made up part of the overall foundation and provided stability and security in your relationship?
Can it be replaced at the top in a way that re-balances a wobbly tower?
The difference, of course, between a relationship and a game of Jenga is pretty obvious. You don’t have to keep pulling at those foundation blocks. You don’t have to keep playing until the tower knocks over.
When a relationship is good…you could just leave the tower standing and go get a pizza.
But when you have one of those wobbly moments – take a look at that tower. Is it one of the new added stressors or the absence of one of the foundation pieces that’s causing concern?
It might be a solvable puzzle – ’cause unlike a game of Jenga – you might find a way to put a missing block back in, or possibly shift one of the added stressors to a less dangerous position.
Ultimately, whether it’s a 2-player game or a 10-player group, the relationship tower lasts longer when all the players work collaboratively to keep it as stable as possible.