Girl Talk: Working Hard in a Relationship

When it comes to dating and relationships, it’s not just how you talk to other people, but the ideas that you communicate to yourself that can cause problems. One of the best life lessons in this area I ever got came from the anime Cowboy Bebop.

In the episode 10, Ganymede Elegy, focal character Jet Black “bumps into” an old ex. For years after the split, he never got any closure. He just had no idea how things went sour despite doing all he could to take care and provide for her.

At the end of the episode, she hits him with the truth: he worked hard, but too hard. Putting so much effort into their relationship actually put her off. By focusing so much on doing things “right”, he treated their relationship like a concept instead of something organic.

“I wanted to live my own life. Make my own decisions– even if they were terrible mistakes,” she cries– which caused me to cry too. That notion of trying to do the right thing, yet missing the point entirely, stung.

Despite the lingering impression that’s stayed with me, it’s too bad I really didn’t put into practice the lesson from this episode of Cowboy Bebop. See, at the time, I was in the middle of my first serious relationship, and I was truly in love with the idea of the relationship.

I told myself I wouldn’t be a slacker. I would work hard at it in order not to lose it. And I think that’s a mistake a lot of people make. They think of “hard work” as the antithesis of being lazy.

Let’s be clear, yes, please do give a shit about a partner. Or, at least, if you don’t give a shit about them, make sure they’re on the same page and don’t really give a shit about you either. That seems fair, yeah?

But be aware there is such thing as trying too hard. And if you’re going that route, you’re going to go the way of routine. You’re going to fall into scripted territory. You’re going to find yourself “losing the passion” because you let the relationship become just a thing instead of something you share with another living human being.

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