You Don't Need A Reason To Break Up With Someone (So Don't Wait For One)

I answer a lot of questions on Quora. One of the major topics of my answers is romantic relationships. It's not that I'm an expert player or a really great Don Juan, and that's not generally the kind of question people are asking about, anyway. No, people are asking a different sort of relationship question on Quora.

What seems to stump people is what I would describe as "the basics of common decency." In short, how to be nice to your romantic partner. This is apparently a mystery to some people.

A good example is a question I answered yesterday. A woman wanted to know if she should issue an ultimatum to her boyfriend: Include me in your social media life, or I'm dumping you! There are two components to this issue, and both of which are completely incomprehensible.

In the first place, the woman's boyfriend was a real piece of work. They'd been together for three years, and in three years, the man had kept his girlfriend blocked on social media. Blocked. He never posted anything about her on social media, and he kept her blocked, while for three years she begged him to unblock her and to post a photo of her from time to time. In a Quora comment to me, the woman explained why she thought he was doing this. I won't include that information here, because it's not necessary to include her speculation when the facts alone are bizarre enough and incomprehensible enough to tell the story.

People, if you're keeping your significant others blocked on social media for three years, you're headed for a break-up.

But that's just one incomprehensible component to this situation. The other is the woman's response to the situation. She thought it was time to issue an ultimatum. I probably don't need to explain here why ultimatums are a bad way to conduct oneself in interpersonal conflict. They're aggressive, threatening, and manipulative. But, for three years, this woman was blocked from her own partner's social media and her response to this was to ride it out, ride it out, ride it out, and then finally issue an ultimatum! This is wrong.

What I think is going on in the woman's situation is something that seems common in romantic relationships. People don't break up for the right reasons, even when it's right to break up.

The right reasons to break up are: "Your values are incompatible with mine," or "Our relationship does not make me happy," or "Our lives are on two different and incompatible trajectories." Note that there is not much to explain here. If you ask your partner, "Why are you breaking up with me?" and they answer simply, "This relationship does not provide me with the kind of happiness I'm looking for in a relationship" then the conversation is over. You could try to follow up with, "But why??" You won't get a useful answer, though, because there is no useful answer. One partner's life goals aren't aligned with the relationship, that's why.

It doesn't mean that one person in the relationship is "bad" or did something wrong. It doesn't mean that there was a bunch of conflict in the relationship that couldn't be resolved (although there might have been). We don't need any more specific a reason to break up than the simple fact that we have other ideas about what constitutes a satisfactory relationship and other preferences in a relationship. This doesn't have to be "justified" with evidence or a catalog of unacceptable behaviors. We can walk away from a relationship for any reason at all. No one needs to be told what they did wrong; they might not have done anything wrong. It doesn't matter.

In this woman's case, however, the man had indeed done something wrong. It was bizarre, suspicious, and emotionally closed that her boyfriend blocked her on social media. The woman should have walked away from that relationship early on. Somehow, she got it into her head that if she just resolved the social media conflict, the rest of the relationship would have been fine. But that couldn't have been true. In the end, the two of them wanted different things out of a relationship.

And so, the woman didn't need to issue her boyfriend an ultimatum. She didn't need to take to Quora to find out "what to do." She didn't need a specific reason or a final cataclysm to justify her break-up. She just needed to break up with the guy. For all I know, he might be a great guy with a very quirky way of managing his social media. That doesn't matter at all if his girlfriend wants something else out of the relationship. It's no offense, it's just a difference in relationship needs. Au revoir.

Imagine how much time this woman could have saved -- and how many years of fond memories she could have had -- had she simply trained herself to recognize early on that her relationship wasn't giving her what she wanted. Imagine how much happier she could have been if she had simply allowed herself to break up with a man for the simple reason that the relationship wasn't doin' it for her, whatever "it" was. She wouldn't have needed to construct a narrative about his social media habits, and she wouldn't have felt the need to design a break-up rule and rig an ultimatum to illustrate the breaking of the rule, to justify a final break-up.

What a waste of three years.


More Running Is Safer Running

I've been saying this for years: Running slow, and taking days off in between regular workouts increases your risk of running-related injury. Now no one can argue with me about it anymore, because it has been proven!

Well, not really, but a recent study confirms my theory. Runner's World UK reports:
A study of 784 runners training for a half marathon has concluded that training load, specifically milage [sic] and pace, are dominate [sic] factors in causing running related injuries. 
However, the study called ProjectRun21 concluded that it was those who ran less and slower who were more likely to become injured, stating "runners covering less than 15 km per week, and/or runs slower than 6 min/km, may sustain more RRI than their counterpart runners."
For years, people have been saying to me, "How can you run that far every day? That would destroy my knees!" The answer is quite simple. I can run 6 to 15 miles per day, every day, because I run 6 to 15 miles per day! If you never develop the skills required to do this, you'll never be able to do it, and thus your every attempt will tend to injure you.

One of these required skills is running form, which is a natural byproduct of running speed. The faster you run, the better your form, the safer your running will be.

The bottom line is simple: run fast to run safely; run more often to run safely. Often times, friends and readers react negatively to my insistence that people train as though they're actually trying to run fast. They lament that they'll never be a winner and that they're not interested in the Olympics. Har, har, har. Fine. But this attitude merely makes running-related injuries inevitable.

You don't have to be the greatest runner in the world, but you ought to be the greatest runner you can possibly be. That is, at least if you don't want to get injured.


A Word Of Caution

Incredibly, it is now 2019. I've been blogging for over a decade, and my life has undergone many changes since I started. I've now reached middle age, and so I suppose there's no shame in blogging about middle-aged things. Perhaps you can benefit from reading this.

For most of my life, my blood pressure has been on the low side of the normal range. Regular readers will understand why that is: I'm an enthusiastic and borderline-obsessive fitness nut and distance runner. Imagine my surprise, then, when a routine medical checkup resulted in a reading of "State 2 hypertension," 140/90. That's high blood pressure.

Well, I thought, it's just one reading. Besides that, my blood sugar was high that day; it stands to reason that my blood pressure may have temporarily spiked. I wrote it off. Then, a couple of weeks back, I was at the pharmacy and got curious, so I strapped myself into one of those blood pressure kiosks and took another test. The result was the same. I took a few deep breaths, relaxed, and tried again. The result was confirmed again.

For a moment I started to worry. When otherwise-healthy people get hypertension, it's usually indicative of very serious health problems. When otherwise-healthy diabetics get hypertension, it usually means kidney failure. I admit it, I was scared.

My mind raced back to events from the past few months. What could cause sudden hypertension? What would have indicated kidney failure? The thing was, I felt perfectly fine. Still, there were some very odd things that had happened recently. The most jarring of those was this: One day my urine was an absolutely bizarre dark brown color. Upon seeing it, I frantically googled every conceivable health and medical website and deemed that I was either severely dehydrated, or indeed, I had kidney failure. I spent the next twenty-four hours drinking as much of every possible fluid as I could. I downed two cans of chicken broth, a pot of coffee, a liter of sparkling water, multiple cups of tea, and who knows -- possibly a gallon of water.

The next time I went to the bathroom, everything had returned to normal. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I was fine. But, was I? Suddenly, a few weeks later, I had hypertension.

I decided to approach this new situation the same way as the other one. Rather than accept that I had kidney failure, I decided to make incremental changes to see what impact that would have. So I went from drinking about four cups of coffee per day (two with breakfast, and one or two during the workday at the office) to drinking a cup of tea for breakfast, and perhaps another in the evening. Basically, I eliminated caffeine from my diet almost entirely. I also reduced my alcohol intake.

The result of eliminating caffeine was that my blood pressure returned to normal within three days. Three days.

I never would have guessed that a coffee habit -- something that I've been maintaining for twenty years or more -- would cause high blood pressure suddenly. I figured if it ever happened, it would happen gradually if at all. So the first thing I'd like my readers to know is that caffeine can cause high blood pressure "all of a sudden," even if you've been drinking it for years. The second thing I'd like my readers to know is that your blood pressure will become completely normal again if you stop drinking caffeine.

Now a word on withdrawal. I've never been someone who was highly stimulated by caffeine. It never kept me up at night, and never gave me the jitters. I could drink one cup or eight cups and feel pretty much the same in all cases. In light of this, I was not expecting to experience withdrawal symptoms from quitting coffee. I was wrong. While I didn't get the headaches that other people report, I was overwhelmed by fatigue, which lasted about three days. I was falling asleep in the early afternoon while hard at work. I had to take two days off from exercising because my body wouldn't physically move. It was bearable, but unpleasant. I was so tired that I almost felt drunk.

I hate to admit it, but my body feels a lot better now. I do miss the taste of a great cup of coffee, but I'm tolerant of the decaf they give us at the office, and there is no way that I would trade the way I feel now for a cup of coffee. After years of believing that coffee was just a great-tasting way to enhance life, I've suddenly discovered that being uncaffeinated actually feels better. So, I'd like my readers to know that if you ever have the chance to stop drinking coffee, go for it. I think you might discover, like I did, that it feels good to be caffeine free.

I did drink a diet Coke yesterday. It didn't give me jitters, nor did it elevate my blood pressure. I think it's probably okay to drink one caffeinated beverage per day and still enjoy the benefits of being caffeine-free. As for me, I'll try to avoid it from now on.