When we come right down to it, the long and the short of rewarding human relationship depends on each party getting a reasonable amount of satisfaction from the other. People are not totally self-sacrificing; they expect some benefit in return. The question is, ‘How much do you have a right to expect?’ You have a right to be just reasonably content in any voluntary relationship. This is a point of emotional equilibrium which enables you to say that you are feeling fairly good about what’s going on between you and your partner, that things aren’t half bad, that you’re glad you’re married or in love, and that although you would still like a great many more things going your way, you can tolerate the situation without resentment if it doesn’t get better than it is. The point at which you can say this to yourself is the point of Just Reasonable Contentment (JRC). When the parties involved can all say that they are reasonably content there is obviously little reason to complain, and each party is bound to be pleased with the other party.
The first obvious consequence is that you will most likely be a disturbed, unhappy, and frustrated person. If you are chronically dissatisfied, you are usually going to get depressed, angry, think of infidelity, bite your nails, sleep poorly, drink, or take your frustrations out on your children. You may use therapy to talk yourself into a reasonable state of calmness; but again, if your frustrations continue, you are simply not going to enjoy life a great deal even though you may not turn into a full-blown neurotic.
The second result of chronically living below your JRC is that you are very likely to not be in love with your partner anymore. After all, what is there to be in love about if your partner, employer, or friend, is continually frustrating you? You have to be a seriously troubled person (and a desperate one besides) in order to continue to love someone who is mistreating you.
This loss of love usually happens rather slowly as the disappointments from one injustice and injury after another begin to pile up over the months and years. If there are not enough times when you are above your JRC you eventually are going to fall out of love with your partner. It doesn’t matter how much you were in love to begin with, it doesn’t matter what your religious faith is, it doesn’t matter what your resolve is. Your feelings of love change eventually if you are not getting from your lover a reasonable amount of satisfaction.
Those of you who feel guilty over falling out of love are misinformed as to what is going on. It is not an evil thing to fall out of love. You don’t have to feel guilty over rejecting others for their negligence. You are simply acting in a sensible, rational, and healthy way.
The third consequence of living below the JRC level on a chronic basis is that you will eventually not care about the relationship itself. When this happens in a job you eventually tell the boss to take his job and keep it. With a marriage you finally come to the conclusion that the whole thing isn’t worth it anymore. You have lost all your feelings, and you say, ‘I don’t have to live like this anymore.’
Here, too, a great many people tend to feel guilty because they decide to end a marriage. But again, for exactly the same reasons they don’t have to feel guilty for falling out of love, they also don’t have to feel guilty when their marriages break up. When a marriage goes sour, and you won’t change, it is your duty to do something about it. Remember that you are in a marriage, not for the other person’s sake, but for your own. You didn’t get a job to make your boss happy, you got a job to improve your own life. You marry, you become employed, you have a friendship, because it serves your purposes to have them. And when they don’t do you any good you wisely want to withdraw from them. It a marriage is simply a waste of time to you, is creating hardships and no longer gives any pleasure, then thoughts of breaking up the marriage are bound to occur to you, and rightfully so. You are not doing anyone a favour when you sacrifice yourself for someone else’s happiness while at the same time you are becoming a miserable human being. As a matter of fact, you are doing them a serious disservice because you wind up spoiling them, frustrating yourself, and getting fed up with them. Then one fine day you pack your bags and leave. If you really care so much about a relationship, frustrate it sometimes and train the people around you not to get you to despise them.
Accept the fact that a relationship exists happily because both people are reasonably pleased. When they are not, it is the duty, the moral obligation, of the person who is the most frustrated to do something to relieve the unhappy characteristics of the condition: That is the goal of a relationship: to make yourself reasonably content so that you do not want to end the relationship. Or to say it in a more practical way, to push the other party to give into you repeatedly for favour after favour until you can say to yourself that you are reasonably content. At that point you have serviced yourself and anyone else in the relationship, and you have done so in a moral and correct way.