Repairing v. Rebelling: The Cost of Repairing Relationships

Uncategorized Apr 04, 2024

“The value of something does not depend on how much it is worth. It depends on how much someone will pay for it.” - Unknown.

I am always amazed when I think about collector’s items. Whether it is something as simple as a laminated card with a picture of a baseball player on it or an antique piece of furniture, it is a fact that objects acquire value by means other than material appreciation. If a person is willing to pay a higher price for something for personal reasons, then the value attributed to that object is actual value.

Sometimes, an item can be more valuable because it is rare. Take a painting, for example. Copies depreciate, but an original with no copies drives the price up. The price does not increase because the materials needed to create the original cost more, but rather because someone is willing to pay for its rarity.

Items can also become more valuable to an individual because of sentimental value. The desk in my office was formerly my grandmother's piano. The love I had for my grandmother created a kind of value that is personal to me. Yet sentimental value is true value because I was willing to pay for the piano to be remade and molded into a desk. Now, I remember my grandmother each time I walk into my office. That is valuable to me.

Still, there is a historical value; that is, the value of some objects is created by what happened in a particular time and place related to that object. An ordinary piece of furniture becomes valuable because of who may have owned it, or when, or where it was located when a significant event took place. This value is, again, true because humans treasure the significance of some events more than others.

In the last blog, I discussed how people often respond to relationship issues by rebelling against rather than repairing them. Rebelling sometimes seems like the fastest, easiest solution. But we learned that there are consequences of rebelling in a relationship, that we will not be immune to such consequences, and that those consequences are often more permanent than we expect.

Repairing relationships is a more noble, idealistic response to our interpersonal issues. But there is no denying that there is a cost to repairing relationships. The cost of repairing a relationship is usually the reason the option is more challenging. I suggest that the cost of repairing a relationship can be compared with the idea of non-material value. In other words, repairing relationships is worth the price that must be paid for the repair. In addition, the return on the invested cost makes the relationship priceless!

When a relationship is threatened with fracture, whether one responds by repairing rather than rebelling can depend on how rare the relationship is in the person’s life. Our society is experiencing a tremendous devaluing of the family unit. Marriages are treated like temporary living arrangements. Single-parent families are more common than ever. The Pew Research Center recently reported that a decline in marriage rates and an increase in children born outside of marriages have reached the point where almost a quarter (23%) of children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (Stephanie Kramer, “U.S. has world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.” Pew December 12, 20219).

Marriages are the most difficult relationships to restore once they are fractured. There is so much cost that goes into the repair. Hurtful words, affairs, grudges, grief, and more must be processed, forgiven, and managed. So often, rebelling against the relationship seems the easiest thing to do. But a great marriage is rare. And rare relationships cost more. More love. More grace. More forgiveness. More time. But no one has a great marriage by accident. So the next time you are faced with rebelling or repairing, consider how rare it is to love someone and want to spend your life with them. Consider how rare it is for marriages to last 30, 40, or even 50 years. The price of healing a marriage is high. But the portrait is rare and worth it.

In John Maxwell’s book Winning With People, he talks about a principle he calls “The Foxhole Principle.” It refers to relationships formed before great trouble that pay off when great trouble comes. You don't go at it alone when you are in a situation of challenge or danger. Foxhole friends are people who are there for you when you need them; friends who, in turn, you are there for when they need you.

At the risk of adding to the wisdom of this principle, I would like to suggest that some relationships are sealed in the foxholes of life. While great friendships are certainly formed prior to a foxhole problem, it is the foxhole that often reveals the quality of the relationship and the quality of the friend by your side in the midst of danger. Such friendships create something akin to sentimental value if you will.

Items that are valuable for sentimental reasons usually stem from a relationship we had with someone special to us. It was not my grandmother’s piano that was special, but rather, it was my grandmother. Relationships that are valuable for historical reasons are usually because of the value we have placed upon the people present during significant life events. And I think some friendships become more valuable sentimentally and historically when foxhole experiences temper them. That friendship you have with that person who was there for you when you needed them most - who maybe you didn’t even realize just how great of a person they were, or what great qualities they possessed - should be cherished all the more due to what you have walked through together. There is sentimental and historical value in that relationship.

When foxhole friendships are threatened with fracture, repairing them is usually worth it.

Whether we are talking about marriages, relationships with our children, our parents, our siblings, or our more distant family, or whether we are talking about close friends, it is important to remember that it is more difficult to see the benefits of repairing some relationships because the immediate costs can be extremely high. Repairing relationships must be viewed from a perspective of the return on the invested cost rather than solely on the cost itself. Well-meaning friends and family often advise us to cut the strings and walk away. However, even the most broken, shattered relationship can heal if both people recognize the benefits outweigh the costs.

I want to be sure that my thoughts are not taken as definitive for every relationship that may be fracturing. There are toxic relationships that may need to be severed. After all, it takes two people to repair a relationship, and if the other person is not willing to pay the price along with you, dissolving such a relationship is, at times, the only option you have for your own sake or for the sake of those whom you love dearly.

Relationships are complex because people are complex. I encourage you to recognize that repairing a relationship is an option. Rebelling is not the only choice most of the time. But the cost of repairing must be counted. That cost must also be weighed against the benefits. A restored relationship is often stronger, better, and lasts longer than those that have never been broken at all.


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