TSOTLS Ch5 – Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least.

While it takes two people to create a relationship, it takes only one to end it.

Livingston explores and examines the power struggles that arise in marriages in this thought-provoking chapter.

Instead of focussing on the presenting issues like money, children or sex, he digs deeper to highlight that “the underlying causes are usually diminished self-respect and unmet expectations” summarising that “one party typically feels and expresses less affection and respect than the other”.


“It is discouraging to see a couple about to join their lives acting like purchasers of used cars. We require contracts from people we do not trust; they protect us against those we fear will take advantage of us.”

Livingston concludes with these words: “The ground for disappointment and betrayal is prepared. An act of supreme optimism, courage, or foolishness, depending on your point of view, is encouraged to pursue its hopeful course, and the Ghost of Christmas Future is silent.”

Stephen Covey emphasised that one of the keys to success is to begin with the end in mind. I’m preparing an u/18 basketball team for a Grand Final this coming weekend. As their coach my emphasis has been on strengths, success and self-determination with my mantra – “Play with Freedom, not with fear.” My son laughed and called me the Dalai Lama as I sat on a basketball with the team huddled around me at the end of training – “yet another life lesson from dad”.

It would be foolish as a coach to condition the team for losing, for failure, for mistakes. Whilst the outcome is largely out of my control, as I stand on the sidelines I remain influential by staying engaged and involved.

There is no doubt that Livingston can attest to the emerging and repeating patterns of marital breakdown.  And certainly the statistics in the Aussie context back this up.

Is Livingston merely hard-hearted? Cynical? Critical? Or honest and real? In my experience he’s spot on! The person who cares least is the one in control.

So where does that leave us, you and me, the ones who care? Do we remain guarded, self-protective, and always withholding a part of ourselves for fear of being on the receiving end?  True, that is an option. We could choose to become the ones who care-less, but what if that means we become inauthentic to our very self?

Multiple voices express the notion in various forms that it is better to have loved and lost, that life itself is found most fulfilling when we experience the ideal “to love and be loved”.  Is this mere romantic rainbow-clad sentimentality?

Anyone who has had their heart broken, (and lets face it, who hasn’t!) knows the pain, anguish and self-questioning that results.  Am I not loveable? Is there something wrong with me? Did I give too much? Did I make a poor choice of partner in the first place?

There is no doubt I’m a hope-full romantic at heart, but I confess that I struggle to see hope in someone being there for me long-term and I ask myself – have our Western consumerist appetites eaten away our own hearts for successfully enjoying long-term loving relationships?

At times like this finding solace in friendships, family, healthy routines and things we are good at and find enjoyment in become important stabilisers when life beings to spin as our hearts weep.  Ultimately though, we must come to a place of being able to look ourselves in the mirror and whilst grieving, accept the loss of love, and take hold of the hope that love will come around again.

Love is not about control. It is not about who’s deserving. It’s not about being worthy.  We so often mistake love for what we receive, how we feel, what we get…yet love is about giving, sacrifice, being other-centred. Only we have charge over those choices. Love with freedom, not with fear. 🙂