Shape up or ship out: On romantic relationships and friendships

Shape up  or ship out: On romantic relationships and friendships

Losing someone or something may not always be a loss. Keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end; it may be the beginning of better and brighter associations.

By Dr. Samineh I. Shaheem

Published: Sun 14 Jun 2015, 1:01 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:10 PM

Social media has become a platform for life lessons, divine advice and sometimes meaningless platitudes that people share, comment on and are profoundly influenced by. As irritating and cliché some self-help (or self-hell) write ups and quotes can be, still I think it’s better to surf through those posts than endless silly selfies taken by self-absorbed attention starving individuals.

Every once in a while, social media gifts me with a wise whisper (technologically in the form of a status update or shared picture) that resonates deeply with my values, principles and understanding about human behaviour. This particular one about love was by Nina Simone that said; ‘You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love’s no longer being served.’ Amen.

Easier said than done? Of course and that’s why sometimes self-help advice can be more frustrating than helpful because the neatly packaged solution is often generic and almost always less complex than our actual challenges.

So what does Ms Simone mean? What does your table of love look like? Who serves the love? And how should we know when it’s time to leave that table if love is no longer on the menu?

Essentially the question we’re pondering over here is when is it time to exit a relationship that’s no longer serving or satisfying us in a healthy and functional manner? Many people unfortunately remain stuck in relationships, unsure about whether to move on, stray or stay. Needless to say there are a multitude of factors to take into consideration and therefore this shouldn’t be a decision made in haste or in the middle of an emotional battle. The other important point to consider is that you’ll take ‘you’ with you when you end a union and so it’s crucial that you understand what went wrong, extract the lessons and heal before moving forward so that a wounded self isn’t taken into the next chapter of your life.

This discussion isn’t about broad philosophical principles that can’t be observed, measured or learned. Rather it aims to highlight practical strategies and behaviours we should do more of to improve our bonds. It also isn’t about the more serious reasons some may walk away, such as different types of abuse and betrayal. It’s more about the subtle nuances that can eventually make or break a relationship.

These signs have been written for more intimate romantic relationships, however some of the points may also apply to friendships. Read through and think about your current state.

>         We both feel understood in this relationship

>         We are accepted and celebrated as individuals

>         My partner doesn’t want to change me but does suggest ways we can grow together and develop

>         This relationship has its ups and downs but I feel more joy than pain

>         We have realistic expectations from one another

>         We apologize when we make mistakes and we try not to repeat those mistakes

>         This relationship doesn’t hold me back, it actually gives me wings

>         Our core values are very similar

>         We stick to the promises we make to one another

>         We are mutually attached and excited about our love

>         We respect each other in private and public, making sure we don’t make fun or humiliate the other

>         We stick to the promises made

>         We discuss pet peeves and nuisances and try and avoid those behaviors

>         I miss so much about my partner when they are not around

>         We discuss external stressors and confront each challenge as a team 

>         We learn from each other

>         Travelling together is such a pleasure

>         We have a similar rhythm in regard to waking up, sleeping, eating, working and socializing

>         We compromise more than get caught up in power struggles

>         We are genuine and real, not artificial versions of what we think is expected of us

>         We have common friends

>         We do nice things for one another

>         We laugh at the same things

>         Misunderstandings don’t remain unresolved

>         We make each other a priority


Relationships need time, energy and effort to blossom. Given the right guidance, intentions, feelings, practical strategies, actions and behaviour, they can succeed. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it may not work because of perhaps major underlying problems as well as some of the less tangible or obvious issues, such as the ones outlined above. Losing someone or something may not always be a loss. Keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end; it may be the beginning of better and brighter associations and opportunities.


Dr Samineh I. Shaheem is a Learning & Development Specialist and the owner of Life Clubs UAE. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and now the UAE. She co-hosts a radio program on 103.8 FM Dubai Eye (Voices of Diversity 10-12pm) every Sunday morning discussing the most relevant psychological/cultural issues in our community.  Twitter: @saminehshaheem/Facebook: Life Clubs UAE. Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to

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