Tuesday, 18 August 2015

the perils of navel gazing

This week I have spent time with several couples all at different stages of their repartnered life.

One couple have been together more than 30 years, another around 15 years and the other are is only just heading into their third year together.

The newly repartnered ones have a complex situation - between them and their own exes there are about 9 kids, aged between 6 and 16.  They now face the challenges of trying to blend (isn't it more like a hurricane than a blend!) everyone into a new life.  There's houses to find (can you even imagine how many bedrooms and bathrooms they need!), personalities to co-ordinate  and budgets to negotiate.

I think thirty years ago, maybe even 15, there was no where near the amount of ruminating and evaluation in the decision to repartner that there is now.  Back then, if you found yourself in the unfortunate position of being post- partnered, and were lucky enough to meet someone else, you just got on with it.   I'm pretty sure that people in my parents generation didn't spend much time on asking questions of themselves like ''but am I happy?', Will this relationship fulfill my needs? Where is my identity in this? Am I compromising too much? But how will we make it work? It wasn't even a ''love will conquer all'' mindset - it was just a sense of gratitude that you were able to find another person to do life with, and a belief that because you'd got a second chance, it would work out for the best (or you'd die trying).

On the other hand, since the natural order of things is to be in a relationship, I think modern society has made it easier, and more acceptable to repartner more than once, more than twice.  And the statistics are grim for second time around.  About a 20% success rate apparantly.

There's whole websites dedicated to making us thinking about, and worrying about whether or not we're happy in our relationships and whether they are succesful or not. And then leading us to the conclusion that if we're not, it must be the relationship that is the issue.  We made the wrong choice. We sacrificed too much. We are not being honest with ourselves, or being authentic or whatever, because if we were, we'd be just so happy and the relationship would be unfolding beautifully in front of us, the wrongs of previously liasons but hazy memories, and the mistakes we made in the ''first time round'' no longer likelihoods. And it's not our fault. It's just life. It's just relationships that have no guarantees.  We did the best we could right?

Good grief, what a total load of shite that all is.  On so many levels.  Of course people make us happy or unhappy. Or course if you feel miserable in a relationship you're going to want out. And of course there's a 99.9% chance it's not the person (or the relationship) that is the cause of the unhappiness - it's all about what's going on in the inside don't you know... (Actually there's probably some truth to that but that's not my point here)

My question today is this - who is better off? The generation ago couple who 'got on with it', or the generation now couple who get out before it turns ugly?  The person who compromises or the one who 'suffers in silence'. The one who thinks 'thank God I'm not single' or the one who looks in and thinks 'thank God I am'. I don't know.  But this I do know:

Too much navel gazing. Too much reading.  And way too much time paying attention to the fairy tales that fill the internet.


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Ain't nobody love like you do


This is, I think, the biggest load of rubbish ever to appear on the interwebs.  I still agree that 'I'm not happy' when spoken from the inside of a relationship, probably has absolutely nothing to do with the relationship, or the person you're supposedly not happy with.  (and I'm going to continue to agree with that til my dying day too because otherwise there's waaaay too many people out there that I have made unhappy :p). Its quite likely that it s a contributor though, but that's a story for another post. 

But I do believe it's rubbish because of this bit:  'Love yourself'. 

What the heck does that even mean? I can say I quite like myself, most of the time, and there are things about myself that I love some of the time, but LOVE myself. Yeah nah.  Respect myself? Yes. Love my body? Only in a 'thanks for getting me through the day/down to the shop kind of way but certainly not in a 'look in the mirror and kiss my muscles' way. Consider myself my own best friend and the person I most want to spend time with? (ie love). Errrr no. I rather prefer the company of others, an OTHER, MY other. 

And what about those days that I'm feeling particularly unloving towards myself (usually involving wine, cheese, late nights or a combination thereof)? Does that mean that because I don't love myself I can't love someone else?  That those days when I don't even like myself that I can't love anyone else? (and anyone who's suffered depression knows that this can be a long few days). That's the bit I find the most offensive. 

(Now, before there is a flurry of responses from my two regular readers, I'd like to point out that whilst I think this 'you can only love another if you love yourself' stuff is total BS, that DOESN'T mean that I think self esteem is not important, nor do I think it's ok to abuse or misuse your body. Self loathing is a whole other topic, and one I have no right nor appropriate qualification to preach about.     
But back to self love.  Love is a word that gets thrown about a bit to much I think.  I LOVE that movie. I love HER. I love FOOD.  Put in this context I just can't add I love ME to the list.  And so think we do ourselves a huge disservice by trotting out responses like this one, and others like

- everything happens for a reason
- put your own house in order before you organise someone else's
- this is for the best
- by letting go of (insert thing/person/experience here) you leave space for something better!

Even 'you dodged a bullet there' is all a bit....twee? And all of those expressions, especially the first and last, imply that the person is, well a bit inept when it comes to matters of the heart - which, following the logic of the love yourself statement, also means that the deliverer of this message means that actually, you don't have very good self esteem , or worse, you're actually a bit of a loser.

Yes, I think we all need to have a good dose of self esteem in order to maintain healthy relationships. I also think that LOVE should be unconditional - given freely and without judgement.  Just in the same way it should be received.  But the reality is that even the person who 'feels' the most unlovable can still love another. And in fact that person can still BE loved by another.

I do not doubt that I need to like myself. That I need to be comfortable in my own skin even when as gets wrinkly. That I need to be ok with my own company. That I can't be constantly reliant on others to make me feel good (although isn't that what community and family and relationship is kind of all about?). That I probably have to consider myself at least a bit lovable in order to attract a partner. (funny how those that don't think that so often end up with people who truly don't love them anyway - but ah again a post for another time)

To be loved, without reservation, is what makes me feel able to return that love. Its what makes me, I suppose, feel that I can love who I am as a person.. So is that the sign of crap self esteem? Maybe. I certainly know how depleting it is to love and not have that love returned. But loving oneself to fill the lovetank? How on earth can that even work? 

Love yourself first? No way. The problem with the 'self love' proponents is that they will ALWAYS put themselves first. And frankly that just doesn't sit well with me. And it is, I think, ultimately a lonely life.   I believe, that in giving, and receiving, love in equal measure, that the internal love tank gets filled.  And therein is the key. . Or at least (in my fluffy clouds and rainbows world)  it should be.  I think to feel lovable, and to be love-able, is a result of loving others. Love is, and should be, a two way thing

And, given the choice, investing my time and energy into loving others is a far better option for me than dedicating it to loving myself. 



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

fake it til you break it









So I wrote a year and a half ago (which seems like a lifetime, and almost is in this crazy post coupled world...) I am still no closer to knowing the answer to the question I posted to myself other than to be able to confirm that my observation is absolutely true. Dr Phil would say (and I'm not ENTIRELY sure I agree), that 


''You don't ever solve a relationship problem by turning away from your partner. Turn toward each other to fix what's wrong, don't look outside the marriage. Any time you turn away from your partner to fulfil your needs instead of toward him/her, it's a betrayal. Want to know if some behaviour is cheating? If you wouldn't do it with your spouse right next to you, it's cheating. ''

Is this common...normal...behaviour? Seems so - if the (horribly large) number of single and re partnered people I've talked to are anything to go by. After seeing people take up breakup makeup and fake up for the past 7 years, I'd say that that almost EVERY one I know, (who didn't turn inwards to their partner) upon having a problem outside of their 'relationship' has ended up splitting, and now I'm watching yet another someone go through a 'should I shouldn't I' situation.

But here's the thing...what if it's not a relationship problem? What if the problem you have is something else entirely? What if the ''need' that the good Doctor refers to is not about your partner . Maybe Work? Family? Health? Does it still translate into 'anywhere but here'?. We seem to have this ability to think that if we're feeling loved up, everything will seem more manageable too, cos love will see us through (ah the attractiveness of that!). And so if there's no lovin' feelings, it's time to get out.  For some weird reason, we seem to be able to forget that the problems are there regardless of who the partner is (or isn't). I'd hazard a guess nearly every time, a 'relationship problem' isn't that at all. Where-ever you go you are and all that...

Seems that there's this weird combination that happens to the post married - we spend a F**ktonne more time navel gazing about the state of a life/relationship/state of mind, and yet on the other hand, having been through what we consider to be the worst of times (as a marriage or LTR ending usually is), have this ability to make a decision to cut loose without too much angst, especially if the grass is looking tantalisingly greener from the murky old window we are are looking through. And I concede, that sometimes it is...for a time. But I know of only one couple, just one, in my entire life, whose greener grass is still alive beyond the usual up to 3 year honeymoon period (as per Dr Phil and every other dating experts time line advice....) Sure isn't the drivel on blogs like this all about people who need to ruminate on what is, what was ,and could be?

Does that mean one should stick in a relationship they are not sure about, or that they believe is making them unhappy just because...well for no reason really? Good grief no. And nor should it mean pursuing one that youre not sure about. But I STILL say, having worn this t-shirt more than once, that stopping and thinking...and evaluating the NOW before jollying off elsewhere is still a better place to start. Talking from hard won experience, it's a long road to get into a quality partnership of any kind, a feckin hard thing to uncouple, harder still to get the nerve to start over, and whilst one might argue that breakups get easier the more you have them (yeah that sounds like a fun way to live life....), nothing ever changes if you don't.

If there's a lesson here (and one I've learned the hard way more than once) its that you have to know yourself and like that person before you can even know (and like) someone else for any length of time. You have to be brave enough to stop and let another person see the true you rather than (or before) taking another version of yourself to market. The truth will always out (and other cliches) apply here. You have to decide if it's the person standing in front of you that's the problem or not (probably not...).  Honesty is hard. Being true to yourself is hard. NOT being true to yourself is hard! But breakups are, in the end, harder. Just saying. 

Sermon over. Your thoughts, as always, are welcome. 




Friday, 14 November 2014

Hit and miss

I know we often want it all happy and positive, but that’s just not where much of humanity is. 
Many of us are overwhelmed with pain, undigested sadness, unexpressed anger, unseen truths. This is where we are at, as a collective. So we have two choices. We can continue to pretend it’s not there, shame and shun it in ourselves and others, distract and detach whenever possible. Or we can face it heart-on, own it within ourselves, look for it in others with compassion, create a culture that is focused on authenticity and healthy emotional release. 
If we continue to push it all down, we are both creating illness and delaying our collective expansion. But if we can just own the shadow, express it, release it, love each other through it, we can finally graduate from the School of Heart Knocks and begin to enjoy this magnificent life as we were intended. Pretending the pain isn’t there just embeds it further. 
Let’s illuminate it instead Jeff Brown - Soulshaping



Grief is, I think, the crappiest emotion that we as humans have to go through. To lose something, even if it's only a projection of reality, creates pain. And pain is at the heart of loss. On my other blog last week I talked about sadness and pain in a broader sense and of course I don't want to lose myself in that pain but I also have to acknowledge my reality. And I will no longer mask that. I will not lie about it any more. 

Nearly three months have passed since my last relationship ended. (Sheesh that's ironic. I thought it was going to be my ''last'' relationship! but I digress)... And as my readers will know, this blog, whilst a summation of many of my deepest thoughts and wishes, is not the place I tend to detail my liaisons, short long or otherwise.

But today, as I sit in bed, with a laptop, a phone, a book and a cup of coffee - inanimate, not talking things that may not require my attention, but don't give me any either - I am feeling in a different place. I am so TIRED. I am tired of bouncing around telling everyone how awesome my life is. Or worse, them reminding me. (Ironically, it is, mostly). I am tired of being reminded of my own worth (yeah I know that - but who gives a toss when the person you wanted to value you most, doesn't). I'm tired of having to act like I don't care. Like I'm a cool single woman who actually got a lucky break, if only she was clever enough to realise it. I'm tired of having to pretend I'm ''over it''.  I'm feckin' tired of people telling me I should be! I'm tired of still feeling feelings that I thought would have faded. I have tired of feeling like I just been hit in the solar plexus and am still gasping for air. 

About a year ago, I had a conversation with someone I cared deeply about. We talked about being honest, about searing truth, about abandoning rules in favour of following hearts. ''F**k the rules, I don't care for rules right now' - that's what we said! I decided to live by it.  Back then I wanted to hear certain words above all others and so I chose to ignore (or at least, accept) some things that troubled me, trusting that to be honest, and to abandon rules, and ''follow my heart'' was ultimately going to work out for the best for me (and my relationships). I believed that those actions would lead to happiness for me. In fact, it didn't work out at that way at all and now someone else has abandoned the rules, followed their heart and as a result it is me who (actually, if I'm going to continue to honour those rules and be honest) is frickin' miserable. And here I am - doing it again now. I'm going to abandon rules, I'm going to be searingly honest whenever I can, and I'm going to tell the truth. Not because I don't have an otherwise good life, not because I don't value myself, not because of anything other than this:

I still miss that relationship.

Do I miss feeling that in the end I wasn't enough? Good grief no. Do I miss the days when I was anxious and wondering was it me doing wrong, but too afraid to address it in case I really was the problem? Ahhh no. Do I miss the things that drove me nuts (cos we all have them)? Erm, maybe, maybe not. Do I miss worrying that the future was fading and feeling helpless to change that? Nope. Do I miss the pain I went through at the end?  Hell no. No way. And yes I'm smart enough to know that the reality is that no good relationship should have those feelings.. 

But there it is. I miss it. . I miss shared history and a planned shared future (OK so it turns out it was only me planning it but still). I miss the easy conversation that we had from the first time we met. I miss the shared interests - the ones I had before and the new passions I discovered but are no longer mine to share. Dancing. God I miss dancing.  I miss the non stop fun and excitement, the boring mundane-ness. I miss sleep ins, wake ins, early nights and late ones. I miss being part of a two person team. I miss not being able to pick up the phone to share something funny, or important, or not important at all. I miss being and having an ally. I miss being and having a supporter. I miss having someone to go out with, and come home with. I miss making complicated food and pouring over-sized drinks. I miss sharing secrets and confidences. I miss planning things with someone else. I miss the feelings of trust that go with being in a relationship. I miss hearing compliments and reassurances. I miss hugs. I miss feeling important and valued by someone I felt the same about.  I miss it all. And at the heart of this I miss the person who I believed was my best friend. 

Im sad that I know stuff that I no longer have a right to be supportive about. I'm sad that it is no longer my role to be the ally, the confidante, the soft place.  I hate the fact that I still want it to be. I hate that I am having to, again, reshape what my future is going to look like. I just don't wanna!!!

Maybe I have unrealistic views of what relationship is. Obviously I do or I wouldn't even be writing this would I!? I want it all. I want to share my life with someone, and I want that shared life to be a source of happiness for others. I want to be looked at like I'm the only woman in the room. I want to be able to have good days and bad days...or weeks...or years!...and be able to allow someone else to do the same. I want it in sickness and in health, I don't care if its for richer or poorer. I'll gladly take the worse with the better. I want to be someones lover, best friend, ally, sparring partner, thought companion and challenger. I want to be first choice. Every time. Every. Time. I want it all. I hope one day I can find that.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

what a friend would do - part two

I was thinking today ....about the  people we treat best in our lives...the most consistently, with the most respect, with the most kindness and tolerance...the ones we are loyal to in the most trying of circumstances, the ones we take phone calls from at odd hours, make endless cups of coffee for when we have far more pressing issues to attend to, that we ignore the foibles and habits of.

How odd it is that these people are not our family - our kids, our sibling our parents.  They are not our employers.  They are not even our spouses . That group - family, significant others, employers - we make public promises to, even sign contracts with!

Don't you think it's strange, that the ones to whom we make no promises, that we don't have an ''official''  lifelong commitment to, that we don't have to provide a service to, or have a contract with....these people are 'just' our friends and no more - or no less, depending on your perspective.

I get that no one wants to lose a friend. Especially a close one.  Extra especially your ''best friend''.  I suppose that is why we treat those friendships with care, for years and years and years.  Others come and go, but the best friend is there for ever and those friendships somehow endure everything.

Is it because we give our ''best selves'' to those friendships?  We only ever show our best side, because the risk of warts and all might be too much for the friendship to bear? Or is is that we give everything and bare everything, and trust that the best friend will stick around anyway? I know my best friends have seen the best and worst of me and they are still there, decades later.

Why then, do we not afford the people we profess to love the most (sometimes have publicly and legally professed it even!) the same? Does familiarity breed contempt? Or do we have some weird subconscious belief that a spouse will stick around regardless of our behaviours, where a friend would not? Is it because we feel so safe with our spouse/family member that we can, for a time, abandon kindness or respect, sometimes in the name of honesty - or  even untruth?

Shouldn't we be treating that person with even more (insert quality here) than anyone else in our lives?

I think so. But we don't.  Not all the time anyway. And when a friend does betray us in some way, or act unkindly or inconsistently, its SO hard not to hurt, and hurt deeply. Somehow it is a wound that takes a long time to heal.  Weirdly, to be abandoned by a friend seems to hurt as much, if not more, than to endure a failed relationship.

I love the idea of my SO being my best friend, and have had the joy and privilege of this in the past. (and yes I know that friendship alone is of course not enough to any more than romantic love is, or any other single part of  - I know that what works is being in a whole, sustainable relationship). And I think in the early times of relationship we do apply those same standards. But I'm talking about long term mature relationships here - the ones that we all want (or at least most people do). The ones that get past crazy stupid love and into the deep trusting place of commitment and enduring love. The ones that could get so easily and dangerously close to the 'taking for granted'' place, the ''I don't really feel that friendly right now'' space. The ''I think I need a new hobby'' place! The 'I wish she'd just get out of my face'' space!

So...imagine if we treated our most significant others, and our relationships with them, with the same care and attention that we do a close friend - for ever! The fierce loyalty, 'drop anything for you' generous kind and 'best selves forward' kind of friendship we have with our best friends.  What different relationships they might be.




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Monday, 6 October 2014

Butterflies

I've been reading a lot this week about living in the moment, embracing the now.  Initially I thought that  this meant ''seizing the day'', making things happen and changing what needed changing fearlessly and without regret.  But the more I read I realise it is really not about that at all. It's about stopping and feeling. About being in A moment and feeling it - acknowledging it for all it has in it, the good the bad and the ugly.  Not comparing it to what was, or what might or could be.  But owning and feeling the moment for whatever 'the moment' is.

Right now, I'm really not enjoying living in the moment.  Exactly one year ago today I was engulfed in more sadness that I could have imagined possible.  A  few people knew about it - and a few more thought they did -  but almost no-one knew the actual details, save one or two trusted friends, and the Doctor who was urging me to start taking medication (I lasted two days before deciding it made me worse not better, and will not go ''there'' again - for how can you truly live in the moment if the moment is dulled by chemicals?)

My 'seizing the day' action was to choose to be continue being searingly, bravely honest with someone, and asking them to be the same with me, and, as a result of that, I came out of those depths and moved into a new way of normal.  A few weeks earlier it would have been incomprehensible that I would have been in this position at all, and so today it seems absolutely beyond belief that I am here again.

The details of what happened in the ensuing year,  and how I came to be in a place of sadness again  are kind of irrelevant  - the purpose of my writing is to simply try and make sense of how I feel today. And today I feel...the sun is too bright, the night too dark, voices too soft, music too loud. My mind is full and yet empty, I feel everything and nothing.  I have clarity and total fogginess. I am, curiously. both insanely happy and insanely sad. There's a sense of inevitability and normalcy about where I am in life now, and yet also the feeling that my world has been knocked off its axis and literally onto another one.

I understand that this will pass. It has before. These feelings will, most likely, happen again - that's life right? We live, we love, we lose, and we gain again.

To risk love of any kind,  and to be vulnerable means to risk pain and loss. That I understand.  There are no guarantees in life, no matter how much we want them, offer or promise them, or even endeavour to deliver on them.  Believing this is also a part of living in the moment, because it has to be.  It's the price we pay for being human.

But for today, thoughts really are like butterflies...








Friday, 26 September 2014

The search for a soul mate - fact, fiction or flight of fancy

Back in November 2011 I confessed my secret but deep held belief in soul mates. I wanted to believe that there is this one person out there that is a true match - the one that 'gets' us the most. The one that we can be the most honest and vulnerable with. Yes the one who 'completes' us just like the corny movie.

I DO want to believe that. I do WANT to believe that. I do want to BELIEVE that.  But there's a problem...you see I know lots of people who have thought they have met their soul mate - announced it, celebrated it - and it hasn't worked out for them.  So that begs rather a lot of questions...Can we have more than one soul mate?  What if they die? What if you're together two years...ten years...twenty years... and then it doesn't work out?..Were they still your soul mate?  Does a soul mate have to be a life partner?  What if you never meet your soul mate...does that mean you're destined to have that missing piece for ever? What if you meet who you believe to be your soul mate, but you are not theirs? What if there is a meeting of souls, undoubtedly and profoundly, but life circumstances threaten (or worse actually are able)  to overwhelm that 'supernatural' connection with boring reality? What if...what if....what if....

I don't have any answers...I wish I did.  I think we all want to not just meet that person who seems to be our perfect fit, but to know that we can give them our soul for safe keeping and know that it really is going to be cherished and guarded forever.

Its a romanticised view...I get that.  I know that it takes more than a few seconds, more than a few months to know someone...to know their soul.  I know that the soul can be dark and ugly and unlovable at times, just as it can be bright and inviting and possibly only a projection of something else at others.  I get that a meeting of minds, a connecting of souls, or any other joining is potentially in the realm of the ephemeral and could well bear no relevance to the realities and vagaries of every day life.  So then what?

Of all the reading I have done on this, the views are completely polarised, and little offers any sensible, rational explanation of why we continue to cling to this ideal of finding a soul mate.  Because that is the key - we are spiritual beings and as such want to nurture that element in ourselves. But on the other hand we are also human, grounded on earth with the wants needs and selfish desires of people, not angels.

To date, the only thing I have found that makes the slightest bit of sense - even thought it rather flies in the face of all that I thought I believed! -  is some writing by an American psychologist (sorry about that) who says:

... if an individual wants intensely-passionate, short-term flings, then belief in soul mates will serve them well. Finding those initial commonalities and connections will feel like magic. It will be an excellent emotional high, at least while the illusion of perfection lasts.
In all relationships, however, disagreement, conflict, and incompatibility will arise. Ultimately, no one is perfect - or a perfect fit for a partner. It takes work, growth, and change to keep a relationship going and satisfying over time. When that happens, soul mate believers often become upset, disillusioned, and uncommitted....if an individual finds they are repeatedly falling in love with the "perfect" partner, only to be disappointed and dumping them soon after, their belief in soul mates may be to blame. It may cause them to give up when things are not perfect (but may be still good or great). It may motivate them to not compromise, work, or change, when others don't love them completely for being exactly as they are. Ultimately, it may continually drive them to believe that life would be more satisfying with someone else and endlessly look for a more compatible partner, rather than working to fit with, and be satisfied by, a very good one.
In the end, it is a bit of a cruel joke. A belief in soul mates may prevent individuals from finding the very relationships they think they are destined to have!

Read the full article here.  As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome.