Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Good grief

I had a conversation with someone last night who talked about the experience of when her partner seemingly moved on to 'bigger and better things' without so much as a backward glance.  She was left reeling and spent years wondering just what the feck had happened.

'It felt like he didn't care about me at all' she said.  I reflected back a conversation I'd had with someone else who'd been through a similar thing, and that I've blogged about before...that relationships have momentum. They take a while to ramp up, and they can take a long time to slow down too - even after something is over feelings remain, on both sides! I'd add that just because someone is the initiator or  'leaver' it doesn't mean that they won't have lingering feelings of sadness or grief.  In fact, if the experiences of my friends are anything to go by, it's often harder for the leaver.  They risk being vilified by others, have to justify their position, there's very little sympathy headed their way (unless there was abuse involved...a totally different scenario and not for this post). And, because the uncoupling process may have started long before the relationship ends, they may appear to have it all together and to have moved on, even when they most likely haven't. 

Grief is a weird thing - it's not linear. It can hit you at unexpected moments months or years after an event. It can be triggered by a smell, or a taste, or a random comment. You can feel like you've got it all together in the morning, and be falling apart by lunch. And it's private...oh so private.  Grief scares people - they don't want to hear that you're not ok, not really. So it tends to be internalised - and that means that even a leaver, who might be really struggling with the aftermath of a relationship breakup (even if they wanted it) may never let on their true feelings.

The point of this post? To remind me and others that we don't know what we don't know.  To remember that not only is it ok to be sad when a relationship ends, it's ok to accept that the other person might be sad too, regardless of how it might look from the outside. And to hang on to the idea that grief is actually not such a bad thing if you acknowledge it exists - and if you can learn from an experience that will make you a better person in the long run. 

Read more about grieving a relationship here

Read more about the process of uncoupling here

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

A not so Fairy-tale ending

This week I was required to visit the lawyer to sign various documents relating to property and wellbeing.
In the course of the conversation my lawyer mentioned new relationship laws and how they were tripping up many unsuspecting people who start with the best of intentions but far to often find themselves in a war over assets.  There are, it turns out, lots of way to define a relationship (and thus the ownership of assets therein) and I was amazed to learn that living together or being married was not necessarily a prerequisite to entitlement - in fact a relationship that is a realationship to the outside world, regardless of which, or how many homes, the couple reside in, can be a deciding factor.
Rather than get into a subject I am not qualified to discuss, I herewith present their legal opinion on the matter:

Monday, 20 June 2016

A public service announcement - privacy don't matter when your heart ain't breakin'

I was given a couple of trashy mags this week - neither are titles I have ever bought, and having idly flicked through them, I can confidently say I never will.  Ugh -  dodgy fashion, crass Hollywood gossips stories with grainy photographs, and horror of horrors, interviews with vaguely famous local celebs 'confiding' in their loyal readers.  They are quite old, so the story is no longer newsworthy, but I think my reaction to them is still valid.

Thus, after a long long break from blogging, here is today's post.

According to the article, a couple of weeks earlier a 'personality' told her listeners on air that she was separating from her husband of 30 years (whom she also worked with).  The audience, I'm told, held their collective breath, and then 'cried with her' as they heard how there had been no tears at the breakup, that they remained friends, nay, still loved each other, and it was 'no-one's fault, she just lost herself'. And tonight, I read her 'very personal' account in the magazine.

Call me judgmental - and you can because I know the whole story because she shared it will ME, the reader, in the magazine;, right?...but...REALLY?  You confide in 30000 people you've never met, after making announcement of epic personal proportions ON THE RADIO?

I feel almost embarrassed. I am sure there are people who do have relatively amicable separations, where they drift apart (or whatever soft touch we put on it), in fact probably as many as have loud, tumultuous endings where neither party wants to let go (or one does whilst the other hangs on for grim death).  I get that its possible that the couple in question felt that by making a public announcement they could quash rumours before they started, and present a united front to their listener ship.

I also suspect that the separation was - or at least will be - a power of a lot more painful than the version they are sharing with the world. And this I know because I absolutely believe that any breakup just is. No matter whose 'fault; it is, or isn't. No matter who initiated it. No matter how long or short the relationship. It's the ending of something. Something that once, meant the people involved.  My questions are many...does the world really need to know this? Surely one of the things about intimate relationships is that they are, well, intimate? Is a radio announcement or press release really a great way to share this news?

oh yeah - and Conscious uncoupling my arse.  It's a breakup. It sucks. Just say it like it is.

I feel incredibly sad for this couple, and all who they are close to.  Whatever the circumstances, it's not going to be easy, even if in the first instance it feels that way.  (There's be horrible people like me judging them for a start...).  There'll be do-gooders sharing advice and opinions but probably not ACTUALLY supporting them.  But most of all, after 30 years there will be a lifetime to change direction on, and that just isn't easy, no matter how much they still love each other.

She is describing it as a 'break' - and I sincerely hope it is.  After 30 years its going to be one hell of a ride to singledom if it's a permanent thing.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Discussions recently have, of course, focused on the nuttiness that seems to go hand in hand with Christmas when you're single/re partnered/post coupled.

For every story I hear, there's yet another stupid example of the frailty of humans and our (apparent) lack of ability to 'move on', 'get over it' and 'embrace the season of goodwill'.

It makes me very sad to hear of children who have to have a change over in well lit public places , or parents who split up the day with military operation to ensure everyone gets 'their share' of the Day.  Families who don't speak to each other grieve me even more - and that includes factions of my own.

I'm all for escaping if that's what you want to do. Christmas in a small nuclear family, or spent alone, if that's your choice - go for it, I say - but be honest about it.  Make it your choice. And don't be making everyone else feel bad because of it.

Frankly it makes me want to run away and avoid Christmas (or any other event that will require blended families to pretend to all like each other) altogether.  Except that in mine, other than for one or two people, it works fine.  Christmas morning is always spent at my house with my kids, and their Dad, who invariably ends up making breakfast in my kitchen.  Lunch with one part of the family, and dinner with another part, and usually involving at least three or four mutations of the blended family at each event.

Yes, it's possible.  It still absolutely sucks, because even after 40 years, there's still a small girl in me that would like to have Christmas with my actual Mum and Dad - and for my kids to have the same.  I'd be lying if I said I was completely fine with how life has turned out, but there's no point in dwelling, nor continuing to rehash a past that few can remember properly anyway -so it becomes a wee hurt that gets pulled out and inspected for a few days a month, and then put away with the thankfulness of spirit that allows me (and my kids) to move freely between parents, step parents, currents and exes, and everything in between.

On a slightly related note, 

Tonight I spoke to my 'host mum' from when I was an exchange student 30 Christmases ago.  I'm hoping she'll come and visit again soon.  It's one of those amazing friendships that picks up each year where it left even if it's a year between conversations. And there was much news to share. 

I was asked recently, by someone I'd not heard from in quite a long time, how life was, and what was new for me. I answered in a non committal, played down way - no, no news, and no nothing new. Life goes on. Busy busy. Insert cliche here.

Later, I was bemused at myself...why did I do that?  I had loads of news, almost all good and much worth sharing.  But at the time, I was mid pre-Christmas hooha (as above) and sadly, this overshadowed the rest.  So as I sit here, late on Christmas Eve, I am able to not only breathe in and out, and look forward to the day tomorrow (although it's very weird that tonight the little Engineer has chosen to spend the night with Dad and not here in his own bed - albeit that there's a notice of redirection for Santa on his stocking) - but I am also thinking about all that cool 'news' that makes up life since last Christmas...I'm looking forward to an exciting new job, a new look house, life with a teenager, some new community things I want to get into, some amazing trips away to semi-far flung places, and so it goes on.  

True, life may not have worked out like the fairytale that I think all kids - all people - think they want. But overall, it's pretty good. And the ability of most of the people in my life to be able to put aside their 'stuff' and embrace the season of goodwill, makes this time of year bittersweet, but still something to (MOSTLY::)) look forward to.

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.