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.