Recently someone asked me the question “is it better to love or to loved?” . I don’t think I ever really gave this much thought before. Then it got me thinking about what would I feel more regret about when I reflect on my life sometime in the future? And I came to the conclusion that for me it is far more meaningful to give real deep love than it is to receive it. I would feel a real sense of emptiness if I never experienced what it is to feel deeply for someone else. At the same time I came to the conclusion that this does not have to be one “special” person or even someone you make a commitment to be with for the rest of your life.
How to Measure Love
I guess measuring love is a little bit difficult but for me the words that come to mind are, needing, wanting, expectations, warmth, attachment, connection and pain.
To really know what it is to feel a deep sense of love for someone you must be able to continue loving them even if they do not meet your expectations. The more the expectations, the more volatile the relationship becomes. So if say you would rather be loved than to love, then there it is already an expectation in place. There is nothing wrong with wanting a special person to share your life with, what causes the problems are the preconceived notions that you take into this relationship.
For me I guess the only love I can see that can be selfless and unshakable is that of a mother towards her child.
A Mother’s Love
I am fortunate enough to be a mother, three times over. To me being a mother is the deepest relationship I have in my life. It is giving without needing or wanting anything in return. There are no expectations, it is the only real selfless love. I’m not saying it is always the case, of course there are plenty of women who’s role as a mother is not loving.
I’m also privileged to be a grandmother, another level of mothering love but without the daily responsibilities that can add a little stress to the mother child relationship. Being a grandmother is a true gift.
Of course not everyone has the chance to experience being a parent or grandparent, not everyone wants to. It’s a personal choice and often not even a choice. I am only using my own experience here.
I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble about this notion of “romantic love” with the one and only but I have to say that this is probably the least fulfilling loving relationship. I’ll take a step back here and try to elaborate without me coming across as a non believer. Of course finding romantic love in life, that special person you can connect with, get close to and share “special” moments with is absolutely fundamental in life.
To go through life never experiencing this type of connection is sad. What is sadder however is watching people lose themselves in these romantic love relationships. Watching people searching with a sense of desperation for that “special one” And then watching people tear each other apart in dysfunctional relationships that long lost their magic and romance. This sense of clinging and attachment is clearly at the heart of so much pain in our lives, yet it is so much easier for some to just let it become their life than it is to let it go and move on.
And the proof for me that romantic love is less fulfilling than other types of love is that it all rests on what we get from it and the other person fulfilling our expectations. This is what makes it so difficult to maintain, we change, our needs change and our expectations change. How can one person be the giver of all that?
Is Romantic Love Dead?
It may sound like I’m saying there’s not such thing as romantic love. Actually I am saying the opposite. I’m saying it does exist but like most things in life it doesn’t last forever.
We have to be willing to see that love comes and goes. You find it in the most unexpected places, it can last days, weeks, months and years but it will change and it will end. Let’s not confuse real deep romantic, intimate love with long lasting relationships, they are rarely based on the love that perhaps was there at the beginning. These long lasting relationships are about evolving as a couple. Something for another discussion.
The Two Most Powerful Love’s
In order to live a life based on love, to give without an expectation of receiving anything in return is to realise that self love and love for humanity are the two most purest forms of love, yet we struggle with them the most.
Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first
Going back to the original question “is it better to love or to be loved?” and looking at it in the way I’ve been discussing here, it is clear that finding a way to share your love is far more rewarding,than searching for someone to give you what you need.
In order to give pure love without expectations you must first love yourself
And this is where the problem lies. We struggle to give ourselves the love we expect from others. Instead we search for that special person to give us what we think we do not deserve to give ourselves.
And finally we must find love for humanity. We must feel compassion for the human race, for the other living beings that share this planet with us and we must find peace for this planet we live on. We can not restrict our love to one special person and neglect this amazing universe we live in. It is a fruitless pursuit this search for one person to share our love with when there is a whole world that needs our complete devotion.
I was watching this video interview where Oprah Winfrey discusses why you shouldn’t be looking for Mr Right or for that matter Mrs Right.
This longing to feel complete by somehow finding this one Mr Right or Mrs Right is the cause for so many relationships ending. Just imagine the already unrealistic expectations you put on another person when you are looking for them to make you feel whole again?
Oprah mentions the statement by Tom Cruise in the film Jerry Macguire where he says “you complete me” to his new love. In the video the discussion focuses on how we can only complete ourselves. Too look outside of ourselves to feel complete is a recipe for disaster. It breeds clingy, needy relationships which often turn into toxic relationships.
How long will it take for someone to not meet your exceptions? How perfect can anyone be? And I guess how can anyone make you feel complete if you don’t feel it alone?
For any relationship to be healthy, fulfilling and happy the people in them must be whole and happy in their own skin.
Linda Frances gives an example of a failed relationship and states
“When you are broken you will attract the wrong people”
It could not be said any better than this
“Instead of looking for the right person, work on making yourself the right person for you, then the right person will be drawn to you” – Oprah Winfrey
Why You Should Stop Looking for Mr Right or Mrs Right?
I feel a little cruel to say this but I feel compelled to. Over romanticising has led to so many relationships breaking down. We get into new relationships with unrealistic expectations and dreams, and this is fine for a while but it’s not long before you start to see the other person in their true colours. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that when we take off those tinted glasses and look through clear eyes, we see a real person. And real people are not perfect!
So without breaking your bubble about the Hollywood illusion, perhaps it’s time to stop looking for Mr Right (or Mrs Right of course) and start getting real.
Do The Work On Yourself
For many people it’s far easier to be in denial about themselves than it is to look outside of themselves to be complete. In the video Linda Frances talks about being in a toxic relationship as a consequence of not dealing with the feeling of betrayal from a previous relationship. It wasn’t until she allowed herself to feel the pain that she was able to let go. She the was able to work on herself. She became the person she wanted to be, created the life she wanted for herself and attracted the right person into her life.
However not everyone is self aware and not everyone is willing to put the work in. I see so many people all to ready to blame their partners or blame society for the state of their life, yet they fail to make any changes. Safer to stay as I am right?
Complete Yourself – Then Your Whole World is Complete
Your View Of Relationships May Need Updating
We are in 2016 yet our view of relationships are based on the 1950’s (actually earlier). We still dream of some prince marrying us and taking us to this magic palace where we will be happy ever after. Men on the other hand dream of these beautiful women, made of glass, who look just as beautiful twenty years later as they did when they were mere children! Ok I’m over exaggerating but you get my drift.
Here’s the thing though, men and women are now equal (in principle anyway) Many women are ambitious, independent and love their freedom. Most of us are fully accepting of same sex and inter-racial relationships. There are more and more nontraditional ways of living and open relationships not based on exclusiveness,. Yet we are trying to keep relationships traditional.
There is online dating, online virtual worlds, globalisation and the world is a much smaller place. We taste other foods, see other cultures and religions. Yet we are chasing this traditional long term, exclusive and yet elusive relationship.
What’s the right relationship? – I say it’s the one that best fits you. Perhaps you need to change your criteria? Perhaps you need to open your mind?
Staying is No Longer The Norm
And this brings me to discussing why people stay in relationships even if it doesn’t give them what they need. I think most people just don’t like shaking up the status quo. It’s so much easier to moan, to blame the other person than it is to let it go, walk away and start over, right?
When a relationship ends it’s seen as a failure, personally I think it takes great courage to say “it served it’s purpose, it was what I needed and wanted at the time but now it’s time to move on!”
If we walk away, let it go, we are getting out of our comfort zone, we are perhaps putting ourselves into a challenging new unknown life. But surely that’s what being alive means, taking responsibility for your own life and not accepting a life less ordinary.
I also think some people thrive on the drama of a toxic relationship. It makes them somehow feel more important because either they are a martyr or they are a victim or worse they are a powerful bully! They become so sucked into the story “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”
Personally I think to be in an unhappy toxic relationship is death, no need to wait for it to happen it’s already happened.
Does that mean I don’t believe in relationships? Not at all, just not in the traditional sense.
It feels apt for me to be talking about toxic people this morning as I am now at a point in my life that not even what is deemed as my duty is enough for me to put up with toxic people in my life. The challenge is when these toxic people present themselves as friends and family. Then it becomes a choice of putting up with or walking away and for me right now, it’s not a choice. If a relationship with anyone does not include respect, love, appreciation and genuine goodness then there is no place for it in my life.
What Happens When These Toxic People Are Family?
People always say that you should respect your family but that’s because there is an assumption that your family has treated you well. What happens when that is not the case? Should we still respect them?
“Respect is not freely given, it is earned. You do not owe anyone respect, you do not owe anyone anything.”
This line about owing respect to people just because they are family is used as emotional abuse, it is often used to manipulate and control. Respect is never a given, it is earned and that includes close friends and family.
I would argue that it is even more important that those close to you respect you because if they can’t then what gives them the right to sit close by you through your life?
If there are people in your life that rule you through fear, belittle you and do not appreciate you, it is time to exit their life.
“If they do not appreciate what you bring to the table, let them eat alone”
This isn’t saying “I hate you” – It’s saying “I LOVE ME!”
People Want You To Make Them Feel Good
Ultimately all relationships are based on how we feel when we are with others. If being around someone does not feel good, then it’s unlikely to be a good relationship. When that other person is family then we tend to put up, suffer the bad feelings out of duty. However is that just accepting another one of those expectations society has us believe is the right thing to do?
I think it’s also another example of attachment because moving away from family means breaking a lifetime of attachment. But in fact no relationship without mutual respect and appreciation is a valid relationship.
You owe it to yourself to realise that as people grow they either grow together or they grow apart. If that growth takes people into different directions and that person no longer has a positive affect on you, then you have to let it go. Otherwise you hinder your own growth.
To be truly authentic in life, you must be true to your core values. Are you a slave to loyalty?
I remember a few years before my separation having a conversation with my ex husband, where I simply said “I don’t need you”. I was quite surprised by his hurt reaction because I didn’t intend it to be a negative statement. It made me realise that many of us base our relationships on need. My point was that I was in the marriage because I wanted to be, not because I needed to be.
Obviously I was with the wrong person because our outlook on relationships was very different. He obviously felt that a woman should need him; otherwise he felt his role as a man was somehow undermined. That in itself is not such a big deal, if your partner is the type that likes to be needed and you are the type that is needy, then perfect match.
I can imagine some people reading this thinking; “well no wonder their marriage didn’t last!” and I guess you may have a point. If you are in a relationship that is made up of two people on two different levels of need, then unless this is dealt with eventually it will cause problems.
Are Conventional Relationships Still a Right Fit?
So here we are 2016 in a society where men and women are supposed to be equal. I am guessing in same sex relationships this isn’t such an issue; at least there is no gender inequality as such. I’m sure there are other challenges but I have no expertise in this area so I won’t make any assumptions. What I do know is that most women are no longer content with playing the needy role, especially if they are independent and perhaps even career minded. Does this threaten the male role in a relationship?
Probably not in all cases but I am sure it does in many.
While we have changed many constructs in our society, the role of a woman and a man in relationships is not very different from say fifty years ago. Yes a woman may go out to work but that in itself is not equality.
Why Needy is Not Healthy
But neediness is not confined to gender as such. Neediness is much more to do with the feeling of unworthiness. If we do not feel whole, if we do not feel enough then we search to fill that gap and often we expect that from someone else, usually our partner.
Need V Want
Personally I prefer someone to be with me because they enjoy my company, not because they don’t feel enough on their own. It’s not a compliment to feel needed; it’s much more a compliment to feel wanted. To me that means there’s a conscious choice, a mature, emotionally intelligent choice.
If feeling needed is what you are after, then what is it you feel is wrong with you? What would happen if nobody needed you? Would you become insignificant?
What would happen if you had to meet your own needs? Do you feel you couldn’t do that or perhaps that you are not good enough?
I don’t enjoy talking negatively in any way; it serves no purpose and only prolongs the disappointment. This week I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve felt let down by people around me and try as I may to let sleeping dogs lie, sometimes even I get thrown by it.
The one thing I’ve learnt is that disappointment is always down to how I perceive the situation and my expectations of others. And there reaches a time when you don’t even want to give people the benefit of the doubt.
So what can you do when people let you down?
Become Aware Of Your Expectations
The thing is you can’t go around having no expectations of others, it’s not realistic. What you can do is be aware of these expectations and be prepared that you may very well be let down when they are not met.
Do not Cling to Expectations
Becoming aware of your expectations helps you to deal with them not being met. And when they are not met, you get the choice of what to do.
You should try to not cling to your expectations. That doesn’t mean you let people walk all over you, it doesn’t mean you lower your expectations, it just means you give yourself the option of letting it go and walking away.
Be Prepared to Let People Go
And here’s a big one. We spend so much time in our relationships, be it close intimate ones or friendships clinging and attaching that when we are let down, we can’t break away.
We would much rather stay, fight it out, try to make the other person what we want them to be and then start to lose faith in ourselves.
Why do we do that?
Because the alternative is to walk away from people who no longer serve you. And that means starting to accept that people are not constants in your life, some stay, some go and some you may choose to leave.
Why do People Let You Down?
I had to think about this one over the week. Why is it that in the end even people you think you know so well turn out to be nothing like what you had imagined?
How can you not see who that person really is?
I came to the conclusion that sometimes our need for someone to be a certain way is so great that we ignore what’s right in front of us. We make excuses, we make compromises until we either lower our expectations so much that actually now they meet them or we start to get resentful.
And what does all this stem from?
Yes fear of being alone
Fear that you are not good enough to have such high expectations
Fear of there being nothing better than this or this person
Fear of being different in case you don’t fit in with the crowd
Let’s end on a more positive note.
Once you learn to accept that people will let you down, such is life. Once you learn to stop clinging to your expectations of people, start to become less attached and allow people to pass through your life, then you enter a whole different ball game.
Then you engage with people authentically.
But more importantly you will learn that the only one that can let you down is the person who looks back at you in the mirror. Hold that person up to the highest expectations for this is the person who will always be there for you.
These last few weeks have sparked some interesting conversations about women and their role in society. Some key roles are now taken up by women, including our new prime minster Theresa May.
In spite of all the progress we women have made we are still labeled as the caring, soft touch, put everyone else first gender. We are here to fix everyone, to look after everyone and to make sure everyone else is happy. The problem with this is that these labels are what stop us from asking for what we want. We are brought up to make sure we think of others first, after all science says we are the caring gender right?
I’m not saying that asking for what you want is only a gender issue but it is something that has affected me personally, so I am writing from my perspective. Actually here I go again being polite, so maybe I should bite the bullet and say what’s really on my mind, remove the niceties and just be straight up.
The Labels We Attach to Women
I always struggled with the labels attached to me because I am a woman and for much of my young life I tried to stay out of the box. In the end I did what I always thought I’d never do, I got married, had children and fit into the role I was supposed to. I guess I gave up fighting and lost myself to what was expected of me.
When I was young I spoke my mind, played with toy cars and enjoyed playing football with the boys. In those days a girls ambition was often limited to dreams of one day wearing a sparkling wedding dress and then living happy ever after. I on the other hand dared to have big dreams that did not involve getting married. I hated wearing girly clothes and didn’t do fashion for fashions sake. Well at least I kept true to my own fashion style. I was often called a “tomboy” and that used to play on my mind when growing up. The connotation was that somehow I wasn’t “normal” what if I couldn’t find a good man to marry? Now that would have been a tragedy!
Just to clarify I don’t regret having children, they mean the world to me but I can’t say what my life would have been like if I had lived true to me. Who knows? I’m not even saying most women don’t want to have children, what I’m saying is in a way we have little choice when it is drummed into us from babies!
Why Do We Struggle to Ask For What We Want?
In the end what happens to us women is that over the years we are broken. We know very well how to be there for our friends and family. What we don’t do so well is learn to look after number one. We are not as important because we are the caring gender as we are told from birth! We are so well conditioned that we don’t even know it bothers us when it does!
And as soon as a woman begins to ask for what she wants, then there’s other labels to give her. And Madonna say’s it very well –
“I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch okay!”
Right hands up, there is no such thing as a perfect partner, I just said that to grab your attention. But now I have it, here’s the truth (well my truth)
Actually there is no such thing as perfect because the very essence of life is to recognise how perfectly imperfect everything is. So why do we try so hard to find this perfect person to complete our life?
Here’s a little exercise for you to try today.
Write a list of all the things your perfect partner should have or be. Nobody will see this so be as open and honest as you want.
Now look at your list and ask yourself:
a. what characteristics in this perfect partner do you have?
b. What characteristics would you want to have that you don’t already have?
What would happen if you actually met this perfect person? How would it change your life?
What will happen if you never meet anyone that fits this criteria?
So maybe I should share my thoughts on what my perfect partner would be like. He would be a combination of Richard Gere, James Dean and a little Keanu Reeves. Now that’s a great mix right? Attractive, intelligent, strong, and interesting, the list goes on.
“Perfection is when one realises his/her imperfections”
But here’s the thing, as soon as you start to compile a list of criteria for this perfect partner, you set that person up for failure. As soon as they fail to meet one of your preferences, they no longer meet your criteria and they are no longer that perfect partner.
Looking for this elusive perfect partner raises questions about how we relate to ourselves. What is it we are looking for outside of ourselves? Do we look for what we feel is missing within us or do we look for what we most love about ourselves in others?
What would happen if we just saw people as they are, accept them as they are and take them as they come?
What would happen if we stopped trying to make others what we want them to be and worked on making ourselves what we want to be?
This may make me sound like some bitter twisted woman who doesn’t believe in relationships at all. Actually I’m quite the opposite, what I now see and value is that it’s my striving for perfect that has caused so many problems in the past. I’ve come to accept that actually imperfect is pretty perfect. And if that’s the case why would I be looking for perfect in anyone else?
In my work we often end up talking about relationships. I tend to get straight to the point of why I think most relationships fail. It’s simple, we want our partner to be perfect, if they aren’t we try to make them. We try to change them. Eventually this wears us out, it wears them out and causes damage to the relationship.
So what’s the solution? How do we have better relationships?
Firstly we accept that perfect does not exist and become completely comfortable with that. Let go of the dream of perfection in ourselves and in others. Savour what is, learn to accept the imperfections and watch how things change.
And no that does not mean you compromise, it means you see things as they are. Then you can choose if you really want to be with someone or not.
Secondly you remember that the only person you can change is you. You work on you until one day you realise you have everything you want and need, right there inside you. Then how you relate to others completely changes. You no longer need anything, you are happy to just be with that person, for that moment without any expectations.
You learn to not cling to something that no longer serves you.
How liberating is that? Or is it out of your comfort zone?
My last post about short term relationships raised some questions. They made me think about when my marriage was coming to an end. It reminded me of that emotional, crazy, crappy time. It made me think about all the times I chose to stay instead of walk away. For me the hardest part has been coming to terms with the staying, thirty years is a long time.
Having Children Changes Everything
So I’ll get straight to the point, having children does change everything. I can’t speak for people in relationships without children because I don’t know what that feels like but I know what it’s like to be there because you have children.
I want to stress that I would never advocate someone staying in an abusive relationship, that is never healthy. Nor do I think staying for the children per se is good, all I am saying is that having children does change everything. Is it always better to stay in a relationship for your children, absolutely not?
My parents had a very unhealthy relationship, I think in their case we would have been better off in a single parent household. In my own marriage I genuinely feel it was best for my children because their father did the best he could and we both worked hard as parents. It’s evident in the fact that all three of our sons are mostly well rounded, responsible adults.
Just knowing that we did the best we could for our children is enough to actually make the thirty years somewhat worthwhile.For most of the time, we were good friends, so there was no real battle ground at home. The fact that we can still talk to each other with relative respect and little anger means the relationship ended when the time was right. No bitterness needed, just move on and love life.
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
When you ask yourself if you should stay or go, remember to drown out the voices of all those around you and listen to only what you know. Nobody knows you and your relationship better than you do, nobody knows how you feel better than you. But if you don’t really know what you are feeling or you are disconnected with your own needs, then it’s time to start digging deep to find your own answers.
We can all give advice, tell others to walk out or stay based on our own experiences but in the end, it’s really up to the individual. In the end we all have to live our own life, we all have our own journey. If fear is what is keeping you in that relationship, then perhaps you need to explore the fear.
I would never tell anyone what they should do, I’m here sharing my story because I want you to see that you don’t have to stay. If you choose to leave and start over, you can make a better life for yourself. But if you stay, then do yourself a favour and make your life count.
As a young girl I dreamed about having a successful career, visiting amazing places and having adventures, marriage was never my ambition. But in the end I towed the line and I got married because I risked becoming a strange outcast, not the sort of thing a good Greek girl does. I’m happy to be a mother, my children are my life and my marriage was no disaster, there were some great times. But I have no clue what my life would have been like if I had stuck to my core beliefs and never married or had children, if I had lived on a more short term basis.
So when a friend shared this video, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on long term relationships.
Friends often ask me if I’ll marry again or if I have a new “long” relationship. I believe they ask out of genuine concern, sometimes I think they ask just out of curiosity. However right now I can’t imagine giving up my freedom or constantly sharing my space with someone else. I am also convinced that long term relationships are not the best way to live. I’m not saying this because I’m bitter or because I’m trying to undermine marriage, I say it because of the points Alain de Botton raises in his video.
If Not A Long Term Relationship, Then What?
Do we enter into a long term relationship because we are so in love or is it because we fear being alone?
Why does society find it so difficult to accept that actually there are meaningful short term relationships. I’ll even support Alain de Botton and say that short term relationships can be more meaningful. Why?
Because in a short term relationship you learn to just accept the other person as is, without trying to change or mold them into someone you want to share your life with. It just is what it is, no pressure and no expectation.
Could you really embrace being an open, free spirited individual, open to whatever and whoever comes into your life? Would that be so difficult to live with?
Appreciation Comes From Knowing There is an Expiry Date
When we know someone won’t be around for ever then we appreciate them more. We tend to value the time together because that time may be the only time together.
In long term relationships we take each other for granted, we assume the other person will be around for ever and we appreciate less. Of course, in an ideal world we should just learn to appreciate the other person more. How realistic that is I’m not sure.
Marry or Not?
I’m not anti-marriage or anti-long term relationship. I respect individual preferences, I was married for a long time so speak from both sides. I only offer a different perspective that I feel best suits me and many others. I do my best to live moment to moment and I am working on attachment, so a long term relationship no longer fits. Maybe one day it will, maybe it won’t, either way I’m good where I am right now.
You may think I’m being negative because of my so called “failed” marriage. So let me be clear, I was never really into marriage, all I am doing is going back to what I always knew. Relationships are complicated, we go through stages in our life and to think that one person should be with us through each stage is not my preference.
I know that as adults we are supposed to be in charge, have all the answers and definitely know better than children, right?
However I think we are mistaken to think that children have nothing to teach us. If we stop, watch and listen maybe we can find a way back to what we already know.
How to Stay in the Present Moment
Children live in the present moment, they do not know past and future. I’m no child psychologist but I am a mother, grandmother, aunt and once was a teacher. As such I’ve watched many children growing up, they live in the now and they want what they want, now.
The problem is that we teach them that this is wrong, we instill fear for the future if they don’t behave in a certain way. It’s a sad day when you see a child lose that innocence and begin to contemplate what lies ahead, not with curiosity but with fear of failure.
Perhaps it’s time we looked at our children with an open mind, let them live without our fears and learn from them. After all they are correct, there is no other time than the present moment. The past and the future are just thinking, not real.
How to Make Friends and How to be a Friend
How many times do we hear children say “I don’t want to be her/his friends anymore, I don’t like them anymore”?
How many times do we watch children fight or argue and step in to tell them how to make up?
Of course as adults we can share our experience with a child who is having a problem with a friend. But why do we insist on telling children to cling on to friendships that may no longer serve them?
We find it uncomfortable to say the truth to others because it might hurt them. Children on the other hand lack diplomacy and usually just say it as it is. Who’s got it right here? I think perhaps it’s better to be honest with others, in the long run it’s far healthier.
What about arguments? We should never condone violence, it is our duty to teach children how to settle any argument in a peaceful way. But there is nothing wrong with children arguing, it’s life. Adults argue all the time, worse adults create wars and violence in the world. Perhaps we should be teaching our children how to have a good argument, without feeling bad about it and without the need to get angry, resentful and violent.
How to Love – Children Know What Adults Have Forgotten.
Watch a child in the presence of someone they feel safe with, someone that gives them love and attention. It’s the greatest lesson in love that we as adults will ever learn.
They trust, they give everything in return and they give love unconditionally. All they want is to feel safe and loved in return. They don’t judge you, they don’t look at your appearance, they just love you for who you are.
Children don’t try to change you, they are totally accepting and loving. Adults tend to go into a relationship then spend the rest of their lives trying to change their partner. Strange way to behave I’d say, don’t get me wrong I’ve been there and know it’s not healthy. Surely if your partner needs changing then they are not for you or you need to change your expectations.
So let’s watch our children more, let’s learn from them and maybe we can get back to loving life a bit more.
The more I talk with people in my groups the more I see the unresolved pain we carry from our relationships. After all we invest so much into our relationships, it’s no surprise that we become emotionally attached.
When a relationship ends, especially an intimate one, we feel like failures. Once we stop blaming others about the so called failed relationship we realise we also played a part in the outcome. A relationship that didn’t last the course is then seen as a failure, we are seen as failures and worse we start to see ourselves as failures.
If the purpose of life is to learn, grow and become the best person you can, then all experiences are lessons. A failed marriage is no more a failure than a marriage that lasts a life time, the lessons maybe different but they are all important opportunities to grow.
Some of the most successful, influential people today have overcome many disappointments to create extraordinary lives. Without these experiences would they have become who they are?
Never a Failure Always a Lesson
Sometimes we learn more from a casual encounter than from people we see, live and know for a long time. We can not measure the importance of a relationship on it’s length, after all we can only see the impact of any lessons we learn through the course of our life.
I guess the point I am trying to make here is that we should be open to life, letting people flow through without becoming so attached that we miss life’s lessons. If you have been through a painful relationship breakup, dare I say it? Yes I’ll dare, I’d say you are privileged to be given one of life’s greatest lessons. Of course you get to choose how you learn, what you learn and what you do with it but you have an opportunity to see things much clearer now.
I can certainly vouch for my own breakup being the greatest wakeup call I’ve had. Fear kept me in denial for a long time.
If you believe illusions to be real and reality to be illusions, you will never achieve inner peace.
So I say thank you for the experience, thank you for the wake up call and I’ll attempt to make the most of this one great lesson.
In this video, Oprah Winfrey eloquently talks about life and the fact that “There are no mistakes”She helps to show that life is a series of moments, however a moment is just that a moment. It’s not our life, each moment determines the direction of our journey. If we are not paying attention it may steer us in the wrong direction until we finally wake up.
Can you be brave enough to embrace even painful experience?
Can you see that these are the ones that help you grow?
It’s two years to the day that my thirty year marriage ended. Time for reflection, time to be proud of my journey and where I am right now.
People often ask me how long it took me to get over my divorce. They can’t connect the person I am now to the person I was two years ago, they can’t see the process only the end result. The only one that can really understand my journey is me.
How long does it take to get over a breakup?
Some research suggests you need one year for every four years you were together. Thankfully not the case for me, otherwise I’d need at least another four years in the “getting over it” stage. For me it was about a year, not as straight forward as I make it sound and by no means easy.
A recent study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology says:
71% of those who split in the last six months felt better after 11 weeks
Separate study says divorce takes far longer to get over
This study was based on the views of 155 people, hardly a representative sample. It is all a matter of perspective.
So How Long Will It Take For You to Get Over Your Breakup?
What if I said there is no one answer to that question? It is a very personal journey, it all depends on the individual. Perhaps it’s not about getting over it but about accepting it as part of your life and then moving on.
The longer you hold on the longer it will take to move on. It’s that simple.
If your breakup is fairly recent you probably don’t want to even imagine letting go, perhaps you should just think about letting things be instead. It’s far easier than trying to let go.
Letting go depends on your relationship, your attachment, your personality and circumstances.
Even though each of us must take our own journey through this difficult time, it is a choice to stay so attached, to not want to let go. Until you can face the harsh truth of it being your choice to stay stuck or to move on, then nothing will change. You decide.
How Resilient Are You?
Resilience is a very important part of getting through a relationship breakup. My parents divorce prepared me for my own. I had an experience to relate to, I could see that my parents survived their divorce, we all survived it. Growing up in a family that had clearly broken down made me resilient from a young age.
Being used to life’s ups and downs and having the ability to pick yourself up is what makes some get over things easier than others. Whatever your previous experience has been, this is your chance to become resilient and wiser.
Acceptance: Questions May Stay Unanswered.
And this is a massive one. The constant search for answers, why? who? what? When? Where? that goes on and on in your head. Accepting what is, accepting that there may be no answers and accepting that sometimes things just happen is the first real step to moving on.
Start searching inside for your answers, don’t expect to get them from your ex or from anyone else. The work begins with you. And remember you can be your own worst enemy or your own best friend, you decide.
If you are struggling with moving on, connect with me. You don’t have to be alone.
Christmas is just around the corner, ready to spring on us with all it that it brings with it. Of course it’s a special time for many of us. We have time to spend with our friends and family. Nothing more rewarding than spending quality time with loved one’s.
Christmas can also be a stressful time. There’s the run up to Christmas, the presents, the shopping, the crowded shops and all the preparation for the special day. For some it can cause money worries, how to afford to buy the presents, to host the dinner and all the extra expense.
All of this can make us irritable and emotional. Throw in a difficult person and tensions can get high. We all have one or two of these people in our lives. In normal situations we deal with them in a healthy way, sometimes we may just choose to ignore their behaviour but when we are feeling stressed, it’s not always possible to be as calm.
Before I continue, let me just remind you that if you do react out of character be kind to yourself, don’t beat yourself up and just let it be.
Catch Our Emotions Before They Catch Us
I guess the most important thing we can do is to catch our emotions before they catch us. As a Mindfulness Practitioner this is where being totally aware of your own thoughts, feelings and emotions comes in. With all the fussing, noise and running around we can lose sight of what is going on in our own minds, then we let our emotions run the show.
If you feel that you are getting lost in your emotions perhaps you could find a space to practice the 3 step breathing space. Or simply take yourself away from the situation for a few minutes, breathe and take stock of your own mind.
In reality people only appear difficult to us because they don’t meet our expectations. We expect them to act in a certain way, to say things we would like them to say and when they don’t we are let down. But how realistic are these expectations?
Perhaps we should realign our expectations. It would be even better to try to completely remove any expectations we have of others. Sounds impossible? Maybe it is, but the less we expect from others the more chance we have of not being let down.
Being Aware of Our Ego
And here is the big one, our ego. We need to be right, recognised or listened to. Whatever it is that is eating at us is often what causes us to react in certain ways towards others.
That doesn’t mean that other people are not difficult or challenging. What it does mean is that we can only be in charge of our own reaction to others, we can not control their behaviour only our own.
We can let anger take over and create negative energy, causing the situation to be worse. Or we can try to show compassion towards the other person, try to see what is causing them to act in that way. This creates a much more positive energy for everyone.
During one of my classes last week a lady in the group opened up and said that as she got older she felt invisible. She said that it was like she had no purpose anymore and that her very existence was insignificant. If she died tomorrow it would mean nothing.
She did not say it with anger or even particular sadness, just as a matter of fact. That got us all thinking about that feeling of being invisible. Personally I thought it was more to do with age, especially when you are living alone and suddenly without a partner.
Then another younger lady said she felt the same, her reasons were that she had suffered great loss in her life. Things had not turned out the way she had dreamed as a young girl. She never had her own children and somehow that made her feel less of a woman, at least she felt judged by others because of that.
Why Do We Feel “Invisible”?
I understand how you can start to feel invisible, I’ve felt that myself in the last couple of years. I was a mother and wife for so many years that when my main role changed I felt I had to recreate a whole new identity. This time based only on me, hard to do after so many years but absolutely necessary for my survival.
And I guess that’s what it is. We identify ourselves with a role and usually that role has something to do with others. Perhaps it’s our role in our family, relationship, society or work. It’s how you perceive yourself and how others see you. It’s your purpose in life and when you lose sight of that, suddenly you start to lose sight of who you are.
It’s like you don’t matter to anyone anymore and that can make you feel very insecure. As a mature woman I find it can also be about how others see you and your role in society. Dare I say it but in many people’s eyes you are passed it, a has-been as they say.
How to Start Feeling “Visible” Again.
The interesting point about feeling invisible is that most of us feel that way, at some point in our life. The first thing we can do is to accept that this feeling of insignificance and invisibility is just in our heads, it’s not real and so perhaps we can just let it be. We are all equal, status, appearance and whatever we measure ourselves against is all just man made.
Becoming aware of where this feeling stems from can help us to put it into context. To me it seems to come from the need to be validated by others. We want others to see us, approve of us so that we can make sure we don’t just disappear. But what if we just removed that need?
What would happen if we just let go of having to live through the eyes of others? That’s not to say we should live in isolation, without friends and family. But our relationship with others should not have to make us feel more than we are, we should feel whole, significant and beautiful without anyone else having to tell us that or make us feel it.
Easy to say I know. But if we can practice this everyday then we will feel whole and perhaps our relationship with ourselves and with others will be much healthier.
This week was the first anniversary of my divorce, another one of those significant milestones. How different my life is now compared to a year ago, I feel like a different person. I feel like I walked away from a massive car accident unscathed but when I look back at the carnage I’m surprised to still be standing.
When things don’t turn out the way we planned, we start to think of them as mistakes. Because it somehow makes it easier to just regret the action in the first place.
Was my biggest mistake my marriage?
What most people would expect me to say is “of course it was a mistake!”, “of course it was a waste of 30 years of my life!”
But I have a different take on it because the one thing I know for sure is that my greatest lessons have come from perceived “mistakes”. Without these mistakes there are a lot of things I would not have experienced, learnt and done.
And more important I would not have my children who are the most important people in my life. How can that be a mistake?
Mistakes are a vital part of growing as a person.
When I first separated I attended a weekend Buddhist teaching on The Four Noble Truths in London, trying to prepare myself for my trip to Nepal.
At one point the monk started talking about compassion and how important it is to be a compassionate person. I remember thinking at the time “I don’t think I will ever be able to be compassionate towards him (my ex)”
The anger was too deep (so I thought), how would I ever be able to be compassionate to him?
I asked the monk, “how can I be compassionate to someone who deliberately hurt me?”
He just looked at me, in complete stillness and said “you use him as your teacher, you have an amazing opportunity to learn compassion” Not what I wanted to hear but I knew then as I do now, he was right.
And so I began to do just that. Step by step I started to show compassion towards my ex. Hard as it may sound and believe me at times it was impossible but as I started to practice compassion towards him, there was a sense of release for me.
Compassion towards those that hurt you is actually the best form of self compassion.
What is my biggest mistake then?
The biggest mistake is not making any
Well that is simple. The biggest mistake I ever made was trying to avoid mistakes. Playing it safe, protecting what I thought was mine, or going to be my story forever.
When you realise that everything changes, what was true to me when I was in my twenties was not true to me 10 years later and definitely not 30 years later.
The choices you make when you are young may not be right for you down the line. That’s not a mistake, it’s a fact of life.
Nothing ever stays the same, things are continuously changing, people around us change and over time we change.
When something ends in our life we tend to resist trying to keep everything as they’ve always been because we are afraid of losing the people or things we have become used to.
In reality we have no control in our lives, however much we try and however much we think we can, nothing is ever permanent in life. The very fact that our life will end at some point should be enough for us to understand and grasp the importance of not expecting things to stay the same.
When a relationship ends, it is a new beginning
At the time, when we are going through the hurt of our relationship falling apart, we don’t see the opportunity to embrace a new beginning. But when we get through the turmoil and when we learn to let go of the pain, then we allow all the wonderful things that new beginnings can bring to us.
Buddhism talks about how we hold on to pain, turning it into suffering because we either don’t want to let go of it or because we don’t know how. When someone disappoints us or lets us down we can easily be drawn into blaming and focusing on getting some relief from our pain by projecting it outwards, usually to the person that hurt us.
But the work has to start within, only we can heal ourselves. The most important thing about letting go of the anger and relishing in this new beginning is that it’s such an opportunity to grow as a person. The sooner we can see this the faster the healing can begin and the new beginning can start.
The following are some of the things that I’ve most treasured about my ending and new beginning:
The time I get to spend on myself, on my health and on doing what I enjoy.
Not having to compromise anymore because I only have to think about what I want.
The opportunity to rediscover myself, to find out what I love, what gives me joy and happiness.
Not having to please others, how uplifting not having to think every minute of the day how to make a significant other happy?
Eat when I want, sleep when I want and go out when I want – that’s liberating.
Making new friends that I connect with.
Travel – I can travel where I want and when I want.
Working life- again I’m making choices based on the lifestyle I want without the pressure of thinking about how it impacts on anyone else.
Relationships are probably the main cause of both pain and joy. We live our lives through our relationships, starting with our parents, siblings and then friends. Relationships are vital to us as human beings, we need to interact, communicate and feel we belong.
In most cases, our relationships bring us joy and happiness. Watching our children grow, having that unconditional love and the deep connection is what makes us content in life. It adds meaning, purpose and value to our existence.
Whenever we enter into any kind of relationship our feelings and emotions will always play a part. The only relationship in my life that makes me lose complete control is the one with my children. Of course over the years I’ve learnt to be a little more mature, to not act purely out of emotion. There were times that I know as a mother I should have first stopped to think about what I would say or do instead of reacting purely out of emotion. But I’ll give myself a break here, I think the relationship between a mother and her children is fraught with emotions.
Then comes our relationship with our partner, wow now that’s one that challenges every emotion and feeling possible. At least you can get out of this relationship, unlike your relationship with your children, parents or siblings. However it would be great if we knew how to build healthy relationships so they don’t end, so they continue to be happy and fulfilling. After all breaking up a relationship is so difficult, surely it would be better to know how to keep our relationships healthy?
So what is a healthy relationship?
I think there are two very important words that apply to healthy relationships –
Attachment and Expectations:
It is important to first clarify that as humans we will no doubt become attached to people in our lives. We will also have expectations from people, especially those we love. This is what it is to be human. However we need to recognise that the more attachment we have to a person, the more pain we will have when that person does not meet our expectations.
So if we can enter our relationships with an openness to acceptance, that is to be able to accept the other person as they are without trying to change them, then you have the basis for a strong, healthy relationship. After all if we feel the need to change them, then surely we should not be with them?
And here lies the biggest challenge, to be able to have healthy attachment, one that allows you to walk away when the relationship no longer serves you, as opposed to unhealthy grasping attachment based on expectations that are probably impossible to meet.