December 25, 2009

One relationship at a time...

Lately I have been thinking about relationships and in particular, what makes some relationships fail when others are able to succeed. 
My aunt and uncle are the only two people I know who are still happily married 50 years later - and in an era where one in two marriages end in divorce - I class their relationship as a successful one.
When I was growing up I actually believed that I would meet a man with whom I would would fall madly in love and we would get married, have babies and live happily ever after {in some sort of rambling gothic castle}. 
I also believed that trolls lived under bridges, that Santa Claus came in through our chimney and that Jesus died for my sins. 
As children we are taught to believe in the notion of happily ever after, but aside from fairy tales and romantic comedies starring Hugh Grant, things rarely work out that way. 
In fact, the majority of people from my generation will experience more than one meaningful long-term relationship in their lifetime and at least one failed attempt at forever. 

But let me explain to you why that might not be such a bad thing. 
It has taken me a very long time to abandon those myths from childhood and to stop viewing my own two serious relationship break-ups as intrinsic personal failures. These days when I look back on them, I actually breathe an enormous sigh of relief. 
You see, I am not the same person I was at nineteen or twenty-seven. I have evolved emotionally, mentally and spiritually and because of this I have outgrown the men that I once loved (just as they have undoubtedly outgrown me). 
In fact if we were to meet now for the first time, we would be so absurdly incompatible that I doubt there would even be one iota of attraction among us. 

Given that we are all evolutionary creatures, is it even healthy to aspire toward spending one's entire adult life with the same person?  
Or does it make more sense to let the right person into our lives at different points on our journey? After all, if we are constantly growing and evolving then surely the person we are drawn to at 17 will be very different to the person we will be drawn to at 27 and 35 and so on. 

One thing I have learnt from my own break-ups is that it takes two very conscious and committed people to make a relationship succeed. Relationships are hard work. They can be deeply confronting as they tend to bring up all sorts of unresolved issues and behavioural patterns in both partners at the same time. In the absence of consciousness or when consciousness dies, it becomes harder to steer that relationship in a healthy direction and that is where things begin to break down.

It has been said that as human beings, we are the sum of all our parts and so one might assume that the more relationships we have, the more parts we discover about ourselves and the more we are able to evolve as human beings. 
But in the absence of consciousness, relationships can be damaging and the damage incurred in one relationship will often get dragged along to the next one and the one after that and so forth. 
So what's the solution?

At 35 I have now spent the same amount of adult time as a single woman as I have in a relationship. But don't get me wrong - I am eternally grateful for the years I have spent getting to know myself -  I would not trade them for the world. The things I have learnt as a single woman are just as invaluable to me as the things I have learnt from being in a relationship - if not more so. 
Once upon a time I relied on a man to do all those masculine fix-it type things, but now I have developed the confidence and the common sense to figure these things out for myself - a feeling that is both empowering and inspiring. 

On a daily basis I find myself having to problem solve something around the home (usually for the children) and I feel a sense of pride each time I am able to figure it out. 
As a single women in the world, I have taught myself that I am capable of almost anything and I know I would never have learnt that had I not spent time on my own. 
Once upon a time I was also incapable of occupying my own time and I would get lonely, agitated and sometimes depressed. 

These days I relish the solitude as something intricate and delicious. Solitude to me means music and bath-time and candles. It means a good book uninterrupted. It means a quiet space in which to write and a time to remember that I am more than okay without a man by my side.

We are all born into the world alone and we all leave in exactly the same manner, and yet society looks down upon single people (particularly women) as though they have the social equivalent of the plague. 
Social dating sites urge us to meet our match, to settle down and get married and the older we get, the more pressure is put upon us to try and find the fairy tale ending. But there are some serious implications with the myth and one of them is that people in relationships are happier than people who are single. 

Obviously it depends on the person and the relationship, but I have always been a tad wary of people who move from one serious relationship to the next, having never spent any quality time on their own. It is not difficult to spot the serial monogamist because they are virtually incapable of enjoying their own company. Even in those brief interludes between relationships, you will not see the serial monogamist at the movies or in a restaurant because the very notion of an independent self is enough to cause a severe anxiety attack.

I am no expert on the subject, but maybe there is something to be said for settling down later on in life, at a time when we know ourselves better. No wonder so many relationships fail when people contemplate 'forever' in their twenties - at an age when most of us lack the emotional maturity to hold down a job at KFC.  

Times are very different to the era in which my aunt and uncle got married. Now days there is an 'out' clause hovering over marriage in bold letters and at the slightest sign of trouble many of us are prepared to throw in the towel. 
Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with divorce; there should be an 'out' clause for all manner of reasons. However, I do think that if the culture was less geared toward match making and more centered around personal development, relationships might have a better chance at survival. 

Imagine a relationship where two empowered, respectful, self aware people met each other half way.... where all of the mummy and daddy issues had been dealt with independently and where each heart was open, ready to give and to receive. Imagine being in a relationship that actually inspired you to grow - rather than screwed you up? Then and only then, might I think about trading in my life as a single woman.


Brahm said...

Interesting - I like this article a lot, I think is thoughtful and smart. Like so many of us, I too have had relationships where I learned and grew, and maybe they weren't with the right person, and certainly they didn't last, that being said they got me on the right path with more wisdom each time.

Then last year just after my 42nd birthday met the right guy, and totally worth the wait and the stress and the mistakes and everything that came before, good and bad!

Anonymous said...

I love this one more than most of your thoughts, me to being single is great and it's a good time to do things that YOU need or want to do.
It's also nice when you do have someone to share with, but I find the cool thing is that when you WANT to be in the sharing place and it's not a NEED, it takes some work, but we all grow and we all learn everyday, so bring on the lessons and bring on life, yee haa, just have to remember what I've learnt so I can use it :-)

Anonymous said...

Beautifully and masterfully said, Misha. Yes, I agree, I wouldn't be prepared to trade in my status as a single woman easily, either. I treasure time to myself, in this hectic world full of responsibilities and obligations.
Some relationships I've had helped me to grow, some just dragged up issues that needed to be healed. But best of all, has been the times in between, where I have sustained being comfortable within myself. Without learning to love oneself - regardless of the fact that I can behave as a dickhead occasionally - one can never have an honest loving relationship with anyone else.
Our society seems to be adolescently fixated with the rush of hormonal gratification [aka love at first sight or at the very least great sex] and the eternally happily ever after. Serial monogamy has its pros and cons, but I think that the greatest thing one can do for oneself is to spend time with yourself, lone [not necessarily lonely], getting to know and love yourself, warts and all.
Thanks for the reminder.xx

I also wrote my own first blog regarding Christmas, but because I couldn't figure out how those damn pages work I wiped out the whole thing before I could post it. I hate that.
Anyway, I enjoyed your blog, as usual, my dear. We must catch up sometime

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts. My time as a single woman have set me up to be strong and capable.

I cherish the memories of my two previous relationships and am totally in love with my current man but this time its a stronger balanced relationship.

Hope you have had a great Christmas break.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I do think that relationships suffer when the partners are not mature. But even when they are, the relationship needs to be nurtured in order for it to work. It's not easy but well worth the effort.

mishaloula said...

Thanks for the comments everybody. Brahm I tried to leave a more personal thanks on Alfred Lives Here but I couldn't find anywhere to do that without commenting on a post. So glad you are engaged to a great guy as opposed to a crap guy! Yay for you Mr..

Anon 1, your comments are much appreciated. There is a big difference between want and need - indeed.

Anon 2, your words are spot on and I loved the line about society being adolescently fixated with the rush of hormonal gratification!!! well said.