” I don’t want to merge into a couple. I want to be in a relationship where we choose to walk side by side down a similar path for as long as we are making each other happy”
I said this to a now ex-boyfriend some years ago. To be honest it didn’t go down well! He thought that I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him. He didn’t understand what I was trying to say. I wanted to be in a relationship but I still wanted to be 100% me. For many years I had been part of a couple. When people thought of me they thought of my partner also. I even got called Mrs Alf when I went to his work place. It was said affectionately but during the years of my marriage I lost my own identity. In my twenties I wondered why women suddenly had to try and find themselves when they hit forty. I thought, wrongly as it turned out, that something had gone badly wrong if someone didn’t know who they were by the time they were forty. Then I hit forty and found myself doing that self same thing!!
When my marriage ended after 30 years I decided it would have been a miracle if after all those years we had still both wanted the same thing. The guilt that I was breaking my marriage vows eased with the thought that we had simply grown apart. Being together for better or for worse stopped making any sense to me. As for until death do us part, that really is a big ask when we are all living so much longer. Getting divorced made me question the vows I had made but it didn’t stop me believing in making a commitment to a partner.
Why do we get disappointed by love?
So on a day when we are focused on romantic love how come the reality of life with a long term partner, married or otherwise, does not live up to our expectations.? How come we start off adoring our partner and loving the person we are when we are with them and end up losing ourselves within the relationship? It seems that when we fall in love with someone we love them for who they are in that moment of time. We see the best in them. We believe in them. We want to help and support them. We listen to their every word. We want to be with them so we make time for them. We look our best for them. We want them to see the best side of us. In short we work at being in a relationship.
But the truth is it doesn’t take very long before we start to get familiar with each other. When that happens our rose tinted glasses clear and we start to see their faults. We start to notice the little things they do that annoy us. We start to focus on the things they are not doing for us. We resent having to take care of them. We start to feel unappreciated. We start to focus on the things we don’t like instead of the things we love. It can be a downward spiral and many of us start to think it is not working and we have made a mistake
I think society teaches us to have the wrong expectations of romantic relationships. We think we are not complete unless we are in a romantic relationship. We are surrounded by messages that say we cannot be happy until we find someone who will love us and take care of us. But I think we have this the wrong way around. We are already complete. We can always choose to be a better version of the person we are today but that does not take away from our completeness in the here and now. Our happiness does not depend on anyone else. Happiness is not a person or a place or something we can buy. Happiness is a state of mind. For a relationship to work I believe we need to bring our full and complete selves to that relationship. This means feeling safe to be open and honest about who we are in any given moment. We also need to take responsibility for our own happiness. It is far too big a risk to lay our happiness at someone else’s feet.
If you are in a romantic relationship don’t let today be the only day that you ask “How can I show you I love you? ” Ask this question everyday. Firstly ask it to yourself of yourself. And secondly ask it to yourself of your partner. Ask it because you choose to love unconditionally, because you choose to honour yourself as well as your partner. Let the warmth and joy of Valentine’s Day spread into every day of the year.