I recently came out of another long term relationship. As in, I was broken up with.
I've had 4 proper relationships, 2 of which I would class as long term.
What I am realising lately, is that after this third national lockdown in the UK, people are either breaking up, or getting engaged. It's like the 3rd wave of the UKs Covid pandemic forced people to evaluate their lives, and it's not even just in relationships. People are changing careers...I have dealt with, since I was about 18, the notion of overthinking your day to day life, yet clearly it seems like several months of downtime at home, forcibly out of work, for a third time, has made this a day to day for more people.
I have several friends who have decided to get engaged recently, yet at the same time, unfortunately, I know people going through divorce proceedings, and I myself, have been dumped after over 3 years of being with someone who I believed I was beginning to feel more and more comfortable with.
Regardless of the specificity of my own situation, I can't ignore the notion that the changing of relationship status (positive or negative) is now just as much a pandemic in of itself as that lovely, precious disease, Covid-19.
Nothing teaches you more about a person than being stuck either with them...Or without them. You've got couples, like my former relationship, where we had agreed, and she had made the decision, to stay with me for the duration of the lockdowns.
Other couples were apart and essentially living a veritable long distance relationship.
Long distance is tough, and taking the jump to live together is also tough. One could argue that this particular Covid situation that forced couples into one or the other, was actually a trial towards the reality of doing it outside of a pandemic.
I simplify, yet, naturally, there are inevitably intricacies within the nature of my breakup...Albeit, I am generalising, because I have realised I am not the only person who is suffering from relationship issues after this wave of the pandemic.
I feel like as the decades have gone on, relationships in general have become more and more complicated.
Lately, I have been somewhat binge watching the sitcom 'Seinfeld'. Which ran between 1989 and 1998. Almost every episode, and therefore every week it seems, the major players have a new relationship. They chop and change so flippantly in a way that I struggle to keep up with, and understand how and why the characters have these people either for just the singular episode, or over a several episode arc.
Times have changed with relationships. Expectations have changed, and womens attitudes have changed.
There was a time when all that was expected of the woman was to cook, clean, and be a mother...Bare children. Whilst the man worked, and provided, archetypal hunter/gatherer complex.
But civilisation has changed. Expectations have changed, albeit within our own gender stereotypes, and culture is continually evolving...Subconsciously.
I say subconsciously, because, I firmly believe, that women, as time moves on, are becoming more and more empowered, and independent. The understanding that they do not have to cook, clean and bare children is being bred out of them, and replaced with an understanding that they can be self sufficient and satisfied in and of themselves.
Men are not adapting to this, and it is creating a dissonance which ultimately affects our relationships, and the stability of them.
Don't get me wrong, there are people who meet at like 15 and stay together forever...But I have also known people, to get together at 15, and realise at 22 that they have missed out on a massive part of self exploration that comes from having multiple relationships.
I was a late bloomer...And my mental health problems breed this unhealthy notion that I need a partner/girlfriend in order to have a comfortable and stable life. For me, this was born from not having any attention in my pubescent years, where you are expected to begin to have these experiences, and also that part of my subconscious believes that having a happy stable relationship means that I can be happy and comfortable with myself.
It is not true.
What we are lead to believe is true..Is that you need to love yourself, before you can love another.
There is an element of truth to this, but it is a very broad term, don't take it literally. I don't love myself, I never have, and I never will. When I look in a mirror both physically and figuratively, all I see are flaws. But the notion is the concept of moving past these. I understand that whilst I may not like or love myself, I can accept my flaws and adapt with and to them. You don't have to like yourself, I don't, but it is important to understand what exactly it is you don't like, and if you can't change it, accept it, and embrace it. You are you, and there is no sense in beating yourself up about the things you are not, because you cannot fight your nature.
As time moves on, we still somehow instinctively and culturally take on this precedent of having to be in a comfortable happy relationship in order to be successful with life, and I genuinely believe that some people stay in unhealthy relationships purely because of this.
Relationships are hard work, absolutely, but from personal experience, and from friends who have gone through difficult breakups, the compromises that are implicit in a healthy relationship are often imbalanced with sacrifice.
Compromise is important and pivotal to a healthy, functional relationship, but too often, particularly with younger people and those inexperienced with relationships this is confused with sacrifice, and this is where I feel like the notion of "loving" yourself comes in.
It is not literally about loving yourself. It's about understanding what you are and are not willing to compromise on.
But once you've worked that out, you also need to be with someone who has worked that out too.
The relationship I have recently been dumped from was, and I stand by this, the healthiest relationship I have ever had. The arguments and bickers were for the most part inconsequential and superficial. But upon reflection, being out of the relationship, I realise the impact of our age difference, in that she was roughly 10 years younger than myself.
Initially it worked...But we both neglected the idea that we would both grow in different ways as this relationship went on.
She was beginning to take her first steps into independence, as she decided to go to uni. Whereas I was just trying to forge and find a stable career path that afforded me enough money to satisfy basic living standards.
Her being a 3 hour drive north from me was an immediate concern, but we decided to stick at the long distance, and funnily enough, it wasn't the distance that ever interfered with our relationship. Ultimately, it was my mental state, its steady decline, and her ultimate feeling of helplessness towards me.
I find it difficult to be vulnerable with people. I would always overshare when I was younger in my teen attention seeking wannabe emo phase. Nowadays I try to hide as much as possible, and shrug things off flippantly. This is obviously not possible when you're in a committed relationship, and as time went on, I was more encouraged to speak up about my feelings, and to be more honest. Yet the more honest and open I became, the more she began to pull away from a sense of not knowing how to help or fix.
Do I hate her for this? Absolutely not, how can I?
She is a caring individual who wanted to try and help me, but she reached the end of her line where admittedly I hit a wall this year where I was no longer willing to help myself, and had instead accepted what I decided to be a fateful demise into normal everyday mundanity of working a daily grind with little to no reward, throwing out the window, all my aspirations, hopes and dreams. In doing so, triggering a spiral of my mental health, which as I am writing this, am very much struggling with on the daily.
This is where 'loving yourself' comes into it.
I don't need to love myself, and I don't need to be happy. I just need to find a level of comfort in my life, where I can function without feeling like I'm struggling...And maybe that in of itself is an unobtainable goal, and by my nihilistic cynical outlook on life, particularly now, also feels unrealistic. But that's the depression talking most likely.
I know plenty of people who are at a stage of comfort where they feel like they don't need anybody in their lives. They have family, friends, and that's it. They don't need partners, spouses, or children. They've strived to and obtained self sufficiency, and all the power to them.
I want self sufficiency, but I do feel at my best with the sense of companionship, and as much as I want to try and avoid getting into any dating scenarios in the future, near or far, I do know that my personality type is going to crave that connection again at some point. I just worry that I won't be of a mental state to succeed in it.
This relationship felt stable to be, I felt like we were going from strength to strength, and for it to 180 on me and turn out, that actually, my mental health issues for sake of a better term, bred some toxicity that I didn't quite realise or appreciate, has left me with this sense of distrust towards any future endeavours, and a deep concern over how much to disclose in terms of vulnerability. Knowing full well, any future relationship will fail if I don't give enough, or if I give too much.
Unless I find an obsessive psychopath who feeds off my negative energy like skittles, but hey, if she's hot, who cares?
Are women perhaps just better capable of understanding their own emotions than men, and how they impact a relationship...Perhaps the subconscious sense of self sufficiency that is being bred in culturally and sociologically over time is nurturing a concept of if a relationship becomes too troublesome or doesn't fulfil the woman with their needs, they're better able to sever ties.
I'm obviously over generalising, and apologies if it comes across as sexist, but these are the learnings from my personal experiences, and through conversations with younger people first experiencing these things.
I recently asked an 18 year old girl about her view on relationships, and she said that she couldn't see herself being with one person forever, that she didn't think it was possible. But at the same time, agreed that if she met someone really nice tomorrow who gave her the right kind of attention, she'd probably venture into it. However, if she's venturing into it with a pre-established mindset of it not lasting, then it's almost an inevitability that it won't...Because she'll be better able to walk away from it, if she felt she needed to.
Conversely, a 20 year old guy, who with similar perspectives on relationships as myself at his age, is seeking a long term commitment. He is already on the search, and is getting frustrated with people ghosting him before or after a date, and it is likely the disconnect in attitudes between what a young girl is looking for, and what a young guy is looking for.
I feel more and more, that younger men are looking for the loves of their lives from the off, whereas young girls are potentially more vested in working out what they want to do with their lives than finding a husband...Because we don't live in the 50s anymore. Women are empowered to forge a career path, and this independence is more at the foreground than having a relationship.
This is why I say that men aren't adapting to these attitudes. There is still something instinctively bred into us, that is expecting women to fawn over us if we display committable tendencies, but we're doing it at the wrong points in their lives, and I think it leads to a lot of unhealthy relationships, or relationships that last longer than they should do, and in the worst case, toxic breakups...Of which I have had my fair share.
This breakup wasn't particularly bad, but I strongly hold this viewpoint that if you are already doubting the stability of your relationship, or if you actually want to be with this person, then it is probably already over at this point. Having had this communication with my ex previously, to which she did agree, I do believe this led to her toiling over breaking up with me for longer than necessary, because even when agreeing with the concept, perhaps didn't know how to process that it was happening to her, when we had future plans to move in together.
I blame myself, my attitudes, and my behaviours for the demise of this relationship, and because of the above point, I felt like I couldn't fight against it. I was upfront and honest with her and told her I wouldn't change. To promise that I would be different would be an unrealistic grasp at clinging onto something that's obviously on its last legs. Better to rip the band aid off and be done with it, as painful as it may be.
Perhaps if I were an innately happier person, things would have been different. Maybe I also need to find someone who at their core is also miserable, or maybe there is a yin to my yang somewhere who can bring some positivity out of me. Or perhaps, I am just not built for relationships at all...Who can say.
I haven't been properly single since my first relationship at 20. I kind of hopped from one to the other, within short timescales, in most instances, for the worse. This relationship was definitely hopped into reasonably quickly off the back of another bad one, except, this one was good. It's a relationship I can finally look back on with gratitude instead of spite, guilt, and anger. But it makes it all the more difficult to move forward from, and will impact any future relationships I may have, for the sake of watching and monitoring my own behaviour.
So I think I need to allow myself the space and time, to just be a single guy, and to not expect anything from anyone, and work on myself. Find my own balance. Learn to accept myself again, and maybe what I'm looking for will come to me in time...Or not, nothing wrong with being alone.