I don’t mean to sound patronising, but men really amuse me sometimes. In particular, their fascination with gadgets. Not that I am suggesting that all men are fascinated by gadgetry, but let’s face it, a lot are.
In general, I find men to be a practical, pragmatic gender and consequently am frequently surprised by this love affair with all things gadgety.
What often happens in our house is that my partner (a man) will see something advertised that he instantly feels the need to acquire. In fact this need is so intense, the product must be bought without delay.
It is at this point that I question whether or not he has ever found himself in a position where he felt that his world would have been made so much more meaningful/simple/easy/happy/etc. if he had been in possession of said product at the time. I usually follow up this line of questioning with the predictable comment, ‘You’ll use it once and then it’ll be stuck in the back of the cupboard and forgotten about.’ Yes, it probably annoys him as much as wasting money annoys me.
My words are usually ignored or otherwise rejected and the product gets bought.
This all went down recently when my partner bought a juicer. Which he apparently desperately needed. He made a – it must be said – delicious carrot juice and then washed and packed away the juicer. Where is the juicer now, you may ask? In the same place he left it when he first (and last) used it over 2 years ago.
I rest my case.
Patronising: belittling/condescending/making someone feel less important than you
Gadget: tool or device that appears useful but is often unnecessary
Pragmatic: practical and sensible
Said product: grammatical construct to refer back to the previously discussed thing
Went down: (to go down): happen (slang)
I know that some people overanalyze about their relationships and I know that this can, in many cases, be the only problem. Some people might actually be in otherwise happy, functional relationships but they may not be used to being happy and so question it and in some severe cases, may even sabotage the relationship.
If that is you, I hope that you work it out and that you realize you are happy and you have a good thing going.
However, on the other hand there are those people who question their relationship so much that it makes me question it too.
If you are so unsure about whether or not you are happy in the relationship or whether or not you feel secure about it, then – in my opinion at least – you are probably neither happy nor secure.
Sometimes you have to wonder why you are wondering so much about it. In my experience, the reason people do this is because deep down they know they should not be in the relationship – for whatever reason – but superficially, they are trying to avoid dealing with that reality. It’s called denial.
If you are in denial, you are not doing anyone any favours. It will not be good for either of you in the long run, even if you are just hoping to keep the peace now. It’s scary, but you know what you have to do.
Sabotage: damage/destroy/harm/interfere with
Superficial: just on the surface/not deeply
Denial: unwilling to accept the truth/you don’t want to accept the truth
In the long run: in the end/ultimately
Sometimes being happy can be as simple as making a decision to be happy. When we are unhappy, we tend to take it out on those closest to us: our partner and family. Why we do this is, I suspect, because we know at the end of the day that these people will still love us. Or at least our family will.
But we owe them more than that. If you take a good, hard look at your life and cannot see any real reason to be unhappy (and be honest here – sometimes we like a little pity party and like playing the victim, but what value is that really bringing to our lives in the end?) then just decide to be happy. It’s amazingly simple.
Yes, problems will come and go and you cannot always be happy but if you have had a couple of problems recently, you may find that, although these situations have been more or less resolved, you are stuck in a rut of ‘non-happiness’. Not necessarily unhappiness. Just non-happiness. It’s now a case of identifying that and then doing something about it.
Get over it. It’s within your power. And your partner and family will be so much more willing to help you when you do have a problem. And the amazing thing about happiness? It spreads.
To take it out on: if you are angry with someone or something, you treat other people badly in order to redirect that anger or frustration
Pity party: (slang) when someone just likes getting sympathy
To play the victim: (slang) to act like the world is against you and your life is horrible
Spread: to increase/reach/extend/widen/broaden/go further
Humans are complex. Put two humans together and it becomes almost too complex to understand. Therefore, relationships – involving two humans and lots of emotions and issues – can be a serious conundrum.
Take, for example, a friend of mine who has a knack of sabotaging her relationships. Not consciously of course, but simply as a defense mechanism.
You see, what she does is, as soon as she senses any kind of imperfection in the relationship she starts preparing herself for the break up. She becomes distant and defensive. Her partner in reaction to this also starts to become distant and defensive, and therefore confirms her fears.
Ultimately they break up. And we will never know whether that initial imperfection was a simple issue that could have been solved over a cup of coffee or one that really would have led to a break up.
How will you ever learn about relationships if you keep running at the first sign of trouble? Stick it out. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Conundrum: a puzzle/a mystery
A knack of: you are especially skilled at doing something
Sabotage: damage/interfere with/disrupt
Defense mechanism: a way of responding to a situation to in order to protect yourself emotionally
I cannot think of one situation where breaking up with someone is fun or enjoyable. I can understand it being a relief, maybe – ultimately – but never as something that you would actually look forward to.
Even less so if the situation is that you love someone but are not in love with them. I think this is a situation where you have to be incredibly brave. It might be easier to stay with that person. It’s less pain for everyone involved. At least for the time being. And after all, you care about them, right? So how bad can it be?
It can be very bad. Eventually you will start to resent the situation and eventually you will start to resent the person you associate with that situation and they will start to feel that resentment.
Don’t kid yourself. If you realize that you are not in love with someone, it is more selfish to not break up with them. Yes there will be pain and heartache initially but the point is it is not ever going to get better. You won’t fall in love with them after another 10 years together. And by then your lives will be so intertwined that breaking up will feel impossible. And you will feel trapped.
Better to rip off the plaster and deal with the wound now.
The time being: at the moment
Resent: hate/be offended by/feel angry and bitter about
Kid: to joke/fool yourself (or slang for child)
Rip off: remove (a plaster) very quickly
What do you do when you can see that your friend’s new boyfriend or girlfriend is just not right for them? Do you intervene? Do you share your feelings? What happens if they ask you what you think?
It’s a difficult situation in a sense, because I don’t think it is really your place to pass judgement on your friend’s choice of partner and no one on the outside of a relationship really knows what happens on the inside. However, if the relationship has a future, this person will be a part of your future too so it is something that does affect you but somehow doesn’t involve you. A tricky situation.
I suppose the most important thing to remember is that you want your friend to be happy. If they are happy with this person, then back off. If they are really wrong for each other, as you suspect, then the relationship won’t last forever and then it is your job to be there to pick up the pieces and help mend their broken heart.
Of course, you may argue that as a friend you should tell them the truth. I’m not sure this is a good idea. Imagine you do tell the truth and the relationship continues. Then there will just be an awkwardness between you because they know how you really feel. Let’s be honest, if you told them the truth, they probably wouldn’t listen to you anyway. I think the best response is to say that you are happy as long as they are happy.
Intervene: get involved
Back off: move away and not get involved
It is incredible how the tiniest body movement of one of the smallest parts of the human body can have one of the biggest impacts on our mood and thoughts. I am talking here about winking. Winking can be done by anyone, anywhere and can make us feel excited and flushed, embarrassed or nauseated.
It is just one flick of an eyelid but it carries so much meaning. From the right person, it can be a secret signal that suggests romance and chemistry. From another person, it can be a little symbol of friendship and trust. Or from the wrong person, it can be offensive and unwelcome.
But if the wink is not unwelcome and is not from a friend, it is a fun, flirty and harmless way of interacting with someone you know or someone you don’t. It can be an invitation to get to know someone better; a simple gesture that hints at attraction with committing or scaring anyone off. Or it can just be two strangers in the rush hour traffic making each other smile.
As I was watching a reality tv show the other day, I was reminded of something quite powerful. It was a show about relationships where ultimately one man chooses from a group of women who he wants to marry. It is completely bizarre and incredibly unreal situation as far as relationships go, but makes for an entertaining show.
Well, as we all know, reality tv shows are more often than not, filled with beautiful people. The people always seem happier or more attractive or more successful or more popular than us. We often look at these women and think that if we were somehow more like them, then our lives would be better or we would be less lonely, or whatever.
But what fascinated me about this particular show was that, despite their beauty and success, the women were incredibly insecure.
This was a good reminder to me that no matter how beautiful or successful or wonderful we are, and no matter how beautiful or successful or wonderful the world around us perceives us to be, we are not immune to feeling insecure. We are human beings, after all. And it was also a reminder that no matter how incredible someone may seem to me, they, too are prone to a little insecurity from time to time.
My point is that if you are feeling insecure, remember – first and foremost – that you are not alone, but also that it is completely natural and unavoidable part of being a human. Go easy on yourself.
Bizarre: very strange
Immune: protected from/resistant to something (usually disease)
First and foremost: first and most importantly
Unavoidable: something you cannot get away from/cannot escape
I seldom miss those giddy, crazy teenage romances. Back in my teens, if there was a boy in the picture, it was all-consuming. It was either euphoric or devastating and never anything in between. It required so much emotional and mental energy and the only reason one could keep going was because of those hormones.
I know it seems strange that I am glad to be out of that phase of my life because, I mean, come on, wouldn’t we all like to be a little younger? But honestly, there are some good things about getting older. That phase was exhausting. There is something so comforting about a long-term, committed partnership with someone you care about – even without all the drama and excitement. Of course relationships we have later in life are also exciting and can be dramatic, but nothing close to the level of intensity of our hormone-propelled youth.
I suspect that as you get older, and as your energy levels drop a little, you calm down on the romance side of things because, let’s face it, we wouldn’t cope. I think if I was as energetic about love and romance now as I was 10 or 20 years ago, I would be dead by now.
Of course, at the time, it’s great, so I am not saying we shouldn’t experience it. I’m just saying, it’s like finally breathing out. We’ve worked hard to get here and we shouldn’t be sad because it’s over.
Euphoric: extremely happy
Devastating: extremely shocking or upsetting
A lot of the pain you feel when your heart is broken comes from a sense of being alone. You look around you and all you can see are happy couples, people in love and lots of kissing. And you become painfully aware of the fact that no one is kissing you.
In this crazy time it can help a little bit to know two things: 1) as much as it really does not feel like it at the time, this will pass and 2) you are not alone.
When you see all the couples, what you don’t see is all the people who are also heartbroken. Or have been heartbroken. Or will be heartbroken. Whatever you are going through, you are not the first person to experience it and you will not be the last. You are also not the only one going through it right now. I know it doesn’t make it not hurt, but part of a heartbreak is that you feel disconnected from society; you don’t feel ‘normal’ and yet heartbreak is probably one of the most ‘normal’ and unifying human experiences.
Heartbreak makes you a better partner, friend and parent. You are more caring, understanding and empathic in future friendships and relationships if you have had your heart broken in your life And ultimately, with your children or future children. You also learn to appreciate love for what it is. And you appreciate your new partner so much more.
To go through something: to experience something difficult or painful
Unifying: something that joins or unites
If you ask most people what romance is, I am sure many of their explanations will involve words such as ‘sunset’, ‘champagne’, ‘roses’, ‘chocolate’, ‘candlelight’, ‘dinner’ and ‘beach’ and while these are romantic – generically at least – romance is also intensely personal. Many of us have been brought up with the traditional ideas of romance and consequently this kind of romance may appeal to us but do not let this blind you to all the other romantic tokens and actions out there.
This is especially important when it comes to marriage proposals. As women, we are taught that this is a pivotal, crucial moment in our lives and our expectations are that it should be perfect. However, many of the most romantic proposal stories I have heard sound very little like the perfect traditional ‘romantic’ proposal. Take for example my friend (who hates a lot of fussing and attention) who wandered into the living room one morning dressed in her pj’s, hair a mess, when her then boyfriend got down on one knee and proposed. She thought, ‘well if he can want to marry me when I look like this, he must really love me.’
Or what about the man whose girlfriend loved theatre who proposed to his girlfriend on set after her rehearsal one night, surrounded by her cast, crew and director. While neither of these might be to your taste, the point is that the man in question proposed in a way he knew his girlfriend would appreciate. He made the proposal about her and not about any traditional ideas of romance (unless of course that is what she wanted).
If you are thinking of proposing, focus on the two of you and meaningful things in your relationship. Then you are off to a good start!
Tokens: small gifts or gestures
Pivotal: a point in your left where things change dramatically
Crucial: extremely important
Time for a little reflection and honesty: are you in a relationship rut? This ‘rut’ can take many forms and be very difficult to identify but then all of a sudden, one day you find yourself thinking you’ve been here/done this one too many times now.
It could be that your routine is stale. You do the same thing every Friday night. You do the same thing every Sunday morning. You say the same things to each other when greeting each other at the end of the day. Some routine is essential. In a relationship it gives you stability. It gives you a sense of calm and a comfortable level of predictability.
But be careful that things don’t become too predictable. Too much predictability can translate into boredom and, let’s face it; long-standing relationships are at risk of becoming boring.
The good news is that once you have identified the problem, getting out of the boring routine rut is not too difficult. Think about things you did in the beginning of your relationship. Put the same amount of effort into planning activities as you did all those years ago. If your relationship is in a rut, even the tiniest change can add a spark back into your life.
Remember how exciting life was back then? Maybe we don’t want all that excitement back again – it can be rather exhausting, after all, but a little couldn’t hurt, could it?
Rut: to be in a rut is to be in a routine that has become boring, stale and predictable
Stale: not fresh
Spark: little electrical charge
I’m not going to suggest that you should do everything together with your partner. That is not something I believe in. I think there should be a balance between what you do together and what you do separately. After all, there is something incredibly attractive and intriguing about someone who also has their own life. First of all, they are not needy and clingy and secondly, they will add something new and interesting to your life.
This balance of separate vs. together activities is, I think, different for every couple. It all depends on what each of you needs from the relationship. It’s only when your needs in this area are very different that this sort of thing becomes a problem.
All my own thoughts aside, the latest psychological research seems to indicate that couples who do more together, tend to stay together longer. This contradicts the common assumption that familiarity breeds contempt and that time apart is a healthy part of any relationship.
My point here is surely couples who do everything together successfully, are successful in this respect because they have similar needs. And my question here, however is, do they stay together longer because they are happier or because their lives are so much more inextricably linked that separating becomes a real challenge?
Clingy: won’t let go – needs to be attached all the time (relating to behaviour)
Familiarity breeds contempt: expression meaning that if you are too familiar with something, you can start to not like it
Inextricably: cannot be separated from something
Sometimes during an argument my partner makes me just want to run screaming out of the room. And sometimes I feel like if I do that I might just continue running screaming down the road and never return. In that moment, it’s like I just don’t understand him. And then, a short while later, it’s as if I had simply experienced temporary insanity, everything returns to normal and I wonder why I was so upset and frustrated.
Then one day I learnt something that changed my outlook on these situations forever. The 20 minute rule. Apparently, it takes your body (so we are talking physically here, not emotionally) at least 20 minutes to return to a calm, balanced state after you have had an argument with someone. And it is so true. I can be one crazy person in that moment and a mere 20 minutes later I am once again a person that you may even describe as sane.
So that’s my rule now. If I have an argument with my partner, I don’t try and sort it out NOW. I give it 20 minutes. All of a sudden things are back in perspective and there is much less risk of me saying something regrettable that I can never take back. So simple and yet so live-changing.
Temporary: for a short time/not forever
Sane: not crazy
Is it ok for your partner to be friends with his or her ex? There are some things to think about here. First of all, how much do you know about the history of their relationship? Is there cause for your concern? Do you feel that there might be some unresolved issues? And very importantly: how long ago did it end?
Then of course there is the issue of trust between you and your partner. Shouldn’t you be able to trust them? In which case it shouldn’t bother you that they are friends with their ex. However, I don’t necessarily think it is fair that you are in that position in the first place.
But can you tell your partner that he or she can’t be friends with their ex? It’s a difficult situation. You may come across as controlling and paranoid. I think the thing to be most concerned with here – assuming that trust is not the problem – is not so much why your partner is friends with their ex, but why their ex wants to be friends with your partner.
How would your partner feel if you were friends with your ex? If they seem unworried by it, then it is very likely that there is no suspicious intent on their part.
Unresolved: the problem hasn’t been fixed or in unsolved
Can you be friends with your ex? It all depends on the relationship – each case is different. How did you both view the relationship? And how do you both feel about the relationship ending?
If you are still in love with that person and really want them back, then trying to have a platonic relationship with that person is not going to work. The difficulty here is to avoid fooling yourself. We are so good at denial. We probably think that we do really just want to be friends. Be careful that this is really true before you set yourself up for more heartache.
And don’t try and convince yourself that you just need one more time with your ex to get closure. Forget that. Closure starts today. Closure starts the last time you had contact with your ex. Going back to them means you start all over again.
You need at least 8 weeks apart with absolutely NO contact. Yes, I said EIGHT weeks. Think of it as a detox. The relationship needs to get out of your system.
And don’t call him/her everyday ‘as friends’ until this 8-week detox is over. You are only opening wounds every time.
So, once the 8-week detox is over, it’s time to reassess. Do you need another 8 weeks? Tread carefully. Don’t undo all the healing you have already done – whether or not you feel that there has been any healing, you are definitely in a stronger position now than you were 8 weeks ago. Hang in there.
Set yourself up for: put yourself in a position for something (usually negative)
Closure: emotional/psychological sense that something has an end/something has a conclusion
Detox: getting rid of the toxins in your body by avoiding them for a period of time
Hang in there: phrase of encouragement for a friend – to tell someone to persist and not give up
When any relationship ends, there is usually a certain amount of heartache – at least for one of you. If it is you that has had your heart broken, there are ways to minimize the pain.
Try to learn something from the relationship. Write down five things you appreciated about this relationship that you would like to have in the next one, and five things you would not like to create next time. In this way, you will avoid the same mistakes (hopefully), grow as a person and move one step closer to finding the person that is perfect for you (not to be confused with the perfect person which doesn’t exist – in that case, you will be looking until the day you die. Single.).
Instead of stalking your ex or making up excuses to call or see him or her, keep yourself busy with new activities, old friends, and healthy distractions. Stalking and focusing on the past relationship only prevents you from moving forward. It does not serve to benefit you in any way. And besides, people will just think you’re nuts.
But don't get involved in a new relationship right away. There is no special time frame here, but if in doubt, wait longer. You will not be focused on the person. It isn't fair to either of you. Don’t medicate your sadness with a new person.
Stalk: secretly follow a person around to see where they go/what they do/who they are with
Distractions: things that take your focu/attention off something else
Nuts: (usually products of a tree – e.g. peanuts) in this context: crazy/mad/insane
If you have thought about it a lot and finally accepted that you need to break up with your partner. There are some do’s and don’ts that that you should keep in mind. After all, you are about to break someone’s heart; at least you can be considerate.
Don’t break up over email/text/Whatsapp or Facebook. Unless your ‘relationship’ has consisted of only one or 2 dates, please give that person and relationship the respect it deserves. Call or meet up for a talk. Yes, I know it’s easier to send an email, but would you like to receive a break up email? How would that make you feel? Remember: what goes around comes around.
Breaking up with someone over the phone or face to face allows that person to ask questions and see that your actions are final.
Be direct and honest. Don’t start arguments about who did or didn’t do something. There is enough pain already. Try not to make the break up dramatic. Yes, emotions are high and this point. Let the other person say what they need to say but remember that you are in the position of power here and you have control over how out of hand it may get.
Finally, bear in mind that you are not breaking up with this person because there is something wrong with them. They are just not right for you.
Do’s and don’ts: things that you should do and things that you shouldn’t do
What goes around comes around: what you do to others, will be done to you
Out of hand: out of control
Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Or do you have an ‘official’ day of love in your country? If you do celebrate either Valentine’s Day or any other official day of love, how do you celebrate? Does your celebration include flowers, chocolates, fancy dinners and bottles of wine? And why do you celebrate? And what about if you are single? Do you celebrate then? Or stay home and sulk?
So on the one hand, it is a day about love. It is about celebrating the love and/or the lover that you have in your life. But on the other hand, there are many people around the world who reject the idea of Valentine’s Day; calling it a commercial scam or a day manufactured so that florists can make lots of money. Single people may even feel inadequate or annoyed at a day that celebrates something they don’t feel a part of.
Whichever way you look at it, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to celebrate a day that is all about such a good thing. And also to celebrate alongside so many other people; it gives us a sense of solidarity and of being part of the same thing: humanity. You also don’t need to spend a lot of money or any money at all. If you are single, then get together with some other single friends and celebrate friendship kind of love.
My point? We don’t need to be cynical. There is enough in life to be cynical about. Love shouldn’t be one of them.
Fancy: extra special
Sulk: feel sorry for yourself
Reject: say no to
Scam: a rip-off/cheat/trick/con
Florist: a person that sells flowers
Inadequate: not enough
Solidarity: unity/a feeling of having shared aims
Do you keep score in relationships? Do you remember who paid for dinner last time and make a point of ensuring that the other person pays when it is their turn? Do you find yourself saying things like, ‘I always buy you gifts but you never buy me any.’
It could be that you need to stop focusing on your relationship as if it were some quid pro quo. Doing this is dangerous because your perspective becomes skewed. You stop seeing what your partner is doing for you and see only what you are doing for your partner. The trouble with this is that you then assess your partner’s behaviour based on your own understanding of reciprocation. It could be that your partner’s way of showing they love you is by letting you choose the TV channel or by washing your car. Maybe doing a chore that you normally do is the equivalent of a romantic dinner. They may not see the traditional ways of showing affection as important.
In other words, just because you don’t get flowers, doesn’t mean your partner is unromantic. You may need to look beyond that. And stop keeping score. You may be playing by different rules anyway so scoring is irrelevant.
However, don’t be completely blind. If your partner really is taking advantage of you, that is unacceptable. And that is time for change.
Keep score: keep a count of who does what
Quid pro quo: do something in exchange for something else
Skewed: not straight
Reciprocation: to give mutually (you give me something and I give you something)
Chore: small job around the house/small job that needs to be done in your personal life
Beyond: further than