A relationship can end for a variety of reasons. The list is fairly long. People’s lives are all different and our relationships have different strengths and weaknesses. In fact, one relationship can be so different to another that people on the outside cannot pass any judgement since no one who is not in relationship can possibly have any idea of the inner workings of that relationship.
However, the fascinating thing is that no matter how different we and our relationships and partners are, when someone breaks up with you – for whatever reason – the experience is the same.
If someone once broke up with you, you know how that feels. And I know how that feels. And if we compare notes, we will find so many similarities in terms of our feelings, understanding and handling of the situation.
So what is the message here? I think there are two messages. The first one is that you are never alone in your heartache. The second is that if you have had this unfortunate but essential experience, you can be there for someone who has just experienced it. It prepares you to be the support for the next person. They, in turn, will help the next person and so the cycle of human support continues.
The inner workings: the details about how something works
Compare notes: compare our situations
In turn: one after the other/consecutively
I certainly don’t think that I am any kind of style guru. In fact when it comes to dressing, I am quite a simple, plain Jane.
However, I think some women have got the idea of dressing sexy completely wrong. I may not be a fashion icon, but I do have eyes and I am very aware of what others look like. Less is not more. In fact, in many cases, less is a lot less. There is a fine line between sexy and trashy and so it is (nine times out of ten) safer to wear more than less.
Rule of thumb is that you choose one body part to highlight. In other words, wear either a short skirt OR a sexy top but never both at the same time. And for goodness’ sake, leave something to the imagination. Everyone doesn’t need to see everything. It looks desperate and lacks class.
If you are in any doubt, go conservative. No one ever talks negatively about the woman that wore too much but they usually have a lot to say about the woman who wore too little.
Guru: an expert
A fine line: very little difference
Trashy: (slang) cheap/tasteless/poor quality
Rule of thumb: a general rule
Ok, so I made a new friend at work. A man. I am not attracted to him and I have a partner so nothing is complicated. However I do like him as a person and want to see him in a happy relationship. So I set him up with another good friend of mine.
Setting up two of your friends is so much fun. And these two really get on well. They have now been together for almost a year so I guess my initial instinct was spot on.
But what nobody tells you – and to be fair, what you don’t anticipate – is the huge change in dynamic between you and your friends. Well, to be specific, the friend that is of the opposite sex to you.
What is happens when you set up your friends is that suddenly the friend of the opposite sex becomes someone that you can’t spend time with alone anymore. All of a sudden he (or she) is your friend’s boyfriend (or girlfriend) and being emotionally intimate with them or going out with just the two of you becomes suspicious and awkward. From now on you can only spend time with your friend at work or together with your other friend.
Just something to bear in mind: if you do want to set up your friends with each other, that is a generous thing to do, but understand that closeness you have with the friend of the opposite sex is about to change.
To set someone up with someone else: to introduce one person to another in the hopes that they will become romantically involved
Spot on: exact/accurate
Bear in mind: keep in mind/think about
Sometimes it’s just not you. Sometimes your partner may just not be in a good mood. I have finally learnt this lesson. But it has taken me years. In the past, every time my partner was a bit ‘off’ I would immediately jump to conclusions and either a) try to find out what the problem is or b) try to cheer him up.
Now let’s be honest, if you are not in a good mood, you don’t really want either of those things. You just want to be left to feel what you need to feel and when you are ready, you’ll be in a better mood. And yes, there may even be no reason for the mood at all. It’s ok. It’s human nature.
So inevitably, these situations would end in an argument – it’s bound to happen when you attack someone who is already feeling miserable.
And I now realise that my partner – when he is feeling this way – certainly does not want to try and console me.
The epiphany came last week when I was actually in one of those moods myself. And I realised: I am not upset with my partner, there is nothing wrong and I do not feel like I need to be cheered up or made to feel guilty for being in that mood.
So what do we do?
Now take note. It is so simple, you may not believe me: Just leave it. Give your partner time. It will take longer than you want. Get over it.
Your patience will pay off.
Inevitably: something that will obviously happen/cannot be avoided/certain
Bound to: inevitable
Console: reassure someone/try to make someone feel emotionally better when they are sad/upset
Epiphany: sudden, life-changing realisation
I blame adverts for a lot of the problems people experience in relationships. I mean, really? Even the hottest, most attractive men and women are airbrushed to look even better. Impossibly better. And I shouldn’t get started on the message of the ad. Ok, I’ve started. Every advert has countless messages – some overt, some covert. In fact, mostly covert.
And then each of those overt and covert messages is presented in such a way as to appear factual. As in: if you wear this perfume, all men will follow you home and fight to give you flowers. You, of course, as an awesome, independent woman will ignore all advances because you know you could have any of those men any day of the week.
Of course, for most of us this is rather far from fact. But the message is there. Loud and clear. And if the men don’t follow you home and fight over you – desperate to shower you with flowers, then there must be something wrong with you. Or you must be deeply unattractive. Poor you.
So how does this negatively affect our relationships? Not only do we develop a low self esteem and a sense in inadequacy, but also we develop unrealistic expectations of our partners.
Ok, maybe the ads are not the only problem. Maybe we need to stop believing them.
Airbrushed: to improve a picture using a tool called an airbrush – usually done to pictures of models in a magazine
Covert: hidden/not obvious/secret
Inadequacy: not feeling good enough/not being good enough
I think that sometimes I am guilty of over-thinking and over-analysis. Of course a little introspection and reflection can often strengthen a relationship. After all, how can you continue to improve a relationship unless you spend a little time on it and give it a little thought.
However, there comes a point where the thinking and analysis begin to cripple the relationship. In my case, I start to think so much about each action and incidence in the relationship that I forget to do the most important thing of all: enjoy it.
If relationships were just about work and effort, why would we even bother with them? Of course, they do require both those things in order to earn longevity, but relationships are also meant to be enjoyed. Sometimes I forget to just have fun. I have fun with my friends and my family, so why then does my relationship become such a serious side of my life? Perhaps one explanation is that it is the part of my life that I take most seriously, but – counter-intuitively – it is then the part that should be most enjoyable.
If this is you, too, then let’s both learn to relax and have fun. Our partner is our lover but he/she is also our friend.
Introspection: thinking about yourself and your actions
Cripple: make it unable to move/break/disable it
Longevity: a long life
Counter-intuitively: against your instinct/opposite to what you would expect
Some relationships can be doomed before they’ve even begun. The chances of this happening have a lot to do with the head space of the people involved. One of the biggest threats to a successful relationship is entering into the relationship with a low self-esteem.
While relationships do, of course, improve our sense of self-worth and confidence, we need to have a certain amount of both of these before we even get involved with someone. How can we expect someone to love us when we don’t believe we are lovable – and we don’t even love ourselves?
Without going into a complete psychological breakdown of the problems associated with a lack of self-esteem in relationships, it’s clear that it certainly doesn’t add anything of value to a romantic encounter.
So what should we do? It is imperative that we learn to love ourselves first. We should understand and accept that without a partner, we are a whole, worthy person and inviting another person into our lives is to enhance our life, not complete it.
If we have not come to the realisation that we are enough on our own, then we are not ready to be in a relationship. That person is never going to be able to provide us with what we need: self love.
Doomed: destined to fail
Head space: (slang) a psychological mindset/the way that we are thinking at the moment
A lack of: no/none (of something)
Imperative: extremely important
Enhance: make better/add value to
Maybe I have just got love all wrong. Maybe I’ve misunderstood the concept but to me, it’s more than just the feeling. Unless of course your aim is a short-term relationship.
If you only want the butterflies in your stomach and the excitement that romance brings then best you become a serial dater. That way you can get the excitement and when it starts to wear off, you can move on to more excitement.
But if you decide to stick around after that initial glow of falling in love you will find (assuming the relationship is one that you want) that those feelings of excited nervousness and thrill are slowly, gently and steadily replaced by a different kind of love.
This is by no means an inferior love. In fact, I would venture so far as to say that it is a superior love. It is when you really know someone and they really know you and you care about their happiness. Truly. It’s about being a team; about going through life with someone; about support, comfort, friendship and security.
This kind of love is so much more sustainable; so much more stabilising; so much more, well, love. It is a love worth aiming for and as we grow older we learn to appreciate it so much more.
Don’t worry about what might be beyond the falling-in-love phase of a relationship. It can be so much better.
(to have) Butterflies in your stomach: to feel nervous or in love
Serial dater: person who goes from one partner to the next and never stays in a relationship
Wear off: become less and less because it’s been used up
Stick around: stay in that place
Initial: the first
Glow: radiating light (often used to describe very happy person whose face seems to shine)
Venture so far as to say: I would even risk saying
Sustainable: it can be made to last for a long time/continue
Beyond: after/further than
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