What I know about relationships, aged 29
You may notice that relationships aren’t something I often talk about in my blogs. That's probably because it's not something I've ever really felt qualified to talk about, given that I've been in 3 serious relationships, all of which have ended within 2 years of them starting.
Although, thinking about it now, perhaps that's what makes me best placed to talk about them, because instead of me seeing these relationships as ‘failures’, I have taken them as invaluable life-lessons instead.
Furthermore, I’d say not only have I not been talking about relationships in my blogs, but I’ve been rather quiet in general recently. I haven’t written as many blogs, on any topic, as much as I would have liked to. That’s because I’ve been going through the process of having a relationship struggle and come to an end, and it left me with a feeling of complete inauthenticity – how can I be a life coach and yet so unhappy? Why do I suck at relationships so much? How can I inspire my readers when I am not inspired in my own life?
But now, with the relationship over once and for all, a door has opened for insight and reflections, which I will share with you here: what I know about relationships, aged 29.
1) Don’t make your relationship the 'be all and end all' of your life.
“Serious” boyfriend number 1 was someone I met at university, and the person I moved to London with after graduating. At that time, my relationship was everything. I couldn’t think of anything more important in my life than that. Especially since I felt like I didn’t have much else going on besides him, having moved to a new city, without many friends, not really any hobbies or interests, a job I didn’t like and a lack of career direction and confidence.
We were head over heels in love but after a few months of living together, it was clear that we were no longer heading in the same direction. We broke up, and it was devastating to be left with what felt like nothing. I vowed never to let this happen to me again, which is when I created the Love Life Plan. I defined the different areas of my life that were important to me and started thinking about what I wanted for each one, with the aim of making it come true. To this day I still use this plan to ensure my life is well balanced and to help me live a life I love. Now when a relationship ends, it’s only a small section of my life and I still have so much else to fall back on.
But even if you're single and not just out of relationship, the Love Life Plan helps you to avoid the mistake I made in my next serious relationship:
2) You don’t need anyone to make you feel happy
I often hear (single) people say ‘to be in a relationship is a basic human need’. Of course, these people aren’t very happy because they feel there is something missing from their life that they just can’t live without.
So I challenge them – it’s a basic human need for what? Do you need it to survive? Well, no, clearly not, it’s possible to live without being in a relationship. Do you need it to be happy? Well, no, there are plenty of people who are single and happy. There are also plenty of people who are ‘taken’ and miserable. Do you need it to feel loved? Again, no. A person can feel loved, and more accurately, worthy of love, regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not.
To think that a relationship provides us with happiness, or a sense of being loved, or a sense of security, is based on a myth about where our feelings come from. How we feel does not come from anything outside of us. They do not come from people, from jobs, from family, from friends or partners.
They come from our thoughts. Period.
If you’re single and unhappy, it’s not because you’re single that you’re unhappy, it’s because you THINK you need a relationship to be happy and therefore you're preventing yourself from feeling what you want – happy! You may get into a relationship and it may seem that it gives you happiness, but actually what’s happened is your THOUGHTS have changed. Then when your partner doesn’t behave as you expect or he doesn’t show affection when you want it, you will be left confused, wondering ‘why doesn’t this relationship make me happy anymore?!”
Be with someone because you think THEY are great, not because they make you feel better about yourself or your life. Give the gift of love, rather than be in it to make yourself feel loved.
When I met serious boyfriend number 2 I was longing for a relationship. I was working on cruise ships at the time and had been single for 2 years. It’s hard to find commitment on a cruise ship when people are always coming and going, and friendships were very quick to form but never to any meaningful depth. I wanted more. I needed more. But it was never enough because I was looking in the wrong place to feel better about myself. I needed to look inside, not out.
3) Core values matter.
When I talk about values, I don’t mean the values that most people think of, like ‘honesty, reliability, security’ etc. We all prefer honesty and we all tell lies. We all get annoyed when someone is late and then we show up late ourselves.
By values, I mean the core principles and beliefs that form the foundation of your life. It’s where you spend most of your time, your money, your energy. What are you most interested in and where are you most organised?
For example, my core values and beliefs are:
- making the most out of life and following your dream (spending your life doing something you love)
- financial freedom
- personal development and psychological growth
- physical health and wellbeing
My life is based around these things. It’s where most of my money goes. It’s where I spend most of my time. It’s the things I can talk enthusiastically about.
Being with someone who has a similar belief system to you, or a similar set of values, really helps. It’s ok if your values are different, however, there needs to be respect for those differences and they need not to clash.
I’m not just talking about interests here, but the beliefs and principles that shape what we do and why. For me and serious boyfriend number 3, physical attraction and mutual interests kept us together, but it wasn’t enough when it came to the day to day discussions and decisions. We argued about money, he didn’t believe in personal development (which is basically what I get paid to do!), and despite my efforts to encourage him, pursuing his dream was just not on his agenda. Value clash = relationship crash.
4) You can’t fit square pegs into round holes.
No, this isn’t a euphemism!
What I’m referring to is accepting and respecting someone the way they are and the way they are not. You may not have to like everything about them but you do need to be ok with it if they never change that thing you don’t like. Attempting to change someone is a catch 22, because the key to changing someone is to accept them as they are AND help them to change. But those with high motivation to change someone rarely accepts the person as they are, and the ones who accept them the way they are have low motivation to try change them in the first place.
5) Break-ups can be the best thing that happen to you
The same goes for any loss, grief, or hardship, but only if you allow them. Allow the negative thoughts and emotions to be there. Accept that you’re going to feel like sh*t for a little while, otherwise you’re just going to end up feeling sh*t for feeling like sh*t. Use the opportunity to reflect on what you gained that can’t be taken away, such as learnings and lessons, memories, or adventures. Because it’s not loss that causes our turmoil, it’s our resistance to the loss that get us upset (I’m sure you wouldn’t be sad about losing a few kilos off the scale, for example!) So combat this by using the opportunity to gain much more: more friends, more new experiences, more time for you. (Again, the Love Life Plan can help with this).
Whether you are married or single, I’d love to get your thoughts on this piece. What have you learnt about relationships? What advice can you share? Do you agree or disagree? Simply contact me and let me know what you think.
With love x