Last week I ventured into my loft, a space which has remained virtually untouched for the last 12 years since buying my flat.
In one of the dust-covered boxes, I discovered a diary written in the year 2000, when I was traveling around Australia. At the back of it I found the names of the imaginary children I was going to have (and didn’t) and ponderings on a recently failed relationship, which had left me in a grief-stricken state of despair.
I sat down with a cup of tea and found myself comparing the two periods—now and then—and initially came to the rather sad conclusion that on the face of it, little had changed. Indeed, in terms of relationships, very little, it seemed. Having just emerged from yet another unsuccessful one, I was again single and this time at the god-fearing age of 45!
As I sipped my tea, I contemplated this fact and for a moment felt inextricably sad as 15 years later, everything seemed exactly the same. I still wanted to meet someone but I was still making mistakes, hence my reacquaintance with singledom.
But suddenly I realized the difference.
In 2000 and subsequent years, when a relationship went wrong, I automatically blamed myself, not my actions but me, believing that I wasn’t interesting enough, intelligent enough or attractive enough for a relationship and would consequently spend days feeling devastated, berating myself for not being the type of woman I needed to be in order for a man to love me.
I would sink into a virtual depression and see myself as a victim, not understanding why such things “were happening” to me.
Now, however, things were different as I had finally realized my worth. After many years spent studying, traveling and growing to understand myself, I had no doubt that I was interesting, and the fact that I was now a university teacher proved my intelligence.
As for attractiveness, although I was perhaps losing the external allure of youth, I was blessed with many good friends and the ability to draw the right people to me—a sign that I was internally attractive.
Yes, most things had turned out pretty well.
Although I was naturally disappointed that a potentially amazing relationship had just finished, a week spent skiing in France, (where admittedly I’d spent the first two days weeping behind my goggles as the chairlift glided gently up the mountain), had allowed me to understand that the failure was not my fault.
It had been clear from the start that this man was unavailable and the only mistake I’d made was not walking away when this became clear. I thought back over the previous eight months, picking out the obvious signs.
1. He still lived with his ex, despite having broken up several years ago.
2. He had never introduced me to his friends and family.
3. He always refused to discuss our relationship and where it was going.
4. He didn’t buy me a birthday present, as perhaps that would have shown too much commitment. By the end of my holiday, I felt calmer and clearer in the knowledge that there was nothing I could have done to make this man available—he needed to do that for himself.
So I finally realized, that despite initial impressions, my life, particularly in terms of awareness towards relationships, had changed, fundamentally and my chequered relationship history kind of made sense now.
I had needed to make the mistakes in order to gain the awareness. Of course that wasn’t to say that I was never to blame for a relationship failure or that I wouldn’t be upset when the next one broke down, but merely that it wasn’t down to some inherent character flaw in me, a realization that was really quite liberating.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” ~ Steve Jobs
Although I recognize the importance of being mindful and focusing on the present, it can be occasionally useful (especially if confronted with an old diary) to review your life.
These are my suggestions.
1. First, think back to 10 years ago and acknowledge how far you’ve come since then by writing down any positive changes. I am willing to bet that there will be quite a few. Things never stay the same.
2. Think about all that’s happened between then and now and you may somehow understand why negative incidents or experiences that made no sense at the time helped to “push” you in the right direction. You may find, like me, that it’s now possible to “connect the dots,” and such an understanding can bring both clarity and happiness.
3. If you feel that things really are the same as they were 10 years ago, try to perceive a behavioral pattern. In terms of relationships, it is likely that you’ve been attracting the same type of person or making the same mistakes. (My pattern was attracting unavailable men) and it is only once you have gained awareness of the problem, that you can attempt to find a solution.
That, from my experience, is the easy bit!
Looking forward to 2015, I can even say (perhaps optimistically!), that it is only a matter of time before I meet the right person, because I am now more able to recognize the type of man who is not only unavailable to me, but unavailable to everyone, including himself, and consequently keep the hell away.
Relationships have been a long, drawn-out learning experience for me, a “training course” as it were, for which the “qualification” is awareness and the “goal,” finding the right person. As with all job seekers, I believe that my perseverance will eventually be rewarded.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Mary Thompson
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock