Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Relationships (I don’t have a brilliant title ‘cos I’m lazy to think of one)

I know I’m not the only one who’s pondered on the topic of romantic relationships many a time, probably nursed a broken heart or several, and called men some funny name that rings with certain animals, sport activity or unappealing human waste. I realize that being in a romantic relationship is the toughest easy thing to do, and it can be this constant battle of give-take-give, that can leave us feeling fulfilled or empty. It’s only after my 839th heartbreak that I sat down and found the familiar string through all the mess. And what has really, honestly, and truly, worked best for me.

It’s simple.

Be selfish.

I know the word selfish leaves much to be desired, but this isn’t a bad word. Let’s first acknowledge that this is one of the best words that can happen to you in your relationship.

My opinion is straight forward. For a relationship to work and prosper, both parties must SELFISHLY put their own happiness before that of the next person. It doesn’t stop there, you’ve hit bull’s eye when this happiness reflects on the next person and they become happy that YOU are happy. And the reason I say this is also simple. We reflect our inner thoughts about ourselves, and you think people don’t see what you feel inside? Wrong. People are attracted to the energy you put out, and when you genuinely are a happy person, there is no doubt that people will be happy around you. No one wants to baby-sit a moody, aggressive, snobby toddler. And no one wants to be friends with someone who’s always looking to be validated by others. And the classic one : Men would rather drink rat blood than be with / marry an insecure woman who is depressed half the time, constantly accusing, and annoyingly dependant, no matter how beautiful, smart, or popular.

I am a firm believer that the number 1 reason for most failed relationships is not because he hurt you, or you him, or that he wasn’t paying enough attention to you, or maybe he just didn’t show that he cared, or treated you like a complete waste of Oxygen. Yeah, maybe this happened. And you have every right to feel this way. But it’s only the result of this very simple concept: We are misled into thinking we ought to put the next person’s happiness first, and MAKE our partner happy, when this is NOT the case. Happiness cannot be created, it lives in us. When we struggle to make people happy, we are simply taking out a dose of happiness from within ourselves, and handing it to the next person on a silver platter. This is why, when we don’t get the same response of happiness, we start to feel used or depleted. In the perfect world where I’m heiress, we would get the same amount of happiness from other people as we give out, but we live in a world where this hardly ever happens.

When you try to make someone happy, you set yourself up for major disappointment (because we all know humans are flaky), and you place yourself on a pedestal of vulnerability. It’s almost like you’re stripping naked in front of a firing squad. The only selfless love that has existed since time immemorial, and will continue to exist for eternities to come, is God’s love. That’s it. Human beings are not capable of selfless love (and this is open for discussion or dispute). We are not capable of successfully and consistently putting the needs of someone else before ours without secretly or openly expecting some kind of return or reward, and this is why we keep getting into this painful, torturous cycle of bitterness and pain, when we are not told “I love you” as often as we would like, or hugged every time our heart beats, or even, to get to extremes, proposed to, when we feel we have given out so much of ourselves to someone else. The truth is, what you’ve done is dish out all the happiness that is meant for you, without getting it back. We want the same level of love reciprocated, usually in the same manner, and it never is. How many times have you said “I love you” and wanted to punch a nearby wall when you don’t hear it back? How often have we felt “misunderstood”, “unappreciated”? This is common vocab amongst women who constantly fight the losing battle of trying to get “right” what makes their partner happy. Nothing makes your partner happy more than him feeling he is getting what he wants from the relationship (selfishness). And he will get what he wants from the relationship when you are happy about what YOU are getting from the relationship. If you feel “used”, it’s only because the next person put their own happiness before yours, and you didn’t do the same for yourself. He wanted to spend the weekend with you, he did. He wanted to run off to some game right after, and he did. He was too tired or busy to call, and he didn’t. He felt he needed some space, and he took it. He wanted to buy you something nice, and he did. He didn’t feel like saying he misses you when he was out on a trip, and he didn’t. And that made him happy because he felt like he had the freedom to say and be what he wants, at any given time, without getting a 6 hour lecture about how horrible it makes you feel.

The most important person in your relationship is you. The minute you put your happiness in the hands of someone else, you are saying “control me – how I feel, how my day turns out, what I want to eat, my hopes and dreams, how many kids I want to have. Tell me what your dreams are and I will drop mine to support yours, tell me what you want to do and I will drop my plans for yours”. Consequently, the next step here is “I’m so depressed, I feel empty, he hasn’t called, he’s out with the boys again, I’m lonely, I’m bored, he was so cold to me today …” and when you begin to feel like that inside, it reflects negatively on your partner and drives them away even more. When you find your own true happiness, independent of your relationship, and when you get happy with the fact that your partner is happy independent of you, you build your happiness together on something solid.

The fruits of this are plentiful and delicious. Get into an argument, and you will not sit around and mope for 29 hours. Why? Because even though you do love this person, and think the world of them, you love yourself way more to self-destruct. When he leaves you, or “wants a break”, you hurt. Badly. And they know it, too. But life doesn’t stop, and your happiness doesn’t go on break with them. Why? Because you have mastered the skill of being happy and content, whether or not your partner is by your side. Most of our heartbreaks are 20% what they did to us, and 80% how we beat ourselves up about it. When he cheats, you are angry and annoyed. But you don’t look in the mirror and wonder what’s wrong with you. And you certainly don’t have the time to go chasing his sidekick-play-off to compare yourself to them. The only person you compare yourself to, is you. You are the measure of your own beauty. You know that, even if he left, it had everything to do with him, and nothing to do with you, and who the heck cares anyway, because you were selfish enough in the relationship to have gotten everything you wanted from it. When he doesn’t call for 4 days, you are a little sad and worried, and maybe you battle to call or text, and at some point you want to scream and haul the phone across the room (let’s face it, we are human), but you are not completely torn or suspicious, and you don’t sit in the house staring at the phone screen, because you have hobbies and a career, you have dreams and things to achieve. You have fun friends and the mall, and you have your favorite movie flick and song to lift your mood. You have things that are NOT him, that make you just as happy as you would feel if he were around. When you do something nice for them, and you don’t get the kind of response you were expecting (ie being lifted up and swung 10 times in the air, kissed, hugged and worshipped), you don’t really mind. You did it because it makes you happy to do it for them, not because you were waiting for their response to determine how you feel.

I understand that this is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s a skill that can be learnt through time. And it is certainly not the case that this is the one formula that will make your relationship last forever. It may not, actually, but the important thing is how you will feel when you’re with this person, and how you will feel about yourself when things don’t work out in the end. In all our life experiences, it is not about how long the feelings last, or how successful all your plans are, it is how you feel about yourself when things haven’t gone your way, and the important lessons we learn when things come and go. In my life, I have learnt more and gained more strength from the days when I seemed to be the only one loving ME, and looking out for ME, than the days when I’m surrounded by the love and attention of “friends”.

When you have things outside of the relationship that make you happy, you don’t have to rely on the next person to make your day. Develop a passion, a hobby, find friends that share interests and constantly challenge you to spend time away from your comfort zone. When you wake up in the morning, no matter how you feel, don’t leave the house without finding one thing to start your day on a happy note. It could be a great song, a phonecall, your favorite breakfast, a prayer, a new hairstyle (perfume does wonders for me), a jog, your pet, whatever it is. Before you have any interaction with your man / anyone else, find that place of content that you can always look back on when someone totally fucks up your day and leaves your jaw dropped, because people are natural-born experts at pissing others off. I like to count things that I find are completely boring, research on them, and find they are actually pretty interesting. I recently started reading on politics. I also like to write a whole lot of funny nonsense and crack myself up. I must be google’s biggest fan. I love to draw up my future and dream about the amazing things I am yet to achieve. In those happy dreams, there are absolutely no faces. A friend of mine wanted to get fit and healthy, but we were always too lazy, tired, or busy. Every time she started to get frustrated with her man, she’d go jogging for an hour. When their relationship reached the final meltdown, she not only looked and felt great, she thanked him for it.

I wish we would stop calling men dogs, kak, and losers. And realize that the only reason we think they are that way, is because they know what they want, and they go out and get it at the expense of us loving them more than we love ourselves. I wish we’d find our own hurt-remedies, and I wish we’d share them with other people. I wish we’d stop fussing about our flaws, especially the ones we can’t change. I wish we’d stop using words like “depressed”, “slow down” and substitute it with phrases like “I’m just having a weird moment that will soon pass away”. I wish we’d realize that our hopes and dreams do not revolve around anyone but ourselves, and I wish we’d trudge through the hurt and pain, to achieve them at all cost! I wish we wouldn’t be envious of other relationships and people, because if you had to be them, you don’t know how you would deal with the trauma they’ve had in their own lives, to get to where they are.

I love you, and you, and you, and you! I wish you love and I wish you happiness. I wish that you’d wake up in the morning and identify something you love about yourself. I wish you a healthy and sound relationship with yourself, and I wish that, through every hard experience filled with tears and disappointment, you start to gather the tools you need to selfishly engineer your own happiness and well-being! But most of all, through all this hullabaloo of selfish love, I hope we remember that there IS a selfless love that exists, when all else fails J