When I was very young I became engaged, to the horror of my family, whom I was attempting to separate from, living in a pretty dysfunctional home where tension and a level of continuous discontent murmered in the background. No physical violence, but the stench of discord, disappointment, dislike permeated my teenage years growing up. It scarred me, and I reacted by hooking up with basically the first person who was willing to take me on hook, line and sinker. He was older, and completely unfit to be in a relationship himself, but I was young and unable to make the judgement call before he started to hit me. Luckily I woke up before the wedding band went on the finger, and though it was ugly, I did manage to remove myself. Even then I found myself feeling sorry for him, listening to his need to have me there, contemplating re-entering the relationship. Not because I wanted him, but because I hated the responsilbility of hurting someone.
Later relationships threw up further challenges for me, I was to perpetuate this cycle of staying in a partnership in order not to damage the feelings of the other person, and lamentably it always ended up in eventual break up.
Learning to love healthily is the greatest lesson we take on, it is a lifelong pursuit of trying, falling down, picking ourselves up and trying again. I listened to a woman a generation above me when she told me how one friend had gone to her asking whether she should stay with her partner or not. It is never easy to give advice to another on relationship matters, what works for one may not work for another, but I liked her advice.
” Ask yourself is he for or against you?!”
At that time I felt that I was deeply involved with a man that appeared at first very committed to me, but had lately seemed more distant. I was in my late twenties, looking to settle down. I looked at our relationship, and decided he wan’t ‘for’ me. When we were out with other people, he wasn’t attentive, he belittled my working life, he was inconsiderate of my needs, yet selfish with his own. He always put himself first. It hurt to see it, to admit it, and when I finished with him, I was still in love. But I was right.
I was to make more mistakes, I was married twelve years to a wonderful man, just not the right man for me. He was a friend, and I was so fed up with making bad mistakes romantically, that I married for friendship, thinking it would be a better , more lasting enterprise. It wasn’t awful, and we had two amazingly beautiful sons together, but it wasn’t what I was looking for either , it didn’t complete me in the way I needed from a man. So Steinbeck says it better than I do, and I think he was writing to his daughter. Love well,love healthily- if it feels good, then it probably is good. If it feels dull, or painful, or selfish, or hurtful , then it probably is. Don’t feel that a broken relationship is the fault of one person in it, it never is. It is all about the dynamic between the two people, not whether one is good and one bad. When we separated , the unravellling of a marriage was the hardest thing I had ever had to manoevre through, the one thing I was convinced about was that both he and I were the same people we had been when we chose one another, and he deserved my respect and affection. He showed me the same respect. Consequently we were able to maintain a relationship of co-parenting. It hasn’t been easy, but neither would have been remaining married to one another.