Today is a day to celebrate love with that special someone in our lives. It is a day my husband and I don’t celebrate massively; a card, a kiss, a yummy eggs Benedict (my favourite) cooked by Mr J. It is a day that over the commercialised bears and expensive set menus, the message of why we SHOULD at the very least acknowledge it, can get lost. It is a day Mr J and I appreciate how lucky we are to have found each other while reflecting on what could have been if we had previously settled for other partners, ones that didn’t quite fit.
Sure you shouldn’t NEED a day to celebrate your love, but in the madness of every day life it’s nice to have a moment to recognise that finding a life partner is not a given. Those of us who have ‘it’ are blessed, and remembering why it is we chose this person over every other is important, whether on Valentine’s Day or any other.
Most of us have had our share of unsuccessful relationships. Mine were always intense, always serious and ultimately when they ended it was messy, painful and life changing. But I don’t believe that people are bad or toxic. I just believe in bad fits, and in weaknesses that don’t match strengths. I’ve been cheated on, treated like I wasn’t a priority and had my heart-broken. Am I bitter? Absolutely not!
None of the ‘men’ I was with before were right for me, just as I wasn’t right for them.
I sometimes wish I knew then what I know now – that relationships shouldn’t be a constant struggle. That’s not to say that there won’t be challenges. A significant amount of effort is required on both sides to make a relationship work, but your energies should be spent on building a life together and facing the daily grind as a team.
Struggles should bring you closer together, not pull you apart. Fighting constantly and feeling like you’re always conflicting is a waste of precious energy and will ultimately drain all those involved. That feeling of ‘if only we can just get through this’ as though by magic everything will suddenly fall into place – I’ve been there. It doesn’t work.
But it was absolutely important for me to experience the wrong relationships, to appreciate how good it feels now. How easy love should be.
Relationships are full of compromises, but that should never mean compromising who you are. I often felt alone with ex-partners, like I was fighting against them instead of with them. I used to feel like I was abnormal as I tried desperately to hide or fight against my faults, as though they were something to be ashamed of. All because the person I was with didn’t like that part of me.
But I was guilty of the same thing. I wanted the selfish boyfriend to put me first, I wanted the reclusive one to take me out more. It wasn’t fair on them, or me. You just end up bringing each other down because all you are showing each other is how they don’t measure up in the way you want them to.
Do we not all deserve to be loved for exactly who we are, warts and all?
I wasted a lot of time trying to make relationships work because I thought I was ‘in love’ and that all the hard work would be worth it in the end. The truth? I loved the person that I myself projected on to my partners, a persona that I created. I wanted someone who put me first, and would then try to fit the men I met and entered into relationships with into that mould.
Instead of waiting for someone who naturally was who I needed, I berated those who weren’t.
Ultimately it comes down to one thing. Do you bring out the best or the worst in each other? Do you like yourself when you’re together? Or do you find yourself scolding yourself, and the person you’re with?
I know I did. I felt like a worse version of myself. Like relationships made me weak, made me doubt my sanity and myself.
I’m far from perfect. I have a temper and get over-emotional. But while this used to irritate previous partners to the point where the smallest thing would escalate into a full-blown argument, this never seems to happen now.
Somehow my Mr J is able to balance me out and he knows instinctively how to react, but not because he’s trying, but because it’s who he naturally is. He doesn’t try to appease me, I would have no respect for him if he did. He just knows how to tell me to shut up in a way I don’t feel attacked or criticised. In turn, his balanced nature has rubbed off on me and the confidence our relationship has given me has tempered my temper. Equally I don’t have to feel guilty when I’m being emotional or upset. Our faults don’t seem to aggravate some other part of each other’s personalities.
He puts out my fire before it gets out of control, instead of pouring petrol on it.
This was made no clearer to me than the other day when I apologised to him for being so up and down. I can be the happiest person in the World one minute and the saddest the next. His reaction? – “You don’t have to apologise for being you. I married you, and that includes all that you are”.
And that’s how I knew. Not because I felt some in-explainable feeling of ‘he’s the one’, ignoring warning signs because ‘love conquers all’… Not because he ‘completes’ me – we’re both complete people on our own and the notion that you complete someone, in my opinion, is one of the signs of co-dependency, not love.
It’s because we allow each other to be completely and unconditionally who we already are. While there are things about our life we would like to change, we don’t want to change each other.
A love with no disclaimer.
Actually, looking back, I didn’t know love at all. They were ALL co-dependent. Scary!
To me, the relationships that stand the test of time are the ones that may not always agree behind closed doors, but ultimately it’s them vs the world. Their disagreements don’t escalate into mud-slinging matches, attacking each other on a personal level with intent to hurt.
Arguments happen, but they don’t result in two people slowly breaking each other down until they are shadows of whom they once were.
Successful relationships, compatible relationships, make you feel stronger – like you have double protection. Together you are impenetrable.
We’re not perfect, but our faults compliment each other. We fit perfectly around each other like two pieces of a puzzle. And our life is a one big puzzle that we create together, finding other pieces that fit making up the bigger picture that will be our life.
I can’t think of a better day to commemorate this kind of blessing.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!