I answered him back, I don’t know yet, ask me at the end of it.
In former years I probably would have said yes, simply because I when I love, I love really hard. I don’t waste time with men who are less than theguy before. It follows then, that I would view whoever I was dating, as the love of my life.
I am now however, far more conscious about how I describe love, how I attribute value to it, or label the experience I’m having. I believe this happens when we know what it is to lose love, when we know the twists and turns deep love can take, and when forever turns into a quantifiable number of years, capped with the word closure.
I now live with the accepting, comfortable realisation that no matter how in love I am, however long it has lasted, or how deep it has flowed… it is possible to go deeper. Much deeper. It is possible to love in different directions, more widely, more keenly. It is possible for past lovers, in present moments, to seem an odd choice, when shadowed by the glorious glow of a new relationship.
And so I won’t fool myself or my partner. I will say that currently, you are one of my greatest loves, that this is better than what I have ever had, than what I’ve known so far.
But I don’t know how long we will remain, if we will.
I hope we do.
I hope you are my eternal sunrise. The beautiful eclipse on all my other moons.
But if we fall, for whatever reason, I still know who I am. And I know, that I will dive even deeper, the next time.
Today something so ridiculous and so profound happened in my relationship. It was an argument, well more of a ‘I’m not arguing, so I’m leaving’ moment.
It was over some dried sauce stains on a bowl.
It wasn’t even sauce really, more like that kind of starchy water you get when pasta boils over on the stove. There was a fair amount of it on this bowl, so much so, it went from the drying rack, straight back into the sink for a repeat wash.
It was my partner who had done the washing up, because I had cooked and we take it in turns. We both do our fair share, or some nights one of us will do it all… it just depends on how we feel and what’s going on.
But he had washed this bowl.
When he walked into the kitchen as I was putting away the other dishes, I said to him, nicely..
“Would you be a little more careful when you’re washing up, because things are still dirty these days’.
His response was
“No they’re not, they’re fine.”
…Errr okay, went my brain. Swiftly proceeded by WTF?
I followed up by saying that no they’re not, and to not make me think I was imaging things.
He proceeded to essentially mock what I was saying, make out like I was either nagging or, making it up… I couldn’t work out which.
Both, as it turns out, are totally fucking unacceptable in my world.
He, my amazing, beautiful fiancé, was gaslighting me.
I WAS BEING GASLIGHTED!!!
gerund or present participle: gaslighting
manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.
This is not a term that I have ever used before, mainly because when it’s occurred in the past, with previous partners, I just thought they were sweeping things under the carpet, being a little dense, or choosing to not see me and the experience I was having.
Now however, I know it for what it is, and as that wise woman says – “when we know better, we do better” – and so I called out the bullshit.
I did not reduce or ignore it, just because the topic itself was unimportant (a dirty bowl is not make or break territory). I understand enough to know, that shit like this is never about the topic that started it. Fundamentally, it’s about one partner belittling another, or disengaging with their perspective. It’s about being denied the experience you’re having, how you’re perceiving it and how you’re interpreting it.
It’s about something mattering to one person, and because it is not a priority to the other, them deciding it doesn’t really even exist.
It’s what’s wrong with you, what the hell are you talking about? Instead of okay or fine, if that’s how you feel or I disagree.
My relationship is pretty solid. Our communication is tight, to the point where we might make you a little sick with how paranormally in tune we are with one another. This bowl episode, or bowlgate as I like to call it, could easily have been swept under the carpet because I’ll admit, I was a little hormonal, maybe cranky even, which in turn made me ultra sensitive to this response to a very polite request.
But here’s the thing…
The house is sometimes a bit of a state when my man gets back in the evenings (small child + work at home mum = breakfast dishes present at 5pm), and he’s not slow to mention it (warmly, before he helps to tidy up). What happened over bowlgate however, I equated to me looking him in the eyes on one such evening and saying, “No, the house is clean, why are you nagging?”
Now *that* would be insane.
Because it’s the person doing the gaslighting with the issue, not the receiver. It’s a point that everyone will do good to remember. It’s not you, it’s them.
When we choose to ignore the small things that flair up in our relationships, we will eventually begin tripping over these lumps in the carpet. They become patterns, until eventually there is very little flat, safe ground.
Men, simply because as sexes we have different priorities and ways of seeing the world, are very good at gaslighting. Women, because we can be hormonal, changeable beings, are really good at self doubt. In the wrong doses, this combination is lethal to relationships.
So, my advice is to deal with the small things, on the same day they happen. In the moment, or close to it. Call out the bullshit.
Hold yourselves to a higher standard.
You do not have to agree on everything, but you do need to agree to be kind, to listen and to acknowledge the different ways in which you are seeing the world.
There is a phenomenon in the dating world that can leave some people puzzled with themselves and occasionally the actions of others. It happens when we meet someone who appears to be a perfect fit for us but for some reason we a) ignore the connection b) focus on something petty or c) outright push them away.
Let’s talk about one of the reasons we do this.
The most damaging reason we do it is out of fear. Fear of being hurt (again), fear that it’s too good to be true (and so we’ll end up hurt), fear that it is true and we’re not ready for it, fear that it’s true and we’re not good enough for it.
You’ll see the theme here is fear.
I want you to think of fear as a lodger in your home. Some of us have lodgers who are always out and who never give us any trouble. Others have lodgers who are home for every meal, waiting to be fed, awake into the very small hours, loudly playing indecipherable music.
It’s your job to take control of your home, to take control of the people you allow to enter it and to stay.
When you push someone away who deep down you know is good for you, take it as a crystal clear signal that you need to heal. Specifically, you need to heal the part of you that is unready for your own greatness.
So what are you going to do about it?
There’s a huge difference between a person who rejects Mr or Miss Right because they’re not yet done playing the field, and one who rejects them because they fear some aspect of a good relationship.
Be honest with yourself about which one you are. Recognise that you have underlying beliefs or traumas that are steering you.
Deal with them, and stop playing the cards they’re dealing you.
So for those of you who don’t know – I am a really strong person. I have been through some crazy experiences that quite frankly, I know some people wouldn’t have survived, both emotionally or physically. I am educated, I am successful, I am able to stand on my own two feet, and if push comes to shove, I can be fierce as hell.
But here’s the thing –
I can also crumble at the drop of a hat. I doubt myself about something, maybe once a day. I wonder if I am doing enough, if I am being enough. I think that I should study even more, get another certificate. I think that I should have dressed up more for my man, last week when I had the chance. I think that I should earn even more because I sold the house I thought was my dream home, and I haven’t quite made enough for the next one.
Dear friends, I am one of the most contradictory women you will ever meet. Spontaneous, set in my ways. Aloof, deeply open. Loving, incredibly dismissive. Compassionate, cold. Motivated, passive. Inquisitive, apathetic.
My point is that amongst all of this, all of the idiosyncrasies and the personality deficiencies mixed right in with the chunks of gold, I have never had trouble finding a man. A man that accepts me for who I am. A man who rolls his eyes as I dance manically around the room, and who wipes my tears when I sit still, quietly contemplating my next move in life.
This is a message to all women trying constantly to present themselves as neatly packaged and perfect specimens of womanhood.
Do not dumb down your eccentricities. Do not quieten the storm that keeps your personality blowing wildly through this universe. Do not reject the feminine energy that has built your business empire, or the masculine energy that has stopped you giving up, or giving in. You are not too confident, but yes, you may be too confident for him. You are not too independent, but yes, you may be too confident for him. You are not too vulnerable, but yes, you may be too vulnerable for him.
And so, he is not the one.
Accept yourself. Raise your vibration. Attract the men waiting on that level. And then rise to the next one, together.
A lot of us are taught from a young age that we have to work for the things we want, that we have to work hard to reap the rewards we desire. In the same vein, we’re taught that if we don’t ask, we don’t get. And so, we come to understand that working hard is just one aspect of receiving, and that sometimes we also need to simply state our requirements.
So why is it, that when it comes to relationships, we have adopted the belief about hard work so spectacularly well – devastatingly so, and failed miserably at the part where we ask for what we want?
‘Relationships are hard work’
There are common phrases that will always abound, such as ‘relationships are hard work… marriage is hard work… love is hard work.’ I’m here to set a record straight for anyone who might assume that as a relationship expert, I might agree with this. I don’t. When you’re doing it right, relationships are smart work. It’s when we forget ourselves, forget our worth, our values, that it becomes hard work. The idea that you must work strenuously to achieve the sort of relationship you desire is missing the point entirely. If the set up is correct, meaning that if you have come at it from a place of high consciousness, awareness and emotional health, the focus will be on relationship maintenance. This is because you have done, or are doing, the hard work already, as individuals.
This is what is hard work
The hard work is in challenging why you still believe that love will only come to you if you bleed for it, if you work at being less than you are, less intimidating, less wealthy, less needy, less smart, less independent. The hard work is in establishing why receiving from a loved one, from the universe, from yourself, is something you even need to wrestle with.
Question; how hard have you made yourself work, do you make yourself work, in order to deserve your own love? Will you love yourself more at a particular weight, with a particular education, house, car? If these are the terms that you must live by, then of course convincing someone else to love you is going to be even tougher.
Ask, and ye shall receive
Excuse the catholic upbringing, but now as a student of the universe, I see that it really is that simple. In relationships, we have learned that asking means we are needy, desperate, pushy, unlady-like. In love we have learned that asking means we are putting pressure on lovers, that we are rejecting what has been offered, graced upon us, and that we are proving ourselves to be the spoiled, wanting-too-much-woman a man has always tried to avoid.
We believe that to make ourselves worth it, deserving of things, we need to make ourselves better, always and in all ways. We must make sure our hair and nails are always on point, we must be the correct physical proportions, the right level of vulnerable, so that we are able to handle our own bills, home, career… but not so well that we are threatening.
And so when the desired relationship eludes us, we focus on the best hints, the best tips, tricks, disguises offered to get it. Very few of us, are able to simply stand still and ask the question of a lover ‘Will you give me…?‘
So how about this?
If you’re someone who has issues with receiving, think about what you are happy to receive and then question why it is easier to accept this, than the other things you really want. Question what your heart most desires from love and how many times you have directly asked for it. Question when you have bitten your tongue, or changed your choices. Why is it that you are blocked in this way – and what have you done to change?
All of us, no matter how naturally chirpy, bubbly, light-hearted or fun, can go through moments of negativity. For some it’s confined to particular topics or situations, like work, relationships or our in-laws. For others, there is no rhyme or reason and it just depends on the day or mood we’re in. This is perfectly normal.
The kind of negativity to be discussed here is the more permanent type. The sort that has, for whatever reason, become engrained into someone’s personality and appears to seep into every fibre of their being. It can present itself as complaining, as being realistic, as being honest, or a whole host of other euphemisms they choose to use.
The question is, what type of person do you think you are, and would your closest friends and family agree? Is your own negativity part time, or do people see it as a full time character trait?
Let’s be clear, this is not about people who are truly going through difficult and negative times in their life. It’s about a state of being and communicating that takes little provocation or outside influence. It’s worth bearing in mind also, that negative people aren’t always aware of their behaviour. Rather than tell them, it can be easier for others to limit their time with them, or to avoid sensitive topics all together.
Getting to know yourself
If you’re not sure what people think of you, why not come right out and ask them? If this is far too direct for you, then there are also some signals you can look out for to get an idea of how friends or colleagues view you. If more than a few of the below statements resonate, or one does a lot, think about what it means and whether or not there are some changes you want to make to your behaviour.
People tell you things such as you’re so negative, or that you’re so hard on yourself or others
People often ask you if there were any good points to a story or experience you’re sharing
When listening to someone else’s experiences, they frequently need to remind you that it’s not a competition
Friends or family often try to have you focus on the different, positive side of a situation, rather than the story you’re telling or want to tell
People close to you frequently preface conversations with I need you to be positive
You have a reputation for being cynical or judgemental or lacking tact
Another way to check your own behaviour is to think about the last time you actually encouraged another adult to do something, told them they were capable, and that regardless of your own experiences or what you’ve heard, they have your full support.
How it feels for the people around you
To be on the receiving end of negativity is one of the most draining places to be. There are times when you’re literally able to feel the energy draining from your body and it can result in the desire to stop communication all together.
If you know people glaze over when you speak, sigh, or they become more and more withdrawn, start to pay attention to how you’re responding to the things they tell you. Recognise if you’re one of these people who only moves between outright negativity and the low tones of oh, good luck with that.
Practice being excited for someone – practice stepping outside your view of how terrible or complicated everything is.
Different lives, different perceptions
There are some people with lives that unfortunately seem to warrant the amount of negativity they emit into the world. They’re used to being let down or things rarely going their way. Whilst empathy may be your first port of call, be careful for your own sake how much of it you give away.
Some people aren’t satisfied with sharing their perceptions of the world and are actively waiting for company in their negativity. Some even pretend that their view is fact or the norm and that you’re simply yet to experience the truth of life that they have. If you’re a generally positive person then don’t buy it. Spot it quickly and protect yourself as much as you need to.
For clients enveloped in the world of over-zealous journalists and the desperation of newspapers to provide sensationalist headlines, privacy is one of the biggest concerns they have. As with the rest of the population, entering into new relationships can be a rollercoaster of emotions, both daunting and exciting all in the same instant. The added pressure however of having your new situation tainted by the possibility of excessive exposure can trigger unhealthy levels of self-protection. As a means to pre-empt and understand what is healthy and what is not, you’ll need to learn to distinguish the sometimes deceptive line between privacy and secrecy.
Regardless of how well-known or not that you are, everyone values privacy around something in their life. Reasons can vary from simply not liking to be asked questions, to embarrassment about certain subjects or trying to protect yourself and loved ones. Secrecy on the other hand, is a whole different ball game.
Aside from birthday surprises, gifts or other glorious life events we find so hard to keep to ourselves, secrets tend to result from fear. It can be a fear of being viewed in a certain light, fear of losing your reputation, or of being openly confronted with things you’re not ready to deal with publicly.
Why do you need either?
Ask yourself, why do you want your relationship to be private? Asking this basic question as often as possible, and answering as honestly as possible, will stop any thoughts you have from becoming unchallenged habits. Left undefined and unchecked, privacy can quickly turn into secrecy, and self-awareness is the only way to stay consciously connected to your relationship goals.
When it comes to dating there is a natural tendency to want to see how things progress before sharing news with loved ones or the world. If your aim is to love and date with minimum interference and outside opinion, then this can be a really positive choice and experience to have. Even when it gets to the point where your private times are happening in public places, it helps to remember that between the two of you there is little that need change. Whilst this may seem easier said than done, like everything else worth working for, there are tools and strategies that can be developed to help you achieve it.
Fear of the fall out from exposure, or the presumptions of others, will encourage the quickest detour into secrecy. Before, or even as this is happening, be sure it’s a road you want to take. Hardship doesn’t automatically mean you should hide away. If you do, it may mean you start making choices based around what is most unlikely to get you noticed, instead of around what your relationship or life actually needs in order to progress.
Secrecy: what’s the worst that could happen?
Asking yourself, what is the absolute worst case scenario if people find out about my relationship? can take a lot of pressure off decisions you’ve been making based around fear. Whether it’s that your children will find out before you’re ready to tell them, or that people will get hurt, there are clearly situations where privacy is necessary. However, avoid secrecy by giving them an expiry date. It can be at a particular milestone, or what you consider to be a suitable length of time.
When a relationship becomes more about the fear of exposure than the desire for togetherness, something will begin to erode away. Fear takes more from us and will burn us out far quicker than love ever could, and you’ll end up creating your own alternate version of the worst thing that could happen.
The long-term impact of secrecy
Whilst maintaining privacy can really strengthen a relationship, secrecy can be detrimental. Privacy can be gracefully cultivated and comes with a certain amount of respect. It means you deal with issues internally within the relationship, you learn who you can trust and are careful not to dilute the power between yourselves with the opinions or actions of others.
Secrecy is a weight around a couple’s neck, however light it may start out, it is still there with the potential to grow. It is based on fear and so is the perfect breeding ground for more of it, whether that’s abuse in all its forms or simple stagnation when trying to move forwards.
If you’re ever in doubt as to whether your relationship, or elements of it, are private or secret, go into yourself and check on how the issue makes you feel. Does it weigh down your heart, or give it peace?
As mentioned above, when it comes to new love you should have some personal and joint milestones with your partner. This can be as simple as your first public appearance, your first introductions to children or staying at each other’s homes and vacationing together. Giving yourself milestones is a useful cue to keep tabs on whether the relationship is going in the direction you hope for.
Milestones will alert you also to when what perhaps began as privacy, morphs into secrecy. For example, a partner who after a year has not yet officially confirmed your relationship or who will not introduce you to their friends, may have different reasons to what you originally believed.
It’s easy to be swept along from one state to the other, so a good piece of relationship maintenance is knowing when what you were originally protecting has in any way changed, or needs to be re-evaluated. Does the relationship or any element of it still need protecting, or can you now let go and move your energy to something else? Look out for signs of when you can let loose the reigns or make boundaries more flexible.
At a time when images and both real and fake news are so easily shared across social media, the last thing people want is a new situation ruined before even the honeymoon period is over. This being said, take care to not let fear slip in and overtake a budding relationship. Be sure of everything that truly needs to be private, work through any fears involved in secrets and focus on the experience you are having, not other people’s assessment of it.
When it comes to infidelity, it’s natural for us to first think about how it’s different depending on the gender of the person doing the cheating. We’re also influenced by our ethnic backgrounds and the cultures we’re part of, meaning that further distinctions are made about why cheating happens and the damage it causes.
What very few of us do is look for commonalities or shared experiences of what it is for a person to cheat on another. We divide and categorise the human race in the hope that by separating and labelling people, we’ll whittle life down to a simplicity that is more manageable to understand, accept and live with.
So here’s a thought: what is more useful perhaps is to consider the reason why us humans, as a whole, have issues with infidelity and then to focus on addressing this, rather than topics of gender, race or anything else an individual has no hand in.
If we look at the needs we all have, for significance, attention, security, power, love and the reasons behind self-harm, low self-esteem, low-awareness, addiction and dishonesty, we’re more able to discuss issues from a place of compassion rather than judgement. With compassion comes the space for true understanding. The results may not be as easy to accept, but it gives us the tools to truly enhance and aid our connection with each other.
If there’s one path in life that I’ve been able to follow with minimal fear, it has to the one of relationships. There may have been hesitations or doubts, but fear, no. From the very start of my dating life there’s been what you may call an internal compass. I’ve always respected the line between the synchronicity I share with a potential partner and the reality of being with them. I’ve never for a second doubted my self-worth, nor underestimated that of the person I chose to sleep with at night.
I’m not saying it’s been an easy ride, not in the slightest. There has been immeasurable pain and times I made decisions that floored everything I thought was holding my life, our lives, together. I can honestly say however, that I have never entered a union that wasn’t utterly glorious – in its love, its lessons and indeed its pain.
I can also say, with my hand on my heart, that I have only ever dated kings.
To fully understand this, you need to understand what it means to give in a relationship. You also need to know and be fully conscious of what your own quiet and dignified sense of self-worth requires. There’s no way you can live within your worth and not acknowledge that the person you’re with isn’t, by default, someone very special. And if they’re not, there will be personal issues you need to address about yourself.
I consider it my job in a relationship to daily remind my partner, that he is loved, beautiful, respected, appreciated and backed by a heart that will not let him know any less, even in his weakest moments. Dating a king, for me, means kisses on the lips, candle-lit dinners, being the lover, the friend, the carer. It’s a level of love and attention that would be exhausting, if it weren’t for the fact that it is reflected back, tenfold. When two people stand in their power and are continuously encouraged to do so by one another, there is a circle of unity so strong that where it begins and ends is unidentifiable.
What you accept in life, in your relationships, your friendships, your work connections, will always be a direct reflection of how you view yourself and your life at that moment in time. How you treat people will always say more about you than it does them. So, when you invite someone into the magnificence that you are, let them know how much you value yourself by showing them how special they must have been to get the job.
It’s been my view, my unwavering rule, that if I’m to date a man, share my life with him, then by default he must be nothing less than what I consider royalty. Why would a person, who truly values themselves, be with anyone less?