I’ve found that since I split with my husband, as a young(ish) single mum, my love life (or lack thereof) suddenly seems interesting to other people. My workmates consist of many women who have sons my age, they like to chat over the lunch table about which son might be the best fit for me. It’s all light hearted, loving conversation from women I greatly admire and respect… and I’m sure their sons are lovely… not that I have entertained any of the conversations in the slightest. I’m a couple of weeks away from my court date now and with a divorce in my 20s looming on the horizon I’ve been spending a lot of time self analysing and thinking about lust and love and all the things in between.
I was in a relationship when I met my (ex)husband for the first time. I was in fact engaged to a fun, beautiful and very manipulative woman. We had been together for a couple of years, and somehow when I cut the cord on what had been a very emotionally controlling relationship I ended up falling face first in a very different but in hindsight unbelievably similar relationship. We create patterns that we seem destined to repeat. Not because they are good for us, but because they are familiar. We accept the love we believe we deserve.
Before my first engagement came a series of messy, crazy, hormone fueled relationships. Each and every one ended in the sort of messy revolting breakups that one would hope one would NEVER repeat. But somehow I did, ad nauseum. That sort of crazy is reserved to early 20s only, you just can’t get away with that sort of shit when you get older, it’s embarrassing. I’ve never done picture perfect, if such a thing really does exist outside of facebook. I’ve done messy almost any way you can possibly imagine it. With what could only be designed as a fatalistic, self destructive attitude I found myself in many bad-for-me relationships, one tumbling into another without so much as a break to breathe in between. I think part of it was immaturity and my need for high impact drama, and a greater part was a misdirected human need for feeling loved and desired. I didn’t know how to feel like I belonged without putting my body on the line. I didn’t know how to protect my heart or my body from manipulation. I didn’t know how to feel worthy of love unless I had someone loving me. I needed constant validation of my worth. I relied on someone to love me so I could have any chance of loving myself.
After Bo’s second birthday I spent the entire night sitting on my back step drinking red wine in the freezing cold with my beautiful friend (Bo’s godmother) who had flown from the other side of the country for a little kids birthday party. We both work in social services and given our extraordinary interest in why people do the things they do we always end up analysing each others lives over many a bottle of wine. We talked a lot about love, because you know, love. love. love. We talked even more about sex. Both of us are single, intelligent, interesting women in our late 20s… and whilst our conversations weave through a myriad of topics, more often than not, somehow we always end up talking about sex and love – much like we did in our teens.
When I asked her about her love life, she told me that this year was to be her year of the greatest love of all. I was curious of course… who is this great love? It turns out, she is, or at least she is determined to make it so. Determined to break bad habits and fall in love with herself. A year destined for cultivating self love in every sense of the word. What a bloody inspiring woman she is (in so many ways). To be honest with you, I was floored a bit. I know this in theory of course. Loving ourselves should always come first. We all know we are worthy of love and that we should treat ourselves with great respect. It’s a given.
In a world where so much stock is put on our sexuality and our relationship status, loving yourself seems like this new agey nonsense that is somewhat unachievable if it doesn’t come totally naturally to you.
Is it really possible to cultivate a loving, physical, emotional, compassionate relationship with yourself? It turns out, it totally is. At least for some. I have one particular female friend who does self-love unlike anyone I have ever met. She is a self-loving, compassionate, powerful, single women who talks about (physical and emotional) self love in a way that makes you want what she’s got… with herself. It comes so naturally to her and it’s inspiring. For many of us, it takes great practice to break bad habits and to change the cycles that we have created in our own lives.
For someone like me who is coming to terms with the fact that I have always some how defined my self worth by how valued I am by a significant other… it’s a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’ve been taking on for a while now, away from the computer, away from everyone else… it starts in my head, in the way that I talk to myself when I look in the mirror. It starts in the way I value my time and the people I spend it with. It stops me from diving into a relationship that I’m not ready for. It stops me from seeking out sexual relationships and encourages me to build strong, empowering friendships that are based on nothing more than mutual respect and loving kindness.
When I walk into that court room in a few weeks and I change my official relationship status to ‘divorced,’ I’ll try not to let that little word scream failure at me… instead I’ll take it as another curve ball that life has thrown at me, as some kind of blessing in disguise. I’ll find a way to embrace the new label, as adverse as I am to them… and I’ll see it as a sign that I have finally learned my lesson.
Life is far too short not to have a love affair with yourself, no matter your relationship status. Happiness comes from within, after all.
(Oh, and never put up with a manipulative asshat for a partner because they say that they love you. You are always worth more than that. Obviously)