Thank you for ripping my soul apart in so devastating a manner that I have no choice but to stitch myself back together – properly this time.
Thank you for showing me exactly the type of man who will never deserve a space in my heart again, ever.
Thank you for showing me that I am strong beyond comprehension – something I have never believed about myself.
Thank you for showing me that I am capable of the most incredible and all-encompassing love that a person has to offer.
Thank you for showing me the greatness of the love I have to give and how to keep that so fiercely guarded that I never waste it on another undeserving boy playing at being a man.
Thank you for showing me who you are and teaching me how to listen out for someone who is narcissistic and subversive, in effect teaching me exactly the toxic type of man whom I need to stay away from.
Thank you for teaching me how to not be so selfless that I (almost) forget who I am.
Thank you for teaching me that I cannot pour all of my love into another in an attempt to heal them.
Thank you for replacing me so easily that I had no choice but to excise the cancer that is you, move on and keep moving on, every day, one foot in front of the other.
Thank you for teaching me that my boundless love does not come from me (it comes from a Source so much bigger than me), and that despite pouring all of myself into you, I’ve in fact gained more than you could ever have taken away.
Thank you for teaching me that I am not hateful – not in the least – because even after all this, I don’t hate you.
I do not give any credence to statements like “love is enough” or “sometimes love just isn’t enough”, whichever the case.
Love is not security.
Love is not sex.
Love is not companionship.
I believe there are three pillars upon which love is built. Essentially, I believe that love is a by product of these foundational elements, which are;
If you look at these three qualities it’s quite easy to see that they are what love, in it’s fullest and purest form is made up of and they all need to be present to enable love to exist in the first place. Unless you have all three of these elements, you don’t have love. You may have what appears to be love, infatuation, lust, affection, amongst others but you’re kidding yourself if you believe you have love.
So with this in mind, let’s look at these three elements.
Let’s start with honesty, because it’s a big one and one with which we all have the most trouble.
Honesty means more than just telling the truth. It also means being sincere with your words and your actions, being fair, true to yourself and your partner, and having integrity. Honesty vastly begins and ends with you.
Unless we can be honest with ourselves and take ownership of our shortcomings, we will have a very difficult time being honest with and accepting honesty from others.
There are many people who claim to be “honest above all else” yet, in my experience, it is usually these very people who when confronted with dishonesty or lies, all do one thing; they get angry and/or defensive. Understandably so. We hate to confront our shortcomings especially when anything less than perfect is “undesirable”, certainly in modern popular culture.
I’m no psychiatrist but I do know that anger and defensiveness are often used to deflect that which we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves and if you refuse to accept your own shortcomings, how is it that you can be so audacious as to call out the shortcomings of your partner, or anyone else for that matter? We are not all guilty of the same behaviours but we do all have shortcomings and unless we can sit down and be truly honest with ourselves first, how we expect honesty to survive in a relationship? For this element to build a foundation for love it must not simply survive, rather it must be cultivated, nurtured.
I am not saying that we should run around the surface of the earth blurting out every subjectively honest thing we think our loved ones should be made aware of or that we try to use honesty to justify unhealthy or unkind behaviour within a relationship romantic or otherwise.
This brings us to trust, the timid, nervous and extremely fragile little animal inside each of us that is often the one who takes the most abuse in life.
Trust is not simply a placing of expectation that we will not be hurt in another person’s metaphorical hands, it is also the placing of one’s hope, confidence and faith in another person with the hope that person does not hurt us. An action that demands we make ourselves vulnerable and this scares us.
It scares us because to a large extent vulnerability has a negative connotation in an age where we are continually told we—both genders but especially men—must be strong; yet strength and vulnerability are not mutually exclusive.
Being vulnerable and placing one’s trust in someone else takes an immeasurable amount of strength and is therefore not weakness at all, especially given how trust in others can take such brutal beatings.
There are very few people, if any, who have not at some point had the trust they placed in someone completely decimated but it is the one thing we need to be able to give that defines the trust you receive in return.
The final foundational element is respect and as with honesty, unless you respect yourself, you will be unable to give respect to another.
Respect–are you also singing Aretha Franklin in your head or is it just me…?–is not just esteeming a person for their position in your life, but respecting them in how you treat their body, their feelings, their thoughts as expressed to you and how you conduct yourself when they are not around.
Respect is taking into consideration how your actions will directly affect that person, especially if this effect is negative. It’s more about recognising someone else’s position in our life as important, valuable and worth honouring. If you do this your treatment of that person will be positive. If you don’t, it’s likely to be quite negative.
So with this in mind, I think it’s easy to see why I don’t believe that love is an emotion that stands on its own merit. If you have neither honesty, trust or respect there can be no love. This is because love in its fullest form is honest, it is trusting, it is respectful.
As three strands twist together to make a rope, so honesty, trust and respect twist to make love.
The twist of the strands in a rope serves not only to keep a rope together, but enables the rope to more evenly distribute tension among the individual strands. Without any twist in the rope, the shortest strand(s) would always be supporting a much higher proportion of the total load.
It is the same for love. If there is uneven distribution between partners, friends, colleagues etc., one person will always be bearing the bulk of the emotional load and if there is one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that this uneven yolk will breed resentment and like I have said before resentment is relationship cancer.
More than this however, uneven yoking in a relationship will cause one person to become fatigued, unbalanced and will set the stage for abuse in some form, be it physical, emotional or psychological and this will eventually lead to the demise of the relationship. If it doesn’t, it will perpetuate unhealthy habits within the relationship and that is not good for anyone.
Thank you for reading.
Relationships, especially romantic relationships require work, they require love in action, they require compromise and a necessary element of working out our issues comes in the form of a fight.
A fight does not have to be a screaming match, nor does it necessarily have to be something we look at negatively. A fight that is fair, has boundaries and is constructive can do your relationship the world of good, clear the air, set things straight and often bear some pretty tasty fruit aka make-up sex.
If you want your relationship to be one that weathers the stormy days, then implementing some clearly defined boundaries when you fight is essential. Though not an exact science because no two relationships are alike, here are some practical and helpful guidelines to ensuring that you are not only heard but that you hear what your partner is saying, which will in turn help you to address concerns levelled at you and most importantly, deal with the issue at hand and move forward. No one wants to fight over the same thing time after time, it’s frustrating, not at all constructive, demoralising and largely unnecessary.
Fight Club Rules
1. You do not talk about fight club
Aside perhaps from trying to gain perspective and guidance from only your closest and most trusted confidants do not get caught up in the trap of bad mouthing you partner every time you have a disagreement.
Constant bad mouthing will create a negative and one-sided perception that you would not appreciate were the shoe on the other foot. After you’ve kissed and made up, your relationship may lose credibility in the eyes of your friends.
2. You do not talk about fight club AT ALL on social media
This really should go without saying but having witnessed couples having a go at each other whilst still together or shortly after having broken up, it warrants repeating.
Break-ups can be messy, emotional, and traumatic events for the couple going through a separation, yet are largely storms in teacups taking place in a land far away for bystanders and friends.
If you condemn your partner or ex on a public platform, prepare to be judged for every utterance, which can severely affect relationships with mutual friends. Always remember, when you fling mud, you’re likely to get some on yourself.
3. If Someone Says Stop, The Fight Is Over
No two people have the same temperament, tolerance levels and attention spans. To expect your partner to sit through an overly detailed account of everything they’ve been perceived by you to have done wrong can be exhausting. When tensions rise and you are nowhere near to resolving the conflict, you may need to take a break and calm down.
No one likes to be shouted at. No one likes shouting because they feel they are not being heard either. When it stops being constructive, take five (or fifty) minutes to breathe. Come back to resolve the issue when you are both calm. Be respectful of your partner’s desire to take a time out and conversely, don’t leave it for too long if you know your partner likes to sort things out and move on faster than you do.
4. Only Two People To A Fight
There are two people in the relationship, there should only be two people involved in any given argument. The moment you involve a friend or family member in your intimate relationship, things are going to get messy. If you are arguing about what a third party said or did, look at the incident in and of itself and put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
If someone close to your partner offended you, for example, speak to that person directly and do not take it out on your partner. If a friend says something that is unwarranted of your partner, have your partner’s back and do not undermine them because you want to put on a show for your friends. This will damage the trust aspect of your relationship in the long term.
5. One Fight At A Time
Multi-tasking is an illusion – so are 2-in-1 shampoos but that’s a story for another day. Give arguments the attention and closure they deserve to prevent them from rearing their ugly heads time after time. It is not constructive to dredge up long buried events, especially if you are using that event as a form of defence against a gripe levelled at you by your partner. That tactic is tantamount to emotional manipulation and has no place in a healthy relationship. It may be that you don’t like what your partner has said; however when we face the truth about ourselves and the effect our actions have on others, it can be painful. Put your pride in your back pocket and commit to working on your flaws as much as you would like your partner to work on theirs. If one person is doing all the compromising—which in fact is no longer compromising but sacrifice—it’s going to cause resentment and that is relationship cancer.
6. No Fists, No Weapons
If you or someone you know is trapped in an abusive relationship, please contact one of the following organisations;
Lifeline South Africa’s National Helpline on 0861-322322
Stop Gender Violence Helpline on 0800-150150
POWA – People Opposed to Women Abuse on 083-7651235
Family & Marriage Association of South Africa on 011-9757106/7
7. Fights Will Go On As Long As They Have To
Though do whatever you can to prevent an argument lasting past bedtime. Take the time to listen to your partner. Too often we listen with the intent to respond and are busy formulating our counter argument before that person is finished speaking. This will cause undue frustration.
I once heard of a couple who fought over text message in different rooms of the house, so they did not shout at each other, talk over each other or have their children witness their spat. They did have some guidelines like one message at a time and at intervals of a minute. This may not work for everyone but find a method that helps you minimise fallout, as it were.
8. If This Is Your First Night At Fight Club, You Have To Fight
It’s much easier to lay down some ground rules for a fight before you actually have one. Some rules that I apply to myself are as follows;
Never use absolutes (pun intended) – No matter how valid your point, you will derail your entire argument by using absolutes.
Cruelty is unnecessary – In my experience, cruelty is only ever used to detract from a valid argument. Don’t fall into the trap. When you calm down you will likely regret having said something awful and you will be unable to take it back.
Afford your partner the same courtesies you seek – For instance, if you hate being spoken over, do not interrupt your partner. If you don’t like being sworn at, do not swear at your partner. If you expect your partner to change minor behaviours, you should be prepared to do the same.
Do not use accusatory language – Speak in the first person, say ‘I’ more than you say ‘you’ and try not to point. If you appear to accuse then your partner will go on the defensive and is less likely to listen to you.
Apologise when you are wrong – When you realise you are wrong, apologise, sincerely and do not use the words “I’m sorry” as some sort of fix all that you bandy about to get you out of trouble or the words become meaningless.
Make amends – If you have unintentionally hurt your partner and are sorry, make amends immediately. Find out what your partners love language is and make it up to them.
If you still find yourselves unable to navigate the stormy seas, you may want to enlist the help of a relationship counsellor.
Before you balk at the idea of therapy, take cognisance of the fact that your car needs fuel, oil, and regular services to keep it in good mechanical health. Your relationship is the same. You can take precautionary measures and stop problems before they start or you can address the problems when you encounter them. Long gone are the days where couples therapy was perceived as a failure or something to be ashamed of or laughed at. In fact, it demonstrates your desire to maintain and in many cases, improve your relationship.
You often hear it said that ‘all you need is love’ and I am not here to argue that. Love is essential but you need more than love to preserve your relationship and couples therapy is one of those tools that can help you do that.
As I sit and write this, in a favourite haunt of mine near home, I sit opposite a young couple with a small baby. They are cooing and stroking the child’s head and making lots of kissing noises and smiling at the child and at each other, which in turn makes me smile.
It’s a scene I have seen often in my life and it’s a question that gets posed to me with uncanny regularity. “So… when are you and Mr M going to tie the knot and have babies?” I cringe inwardly every single time that the question is posed, mainly because my honest answer is met with abject disbelief more than ninety percent of the time and it’s usually virtual strangers who feel they have the right to question my response; which is usually something like this: [Me smiling] “I don’t want children”.
It’s this apparently unconventional response from a woman that sparks in people a desire to change it, regardless of the fact that they do not know me, my lifestyle, my potential health issues or upbringing remotely well enough to do so.
The rebuttals. I have heard them all!
“What? You don’t like kids?”
“Oh, you’ll change your mind! I was just like you once, then I found my soul mate.”
“You can’t focus solely on your career, you’ll end up lonely!”
“I’m sure you think yourself too selfish now, but that all changes when you have a baby”
“You just don’t understand the mother/child bond” – this one I find incredibly narrow-minded but we’ll come back to this.
The truth is, I am not too selfish, I am not too career driven and I do not dislike children. I completely understand why people have children. To celebrate their love and spawn the next generation, full of promise and wonder. Quite.
Lots, but not all, of my friends have children. Most of whom I like, some whom I absolutely love. I also have a niece who is one of the most beautiful souls in the world!
So what influenced this decision? Was I always this way? The honest truth is simply; no.
I had a somewhat normal childhood (bullying not withstanding). I had a difficult relationship with my brother in my pre-teen and teen years but those issues resolved themselves eventually and as mentioned before there were bigger things at play which we didn’t understand then but because it’s a very personal topic for my brother, I will not get into it here. I also have a sister, with whom I am very close and with whom I have always enjoyed a special bond. I love my siblings and am very protective of them. Lastly, I had and continue to have a great relationship with my parents, in particular my mother.
This brings me back to the response I get from a lot of women and recently one man; “You just don’t and can’t possibly understand the mother/child bond”.
I said that I find it incredibly narrow-minded because I have first hand experience of this bond – I am a child. I understand perfectly well what it is to love someone more than you love yourself, to love someone so much that you would–without thought or hesitation–give up your life for this person. I have five such people in my life–my parents, my siblings and my niece, so to say that I don’t understand that bond may be true of you but it is not true for me.
I won’t postulate as to the reasons why it’s not true for you but as I have mentioned before I am an intuitive empath.
I don’t have to have experienced something first hand to feel, on a visceral level, the pain or love or sadness or guilt or happiness that someone else is feeling. I get a sense of these emotions just by being near some people, which explains why I struggle with crowds and have to spend time alone after social gatherings to decompress and find my centre.
Oft times I will be inexplicably upset, angry, sad or happy and I cannot tell you why exactly but it’s in large part due to the people I have spent time around that day. It’s only because Mr Mr mentioned to me how striking it was that I could identify, empathise, sympathise with and vocalise things he had experienced that I started looking into what an empath is. Furthermore, he is not the only person to have said this of me so, to be told I simply don’t understand is not only narrow-minded but shows just how little you know about me, which then begs the question;
Why do you expect me to answer to you on this very personal matter?
I read a child free and happy blog post a while back and for the life of me I cannot remember who the blogger was but what she said stuck with me. (If I ever find her blog again, I will credit her in full).
This blogger mentioned that she had a friend who could not have children and went on to describe how deeply it hurt her friend when she had to try and answer some very personal questions without actually divulging her real reason for being childless.
In truth, the blogger’s friend was wracked with pain and longing and was ripped apart every time someone questioned why she was childless. It’s one thing to divulge these details to your inner circle but quite another to go into very personal medical details with someone you hardly know well enough. Someone who is trying to tell you what you should feel or do without actually knowing who you are.
When did people become so invasive and when did we feel it was the norm to offer opinions on such deeply personal issues without being asked for them?
I was not always intent on not having children. I was married and those thoughts crossed my mind regularly, especially in the dying throes of my marriage where my reticence to have children was the reason I was given that the marriage was not working.
Cum hoc ergo propter hoc.
In truth, I was not prepared to have children to fix my marriage and when I said to Gerald that he could simply replace me with another womb to get the job done because it had nothing to do with how much we loved each other, he issued me with the ultimatum to have kids or get divorced.
I rested my case. No only was the blame for our faltering marriage being laid squarely and unequivocally at my feet (as it continues to be to this day), it showed me the reason why Gerald refused to do any of the work necessary to make our marriage work; because he did not believe he had any culpability for the breakdown. So whilst I was in two minds about having kids during my marriage, my decision was set in stone when he uttered those words.
Unless a child is forged out of love, in a mutually respectful and caring relationship, what are you trying to achieve by having one? Being a parent is one of the most honourable, difficult roles in life and is chosen far too glibly by far too many people. I have vastly more respect for what my parents did.
In closing I’d like to ask: Why is it then, that women who decide to forgo having children are the ones who have to explain themselves?
Has raising children suddenly become easier? Less costly? Less of a responsibility? Are there fewer dangers in the world?
I do not look down my nose and question why women choose to have children and it would be nice to have my choice respected, regardless of whether you agree with it or not because it’s not your choice to make in the first place.
Thank you for reading.
I have always believed in marriage. Perhaps for all the obvious reasons; the pinnacle of commitment, of love and a declaration to the world and to God of your promise to love, honour and cherish your partner. The cleaving of husband to wife, the creation of a family, forsaking all others, committing to love this one person, for as long as you live–or until things break down so irretrievably that you end up in the divorce courts.
It’s been a year since Mr M and I started dating and the inevitable mid to long-term future discussions have started to come up with more regularity. It is clear as day to me that I have met my lobster. The one person who is so well matched to me in so many ways, who is able to engage on emotional, intellectual and physical levels I have never before experienced. Having spent years in an emotional wasteland of a marriage with a partner who was unable to engage on an emotional level, Mr M has truly been a revelation. I will never be able to adequately put into words how deeply satisfying and rewarding this relationship is. All of the friends who knew me then and now have said that it’s been great to see me find someone who is ‘able to keep up’ with me, who is emotionally available, genial, funny and intelligent. Which is not to say that my ex was none of those things, just that Mr M is the epitome of those things.
I credit Mr M in large part with how quickly I have been able to truly move past some of my previous hangups and put down the baggage. I am living the adage: It is not time but love that heals.
I have been afforded the opportunity to bask in the warmth of a love that is honest, respectful and nurturing; indeed it is only when we trust and are trusted, that we feel secure enough to love with abandon. To let go of all desire to control, secure in the knowledge that by relinquishing control we afford love the opportunity to effloresce.
We have all seen those who try to tame, control, cage and trap. In some ways, we have all been that person at one point or another. Unsure of ourselves, insecure in our abilities, we tried to exert control in small or large ways in our own lives and in the lives of others. Oft times not borne out of a desire to subdue so much as a misguided attempt at showing how much we care and that we wanted the best for our partner.
For me, it took a divorce to grow my emotional intelligence. I did not get married to control but I believe I went about some things in the wrong way during my marriage, in my ignorance of what love truly is. However, as painful as it was I would not trade any of it because of who I have become as a result of that loss, the people and love I have gained as a result of the journey I undertook and the relationship I now delight in would not have been possible had I relented and had a baby. Indeed if I am honest with myself, my marriage would have ended regardless of having had a baby. I cannot, nor do I, speak for Gerald but I am sure that given space and time, he would look back and agree. The ultimatum to have a baby or get divorced was his way of trying to exert control. He is now involved with someone else and they have a baby. It seems he has everything he ever wanted, and I am truly happy for him. It is because of the love I had for him that I can admit that. I always wanted him to be happy, it just turns out he is happier without me and that is not the end of the world for me.
It is with all of this in mind that I consider what it is that I want out of a marriage and why it is so seemingly important and I believe that it’s the opportunity to do it over again and do it right with a partner who is as invested in the journey as I am.
I still believe in everything that marriage stands for, that hasn’t changed, but Mr M’s view on marriage is not the same as mine. He too is a product of divorced parents and views marriage more as an archaic institution that makes people lazy in their love. I can’t say I entirely disagree. I also have friends who see marriage as ownership. I’d go as far as to say that they don’t understand marriage in the same way I do but perhaps the converse it true of me, certainly it would be so from their perspective.
And so, it is with my desire to relinquish all control in mind, that I free myself from the need to be married, because it’s not a need at all. I do see myself married one day but if it doesn’t happen I ‘m not going to try and force that situation because it suits me more than it suits Mr M. I am certainly not going to sell the house because the light bulbs are not working.
As Mr M once said to me; A woman cannot change a man because she loves him, he changes himself because he loves her. And our love has changed us both, in many ways, for the better and for us, this is enough.
Thank you for reading!