Three rules for empaths – an antidote to abuse

Three Rules for Empaths – an Antidote to Abuse and a Guide to Healthier Relationships

Jordan Peterson is an infamous psychology professor and author whose recent book, “12 Rules for Life – an antidote to chaos,” is an acclaimed best-seller. Throughout this book Peterson espouses the wisdom he has gained from his years researching and engaging with clients. This wisdom is distilled into 12 epitaphs which he calls ‘rules.’ Whilst I have not yet read the entire book (it is on my reading list), I thought I’d borrow his format with this post which I have entitled Three rules for empaths – an antidote to abuse.

I am suggesting that three important rules to consider are boundaries, honesty and self-love.

These ‘rules,’ if followed, will go a long way towards protecting you from abuse, toxic relationships or mere awkward interpersonal interactions.
If you are an empathic, highly sensitive person, a ‘co-dependant’ or even just an every day person who simply thinks that ‘most people have the best intentions’ or someone who tends to ‘see the best in everyone’ then this post is for you. Or, perhaps you have just come out of an encounter with a toxic person, and unhealthy or abusive relationship and you are looking for answers, then this post is for you.

The reality is that there are damaged people out there, many of whom have their own histories of abuse and trauma perhaps, but whether consciously or unconsciously these people wreak havoc in their relationships and on society at large.

This is because it is (often) the case that you directly allowed the narcissistic/toxic/unhealthy person into your life or allowed them, at any rate, to affect you negatively. This may not be the case for children of narcissistic parents or if your boss turns out to be a narcissist, but even if this is your situation, the below three rules will go a long way towards either helping you heal from an encounter with one of these toxic people, or towards dealing with this person in your life. If you practice the following rules, such that they become a part of who you are, you will be less likely to be 1. Attractive to narcissistic/toxic or abusive people as they will pass you over for a ‘softer’ target, and 2. Easily sucked in by one in the future as you will be more grounded and sure of yourself.

Now, let’s go through them one by one.

Rule 1: Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries!

white and red wooden house with fence
Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

Rule one could actually be all three rules combined. Because, if you get rule one right, you most likely won’t have to worry about rules two and three. However, rules two and three are essential for healthy relationships. After all, healthy relationships (and by healthy, I mean positive, fulfilling, respectful and joyful relationships) are everything a toxic or abusive relationship is not.
The first step to living within your boundaries is knowing them. Yes… knowing what your boundaries are is the key to protecting them. Sit down, have a think and write some things down that are important to you in terms of values. What do you value most? What sort of person do you want to be? How can you live your life in such a way that you sleep soundly at night? What sorts of people, relationships, activities do you want in your life? These are the sorts of questions it is well worth asking yourself from time to time. One way is to get a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle so as to make two columns. At the top of one column you write the word, “YES” and at the top of the second column you write, “NO”. Then simply fill out both columns with a list of what you will say yes to and what you will say no to in your life. It is your life after all, just as it is your body and your time. No-one has the right to tell you what you should feel, think or do. Knowing your boundaries is the first step towards protecting them. Once you are clear on what you will say yes and no to it becomes easier to tell when someone else is trying to encroach on your boundaries.
Note: Be aware that toxic people will often be quite subtle in their boundary violations, especially in the beginning. They will often start with small, seemingly insignificant requests which may not seem like that big a deal, but they will still make you feel uncomfortable. These are often used to ‘test the water’ so to speak, to see how you react. If you give in on a small boundary violation, they will then push things a little further next time, and so on. This is just something to be aware of, which is why the next rule is also very important.

Rule 2: Honesty

Some toxic personalities become very skilled at getting others to unwittingly break their own boundaries in often subtle, covert or even devious ways. Some (especially sociopaths, psychopaths and some malignant narcissists*) will purposely say all the right things and act in such a way as to project an image of healthy normality, or of who they think you want them to be. Often this involves a period of romanticising and idealising you, the target. They will tell you what you want to hear. They will mould themselves into your perfect other, reflecting your needs and wants seamlessly. Thus, you may let your guard down at first with these people. However, sooner or later the mask of perfect normality will slip. This will usually be in the form of getting you to ‘bend the rules’ in some way which usually involves breaking a small but significant boundary. If this happens it is important to check-in with yourself often. It can help to monitor how you feel after spending time with a certain person and to honestly reflect on whether this person makes you feel supported, respected and valued, or whether you feel anxious, unsure or somehow ‘less than’ after being with them. Do you find yourself questioning your own reality or version of events? Are you being accused of saying or doing something you know you didn’t do? Is this person trying to emotionally manipulate you in some way, guilt trip you or become overly emotional when they simply do not get their way, until you give in to their request and they become as sweet as pie again? Do you feel drained emotionally, physically and even spiritually after you spend time with them? If so, you need to be honest with yourself about the effect this person is having on you. To be able to see what is rather than what you hope something to be is a skill worth cultivating.
Now, being honest with yourself doesn’t mean you have to be honest and upfront with everyone you meet. If you choose to be honest with a toxic person, be prepared for some heavy-duty backlash. As I mentioned above, they do not take well to criticism. The best you can do is be honest with yourself and then be direct, clear and steadfast in your NO; No, I don’t want to do that, No, I cannot drive you on Saturday, No, I won’t lie for you, etc. You don’t owe them a reason. Saying no should be good enough for a reasonable person. If you love and respect yourself, then saying no to a narcissist/toxic person becomes easier to do. This brings me to rule number three…

Rule 3: Love and accept yourself, just the way you are.

Self-love is the key to tying it all together. I have written about self-love before and have mentioned Louise Hay, the queen of self-help who advocated for self-love as fundamental to self-improvement and healing. But how do I love myself, you may ask? There are many things one can do to love and accept oneself. There are affirmations, there are acts of self-care, honouring your needs and feelings, being truthful with yourself and others are but some of the ways. However, I think a simple rule of thumb is to attempt to treat yourself as if you were someone you really cared about and wanted the best for. In other words, be your own best friend, mother and even lover. Show kindness, love and even affection for yourself in all things. Consider yourself a unique, worthwhile and valuable individual who is deserving of love and acceptance, just the way you are. Check out my summary of Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability for more about what it means to have a sense of worthiness.
But let it be said that those who have a healthy sense of worthiness, self-love, acceptance and compassion for themselves are less vulnerable to anything a toxic or abusive person may conjure up. When you value yourself, it acts as a natural repellent or barrier that protects you from unsavoury characters who may cross your path. The best part is, if you take these three ‘rules’ to heart and practice honesty, self-love and keep proper boundaries then you don’t need to do anything other than be yourself. You will naturally attract people that value, accept and love you for who you are into your life, which will leave little room for narcissists, abusers or the like.

I hope you found this post helpful. If  you are in an abusive relationship, help is out there. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800respect if you are in Australia – or  your local domestic violence support service in your country.

 

*I am purposely using non clinical terms for the sake of readability here.

Porn addiction – it’s not just you. Truth, reality and hope for addicts and partners.

In 2014 I wrote a serious article with a slightly tongue in cheek heading called  Is internet porn the beginning of the end for the human race?  Now while I admit, I may have been exaggerating slightly, the premise of the article was clearly not entirely without justification. It may seem a little far fetched but if, as I saw tonight while out at dinner, parents are using screens to placate/regulate a child’s behaviour out in public then what does that really mean for that child and their ability to engage with other humans later in life? What happens when, as a society, we are more comfortable relating to a screen or to another human being through the medium of a screen, than we are when faced with a flesh and blood human. One that you can’t simply swipe away when convenient?

How does this relate to porn addiction? Well for many years the debate on porn was centered around the notion that succumbing to the temptation of porn signified some kind of moral failing. From a religious/Christian point of view, it was a question of sinfulness.  A sign that one has allowed oneself to become infected with one or more of the seven supposed deadliest of sins, lust and/or gluttony. Or, from a feminist point of view, porn is seen as the vile exploitation of women as sexual, one dimensional objects with no humanity other than form. Exposure to pornography was seen as something that was detrimental to our morality and incremental to men’s seemingly unquenchable appetite for all things sexual. Yet as Naomi Wolf ironically points out in her article, The Porn Myth in actuality, the end result of too much exposure to pornography has had the effect, not of turning men into sexually ravenous beasts, but the complete opposite; sexual and emotional anorexics who can no longer relate authentically to a real life woman or get aroused by one. As it turns out, excessive viewing of pornography in this digital age turns men off, not on.

As numerous studies now show, repetitive and compulsive viewing of internet porn by men, (and a growing number of women) induces the opposite effect than one might expect, and just like a person who is addicted to a substance grows increasingly desensitized to the drug whilst continuing to crave it more and more, a person who is addicted to pornography finds he/she ends up on pretty much the same, well trodden treadmill. Intensely wanting something that can no longer provide the temporary relief and stimulation it once did.

Recent research implies that internet pornography is as addictive as certain drugs and affects the brain the same way. But, porn’s special hook is that it taps into that human need for attachment by adding into the mix hormones that are normally associated with bonding, love and connection. In effect, a porn addict becomes more attached to porn than anything or anyone else in their life. As a consequence, relationships, marriages, work and soon enough, the relationship with the self begins to suffer.

Porn addiction, like any addiction goes through stages – however, unlike most other addictions, the physical effects of porn addiction are virtually invisible, and the psychological and emotional effects are quite subtle, at first. In-fact, many porn addicts may seek treatment of a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, OCD, as well as physical ailments, stress, other addictions and finally sexual performance before anyone “thinks to ask about their porn viewing habits”.

But more and more studies clearly link issues related to sexual performance, including as I mention in my previous post, erectile dysfunction in men in their late teens and early twenties, (something that was almost unheard of 10 – 15 years ago) back to extensive viewing of internet porn. It is only when they can no longer get an erection, or ejaculate even with porn that some men start to make the connection between their excessive viewing of porn and other issues in their life. Often this is the only thing that eventually get’s their attention. (Their partners, if they have partners, may have known for some time that something was happening, or rather…not happening!)

This sorry state of affairs is bad news for both porn addicts and partners of porn/sex addicts, many who spend night after night lying in bed next to a partner that never seems to be ‘in the mood’ for sex. The result can be devastating to marriages, relationships and the self-esteem to both parties. The secretive nature of most men’s porn addiction may also mean that some partners may not know that they are in a relationship with a porn addict or even if they are aware of their partner’s porn habit, they may not make the connection at first either. Or they may not know the extent of their partner’s porn viewing. The damage this causes relationships is thus far unmeasurable.  One site states that 56% of divorces in the U.S. involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornography among other staggering statistics.

So, is the news all bad? Well, no. Latest brain research shows that the brain is actually very flexible, and  malleable, kind of like plasticine. In-fact the term for the way the brain can change itself, based on what is experienced is called neuroplasticity. This is good news. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the same way you get yourself into a sticky situation is largely the same way to get yourself out of it. While the allure of internet porn may have lost its charm many clicks ago, the habit that it has created will be hard to break. Hard, but not impossible. For men who have lost the ability to relate to women, emotionally and physically, and for partners of addicts there seems little alternative, other than to dissolve the relationship, which let’s face it, is fairly likely. It can’t be much fun to be in a relationship with a porn addict. However, chances are that if you leave a relationship with one porn addict, you are more than likely to run into another just as addicted, or on his way to being so, seeing as in America at least, sex addiction (which porn addiction is a form of) has reached epidemic status, according to this 2011 News Week article.

So, how do you beat a porn addiction and reverse its affects on the brain? Well the answer is simple, if not easy and this is simply to stop it. Stop all contact with porn and masturbating to porn and give your brain a chance to rewire itself and re-learn, or rediscover what comes naturally.

That is the only solution. I did say it was simple, but not easy. Recovering from porn addiction (for addicts and/or partners) takes time, courage and commitment and it is not easy to do without support. There are some very good websites now that can assist, (which I shall list below in the resources) but the assistance of a therapist who is aware of the nature of porn and sex addiction, one who will take it seriously can be fundamental to long lasting recovery. At least, having a close friend or understanding partner (if that is possible) that you know and trust is also important. The reason being that porn and sex addiction most likely mask other issues. Issues such as fear of intimacy, abandonment fears, attachment disorders, and perhaps even trauma. Once the defence of porn has left the building, then there is nothing to protect your unconscious and chances are some deeply buried emotional wounds may re-open.

It’s important to be aware of this possibility as many who try to ‘re-boot’ as it is called on websites such as Your Brain on Porn and Fight the New Drug often try many times and fail because they are inadequately prepared or lack support.

If you are experiencing porn addiction or are the partner of a porn addict, seek help from a qualified therapist and/or see some of the websites listed below for more information.

SOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/02/19/pornography-statistics/
http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts/#sthash.ubb4Ty3m.dpbs
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2013/05/the-prevalence-of-porn/
http://yourbrainonporn.com/cambridge-university-brain-scans-find-porn-addiction
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125382361
http://newsok.com/the-five-stages-of-pornography-addiction/article/5407775/?page=2
http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/index1.html
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/13/a-letter-to-my-ex-husband-who-preferred-pornography-to-me
http://www.newsweek.com/sex-addiction-epidemic-66289
http://globalchristiancenter.com/mens/overcoming-temptations/16765-pornography-in-the-church-a-new-epidemic
https://www.lds.org/tools/print/article/narrow/?lang=eng&url=/topics/pornography/audiences/youth/teenagers-and-pornography-addiction-treating-the-silent-epidemic
RESOURCES
http://www.covenanteyes.com/ (Internet filtering service)
http://yourbrainonporn.com/
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/
http://www.posarc.com/ (Partners of sex addicts resource center)

The parable of the shower-head. A reflection on acceptance.

I am doing my very best with what I have

A while ago I wrote a post on my old blog titled, Am I Futurizing?  In which I reflected on the term as it related to my relationship. Basically, futurizing in a relationship context involves wanting to fast track a future without fully appreciating things as they are in the present. It’s like you have this idea of a happy ever after in your head and you are impatient to get there. Understandable, but so much so that you negate the present and are constantly feeling ripped off or anxious. It’s like there’s a kid in the back seat of your mind constantly asking, “Are we there yet? Are wee therree yettt?? Yes, it is annoying.

Since I wrote that post however, I have read a lot more about things like mindfulness and existential therapy and the relationship between Buddhist philosophy and the ability to be more in the here and now. And, so I have since found an answer to my question. Yes, I was futurizing…. oops!

So, where does the shower-head fit in to all this? Well, thing is, I don’t really love my apartment. It’s a bit of a dump really. The kitchen cupboards don’t all close properly. Someone has done a shoddy job of painting the place. All the light fittings have paint on them, and the bathroom has a hole in the ceiling. The water used to trickle out of the shower and to get your whole body wet you had to do this weird kinda twist like dance step. At the time, however, I was desperate to find a place and was running out of time, so I took it. I remember crying the day I moved in to this shoe box which looked worse than I remembered it from the time that lapsed between the inspection and my moving in. Still, I told myself, it’s only temporary…So confident was I of that fact that I only signed a six month lease. I thought by the end of that year my boyfriend and I would be moving in together for sure. Well, here we are more that a year later and I’m still here. We are still together, and yes there have been vague discussions about a future cohabitation occurring at some point in the future but no concrete plans yet.

For over a year I put up with that shitty shower. My boyfriend and I would attempt to shower together and we would have to take turns getting wet and invariably, one of us would be standing shivering while the other rinsed off. He kept saying, Why don’t you get the real estate to look at it? I’d say, Yeah I’ll do it today. But I kept putting it off or forgetting about it. Until the next morning when I’d be standing in the shower recess feeling resentful about how displeased I was with my shower and what it represented. I allowed the bitter semi hot water to dribble over me and I’d feel annoyed every morning. Not a great way to start your day…

This went on until last week, when I finally asked myself, So what is the meaning of my resistance to getting a new shower-head? And then the realisation dawned on me. I was still futurizing. I was unwilling to change my shower-head because it represented my suffering in the present moment and for some reason, I had become attached to that suffering. Like, there was something noble in it? What was noble about having a shit shower every day? Nothing. I was just resisting accepting how things were for me in the present because I was still living in the future somewhat in which everything would be perfect, supposedly.

Well, past experience has taught me this: The future and the past are many things, but they are rarely ever perfect. Why suffer anymore than you have to in the present. Why play the victim? That day I emailed my real estate agent and the next day I had a shiny new shower-head which covered my whole body in a steady, hot and steamy stream of heavenly water.  I stood there in my new luxurious shower, in my shitty bathroom thinking…FFS why did I wait so long??

So, the moral of this story is. Don’t wait too long to change your shitty shower-head! Live in the present and enjoy it as best you can. I’m sure most of us have a shitty shower-head in their life. What’s yours?

 

D.I.V.O.R.C.E (November, 2012)

Got my divorce papers the other day, actually, I was served them. Like in the movies, they had to be handed to me personally and I had to sign to say I accepted them.

Which I was happy to do, happy to put an end to a phase of my life that was now firmly in the past. All but the official final piece of paper that said, divorced. All ties cut.

While I know this is a good thing, and God knows even though I am sometimes unsatisfied with the way my life has turned out, anything is better than the hell my marriage had become. The feeling is still bittersweet. But, to be honest, I am proud of the way I did what had to be done to get myself out of a sticky situation…although, perhaps there were other ways I could have handled things. I could have called on the help of family and friends, could have gotten the police and relevant authorities involved but I didn’t want to burden my family and I also didn’t want to have my personal dirty laundry, my failure in a sense, aired and examined for all the world to see. I just. Wanted. Out.

They say living in an abusive relationship is psychologically akin to living in a hostage situation. Today, I marvel at the military precision employed in what I could have named, Operation Freedom at the time. It took six months of planning, but basically one day I was there, the next I was gone and all he had was a letter of explanation and a list of demands for my possible return.

It may seem harsh to some, but when you live with a person who is violent and unpredictable, honest communication is a luxury you just cannot afford. I would have loved to be able to say, Hey I am thinking of leaving you because of your behaviour which is killing the love I had for you and if you don’t do something about it soon, I will leave. Sorry about that. How do you say that to someone who has exploded in violent anger over the smallest issue, punched holes in walls because he lost an online poker game, lashed out in frustrated anger at you just for saying, What about trying it this way? (While he was attempting to repair a bike, you make the stupidly, unthinkable mistake of trying to help.)

You get to a point where you just don’t say anything. You just smile and try and stay out of their way as much as possible. Anything to keep the peace… all the while inside there is an indignant, unholy pit of anger and self loathing, despair and fury growing and growing. It gets to the point where you are afraid of what you will do. We all have our limits…

In the end I did what I had to do and I am truly happier for it today. Lessons learned, hard though they were, have made me a stronger person and have fuelled within me a desire to get to the bottom of things and to maybe help other women who somehow find themselves in a similar situation. Who like me, are not victims, but survivors. Battle weary, yes, but alive and free.

Divorce. People say it’s a pity, but in some situations, divorce is a Godsend.

 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the domestic violence line: http://www.domesticviolence.nsw.gov.au/

When sex becomes a loaded gun (Nov, 2011)

Picture this. Three healthy, reasonably attractive but otherwise very different people sitting at a pub having a beer, or two. Two are male and one is female. One is in his twenties (just,) one in his thirties and the female in her (very early) forties. What do they all have in common? They have all decided, for different reasons to abstain from sex for the time being. 
While each situation is different and the reasoning behind their decisions are different, it was a surprise to each to discover that they had all come to the same decision quite independently . While, I don’t want to divulge personal information of the parties involved, I can still talk about myself and only truly speak for myself anyway, and as this blog is all about me I will share the reason behind my decision to embrace chastity. And I’ll admit to being the female in her (very) early forties here (in case you were wondering who she was.)
We live in a highly sexualized society. Sex is used to sell everything from toothbrushes to cars. And these days, thanks to the internet, you can hop online and arrange to meet up with someone for nothing but sex like it’s no big deal. And maybe it’s not. In the sixties everyone was banging on about “free love” and sex without attachment like it was going to revolutionize human relationships. And, I guess coming from the 50’s where relationships and associations were so rigid, it was to some extent revolutionary. 
Nowadays, it seems the pendulum has swung all the way and we have situations like, “Friends with Benefits” – where you are mostly friends with someone except sometimes, you have sex. Trouble with that scenario is that the FWB situation only every really benefits one party at a time, and that is usually the male. The feminist in me hates to admit it, but I have learned through painful experience that as a woman, I am not wired that way. Maybe there are women out there that can have sex “like a man”, but I’m not one of them. If I like a man enough to want to have sex with him, it’s because I see him as someone I want to be in a relationship with pretty much. Which brings me to my next point.
I was in love with a man a little while ago and while the relationship started off in a sexual way, it soon changed into more of a friendship. Basically I wanted more, he didn’t. We still did everything together, except have sex. For a while, it frustrated the hell out of me, but eventually I came to accept it. For him, it was the right thing to do. Very honourable, I must admit and unusual for a man to make the decision that if he didn’t want to commit to a relationship with me then it would be wrong to continue to have sex with me. (As much as he obviously enjoyed it when we did. Had to put that part in. He is no prude!) 
So, on we went being friends and I went back on the dating scene but found that something had happened to me. I had changed. I don’t know if it’s because I was still had feelings for this man but I found myself turning men down who, to my mind, obviously just wanted to have sex with me and while I did not blame them (they are only men of course) and was flattered to a point, the thought of having sex with someone just because I could no longer appealed to me. Even when I was attracted to them as well. I figured, if he is really into me, he will continue to pursue. Or, if he is really into me he will take the time to get to know me. In the meantime, I can wait. I’d like to get to know a person before having sex with them, not the other way around. 
Now, I’m not advocating the hard-core Christian route which advises to wait until marriage before having sex with someone but I can see were this thinking is coming from. Sex can be a special, beautiful, fun and hot thing with someone that you trust and respect and love, or at the very least, like a whole lot. And while sex without attachment has its place and value and I repeat, there is nothing wrong with that kind of sex, it’s just not where I’m at right now. Hence my decision to abstain until further notice. 
I’m not saying I won’t get tempted and maybe I will have the odd slip up or two, and if that happens, I won’t beat myself up about it but the intention is there. And that to me is a huge step forward, into the unknown. There is life without sex, go figure.

It’s a Love-lution!

Ever notice that Love is the word Evolve backwards but with another EV tagged on the end. That is EVLOVE. (Evolve spelt backwards.) Interesting? Maybe. Significant? Possibly? Who knows. But, it did get me thinking. Love…is kind of like evolution. In that, in order to truly love another we must be pretty evolved creatures. Only humans show this kind of love. Yes some animals mate for life, and perhaps, that is a kind of primitive love, but I am talking mainly however about the kind of love, and there are many kinds, that binds us to another person and makes us feel that they are worth sharing our lives with intimately. We meet so many people over the course of our lives, what makes one person stand out from the others, what makes us say…Hey you. I like you. I love you. I choose you. It starts with feelings, emotions…those intangibles that have us scrambling for words when we are asked the question, What do you see in him/her? 
Love, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder for sure. It is a question worth asking yourself however when faced with overpowering emotions such as attraction, lust, desire, delirium and intense like. Never underestimate the power of liking someone or something. Likeability is an underrated quality in a partner. How often have you heard the question posed, You love them, but do you really like them? If you are looking for a long term partner, you are very smart to want to like them a lot before you decide to love them. 
I guess that’s where love truly starts. Liking someone. You know, you just like (and I don’t mean Facebook like!) them. Want to be around them, talk to them, spend time with them and interact with them. It can sometimes be a little thing that just makes you go ‘wow’. I knew a man once and one of the things I used to love about him was the way he spoke, kind of slow and measured. He would drawl his thoughts into existence with every word chosen very carefully. It made want to just sit there and talk to him for as long as I could. The thing I like the most my favourite person of all time is the way he always makes me laugh, despite myself. No matter how dire, or how depressing something is, he will always find a way to make me laugh about it. I love that about him. 
But going from just liking someone a lot to deep love and attachment is another thing altogether. To do that, I think, one must evolve from a single minded, basically selfish entity to one that has the other’s best interests at heart before anything else. Not that easy, let me tell you. I have heard it said, many times, one must love themselves before they can truly love another person so perhaps that is what is needed in order to move up the ladder of love-volution.
Love thyself, or know thyself, and then you can move that love outward into the world and love someone else. And when you find the one you love, there is nothing like time spent with that person. Time spent together in the world is more precious than any gift, word or token of affection. After all time is all we have to give when all is said and done, the most precious gift we can give another. Our time and attention. Love is built on those two simple things.

Working title – On truth

I have attempted to write about truth on this blog, both of truth and my own. I have tried to not hold back, not shy away from my all too human frailties, failures and emotions, errors of judgement, inability to see what was really going on, and finally clarity when it did finally rain on my rose-tinted parade. Fierce defiance and defence of my reasons for going where I knew I probably shouldn’t. All in the name of love, truth and beauty I suppose.

Sometimes, I wonder; What is the difference between a truth, a fact and opinion? How can we ever be sure we are telling the truth? How can one person’s truth be another person’s lie? Can we rely on the ‘facts of the matter’ to guide us to truth, when facts can be manipulated, distorted and shaped to resemble a ‘truth’ that bears very little resemblance to reality?

These questions taunt me at night. Sometimes it feels as if I have once again run out of fuel to burn. Alone in my car, at night, on some highway, in the middle of nowhere, lost once again. No reception whatsoever.

But then, sometimes, I am reminded…. love is never wasted.  The more you give the more it comes back to you. That the life I have led thus far has been mine and that when all is said and done, no-one else painted this picture for me. I chose integrity, and yes, higher consciousness instead of certainty and safety and truth be told, I would do it all again. That is my truth. My reality. But, I have hurt people who might interpret events differently. I may be thought of as selfish, callous and cruel by some. And yes, I have lied in pursuit of my truth. So, where does that leave me, honestly?

I think, perhaps, that reality and truth are one and the same. But that there is no singular truth and that facts can lie. So, it seems that moral judgements are less than helpful or useful unless one can walk in the accused shoes. It is said that only God can judge the contents of someone’s heart. If that is so then the only truth we can hope for is the truth of our being. The fact of our uniqueness and our story, which is ours and ours alone. I tried to live an honest life, but in so doing, I had to lie along the way. That’s the truth of it.

My mother once said she admired my fearlessness. I never thought about it that way before but I guess she was right, in that I faced the void with nothing but my pen and brush and did it anyway. I chose an authentic life, not so much the easy life but it is mine and mine alone. That to aim for honesty is good enough. That to live authentically is hard and lonely at times. That by trying to be better than we were is the point of it all. So what if you fail and F it up sometimes. The truth is, your imperfections are your humanity, and that truly makes you beautiful.

Mix-tape

I am a pretty straight forward sort of person. When I like someone I simply like them. I am there without reservation or discourse. I don’t play games or hard to get. I don’t play by ‘the rules’ as such and I don’t tease or act like I am not interested if I am just to make a man ‘want’ me more.

I have watched movies like ‘He’s just not that into you’ and have heard of books like, ‘The Rules’ but I’m sorry but a lot of that stuff just sticks in my throat.

What those sorts of pseudo psychological narratives imply is that men are basically stupid and that human relationships can be reduced to a set of simplistic rules or do’s and don’ts that if followed, will lead to every woman’s ultimate goal… the entrapment of their ‘ideal man’. Excuse me but what a crock of shite!

Firstly, the implication that a woman is innately desperate for a man to ‘complete’ her is simply untrue. And what a lot of these sorts of books, and films do is imply that a woman without a man is somehow lacking. That to be a ‘single’ woman is to be less than whole. That all women want to be in a relationship with the first available, financially stable man they can stand the thought of having sex with.

That women all desperately want commitment, marriage, children, and they want it all straight away. And that women have, as their highest priority, the desire to trap a man, mate for life and live the rest of their lives with said man in domestic, blinkered bliss.

Bull-crapola.

While, there is truth to the notion that we all need and want love and to be loved by another human being. That the desire for physical and emotional intimacy is inherent in our biology and psychology. As is the need for acceptance, understanding and acknowledgement. But relationships, and love between two individuals is not something that can be easily reduced to a formula. If it were, then we’d all be living happily ever after with our perfect matches and no-one would ever break up and there would be no such thing as divorce or broken hearts anymore.

The reality is these days, human relationships are far from simple. The days of marriages lasting ‘til death of either spouse are from a time and galaxy far, far away. And even when they were it was hardly ever a ‘happy ever after scenario’. Nowadays, divorce today is as common as… the common cold. Both men and women are becoming more and more cynical about love and relationships and are staying single longer, not through necessity it seems, but by choice.

 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that the fastest growing household type is single person households. This is projected to grow an average of 2.2% per year from 1.9 million in 2006 to a projected 3.2 million in 2031. That’s a lot of Lean Cuisines.

It’s actually easier to be single. There are a lot of social reasons why staying single longer is now a viable option for many people. Marriage is becoming more of an option then a necessity, people are getting married later, if at all, and relaxed moral codes mean that sex without strings, or attachment – let alone commitment, is seen as normal, and even expected.

There is no reason to get hooked up or shack up with someone in a hurry these days, none at all. ‘Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free’, is a mantra I’ve heard repeated often, vulgar as it is. Both men, and women, can get a lot of the benefits of marriage and relationships it seems, without the responsibility, commitment or drama. But it all seems rather shallow and…somewhat hollow to me.

Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic, holding on to some ideal that no longer exists, trying to wedge my mixed tape into the cd drive of my laptop. Maybe love is just an outdated technology?

Does it have to be that way…do we either have to be single or attached? Relationships between men and women (or same sex couples for that matter) relationships that involve love, friendship, attachment and sexual chemistry are in a state of flux such as the world has never seen before. The “Rules” just don’t really apply anymore. But, in their absence we are left floundering and anxiously trying to negotiate our way through a virtual mind-field of connections and misfires blindfolded. In-fact, we are all breaking new ground, hatching our way through uncharted territory when it comes to human relationships and yes, the future belongs to us…So what will we make of it?

 

Lana Del Ray says it so poignantly and beautifully perhaps expressing the sentiment of our age when she sings the words, In the name of higher consciousness I let the best man I knew go,

Coz it’s nice to love and be loved but it’s better to know all you can know. But are we choosing higher consciousness over intimacy? Or are we giving in to our (justifiable) fears and limitations?

The power of one (Originally posted October, 2011)

A friend recently broke up with her long standing boyfriend. My heart went out to her, she was so upset, as she lamented, “I can’t be single! It’s a nightmare!!!” Although, I had to point out to her, actually, being single is nothing like a nightmare, honey, it’s rather fun, most of the time. So this one goes out to all the single ladies, a mediation on the power of one.

Being single. It’s that time of your life when you are 100 per cent solo. You’re the master and captain of your own little ship, sailing through often murky, rocky seas with little but the guidance of friends or family and your own painfully gained wisdom as a compass.
Over the past two years I have been mostly single. I say mostly, apart from a few short lived love affairs, misguided crushes and half hearted dates, some of which went on for a few months only to peter out into vague associations and then nothing. I find it hard to stay focused on one person these days. My friends have become way more important.

To be honest, when I first broke up with my most recent husband I expected my life to follow the same pattern it had fallen into for most of my adult life. I expected to be in another all consuming relationship before too long. You see, from the time I was 18 until 38 I had been in committed long term relationships from my first boyfriend through to my second husband with little break in-between. When I first found myself single again I must say the period of adjustment was hard. I was not used to being on my own, fending for myself, waking up alone felt completely strange to me. I felt like the proverbial fish out of water, thrashing and anxiously thrusting myself towards any body of water nearby, or anything that remotely resembled one.
And then something happened. I suddenly relaxed and started to breath.
I found I actually enjoyed being single. And, maybe I’m not alone.
It seems more people are choosing to stay single. I was having this conversation with a friend recently, about how when you are in a relationship, things can become stale, but even though when you are single, you crave the closeness and yearn for that connection… our collective experience has told us to be careful what we wish for. And the longer one remains single the more protective of our status quo we become.
My friend mused, “Maybe we are becoming more selfish?” I thought yes, or, maybe we are becoming more self-aware?
I was out at a bar recently, where there were people drinking and mingling. What did I see? A black man making a while girl blush. An Irish sounding man talking to a blonde girl about smoking, a very pretty girl spending most of the night alone? Connections. We all crave them, to a point. The internet has totally and irrevocably changed the way we communicate, and the rub is not just online but offline as well. Connections and relationships seem much more light-hearted and more, transient then they were. Marriage, is no longer expected to last a lifetime. Friendships are becoming more important and often last much longer than romantic entanglements. We who are single spend so much time searching for that perfect person which has become like the holy grail of hearts. The more we search for perfection, the more it evades us.

I must admit to also being a culprit. Many a nice man has crossed my path but like Eddy Murphy’s character in Boomerang, I keep finding the some minor thing wrong and calling that a deal breaker. This one has a big dog, that one has funny teeth, this one is too clingy, that one is too short and the list goes on.
Instead I have found my closest connections with people who are not really suitable as long term partners. People I have gathered around me as friends none the less. A suitable outcome really, but at the end of the day and in the morning I find, I still wake up alone.
And it scares the hell out of me to realize I am coming to prefer it.
Being single, does not mean you have to spend your life alone. Lovers may come and go, but friends can really last a lifetime. If there is a man out there that can be both then that is the man for me, until then, with the help of my friends, I’ll get by.

Love, it’s not a fairy-tale

So, since I moved over to WordPress I’ve been going through my archives on truthjoybeauty.blogspot.com and simply copying and pasting my favourite posts over to here, with the intention of closing down my blogger account when I’ve done so. However, I must say the experience has been kind of interesting. Reading posts from a few years ago has bought back with it many memories and has allowed me to reflect on the journey I’ve been on these last few years.
When I started my blog, way back in 2009 I was newly separated and had just discovered the “wacky world of internet dating“, marvelling at how much things had changed since I was last single, 8 years or so prior. Now I am in a relationship that has its challenges but is probably the most rewarding, most loving relationship I have ever been in. Sometimes, when reading those old posts I can’t help but think of that John Lennon lyric from his beautiful song, Real Love:

All my little plans and schemes
Lost like some forgotten dream
Seems like all I really was doing
Was waiting for you

But as usual, I digress. What I have learned is that relationships and love is not just some happy ever after. And that like being single and dating, brings its own challenges and risks. I thought I had it tough then, as Tim Rogers laments in Beautiful Girl…”you think it’s so hard, alone in the world.” To love, is to risk. To really love is to in a sense, forget your singularity and to put the relationship first, above all else. That to me is real love. And that, is no fairy-tale.