If you ask someone why they love their partners, often there is a hesitation before the generic answers start to flow: because I just do; because I love him; because he loves me; you wouldn’t understand; because he’s so nice; because he treats me good. I have given some of these answers in the past. While nothing is wrong with any of them, their lack of depth reflects a lack of knowledge of the real answer. The answer is so often that we do not know why we love someone. In some cases, when forced to dig even deeper, and believe me when I say I’ve been there, you realise you really don’t love them at all.
Women are especially guilty of reflecting on to men, the qualities that they are looking for in a partner. I have even witnessed women making their partners sound like other people’s husbands. We do this for so many reasons and we often end up with the most wrong people in our lives, as a result of it. I am by no means a psychologist, but I’ve been a woman all my life, unlike Caitlin, and I have and had lots of friends and cousins and acquaintances who have been put through the wringer because of being with or staying with the wrong man.
So before writing this blog entry, I started asking myself if it is that we dated, married, loved and hated the wrong men, or if we just chose to stay in a wrong relationship. I realised some years ago that women love to blame men for not providing us with a good relationship, one in which they are supposed to make us happy. We tend to forget that men are entitled to have their own personalities, traits and tendencies that do not need to be fixed, changed or compromised to suit our immediate needs. If this role was reversed we would not find that we are selfish, demanding or unreasonable. However, when men can’t ‘provide’ exactly the perfect image that we created in our minds of how and what he should be at all times, it is his fault.
We love to stay in relationships that make us unhappy and feel unfulfilled and we love to, in turn, complain about it…to our friends, our family, our co-workers, anyone really, who was willing to agree with us that the problem is the man. I was as guilty of this as anyone else. So, after my divorce, and a couple mistakes, I started to reflect on why we stay in the wrong relationships.
This is one of the most real and least admitted reasons why we stay with someone who does not add value to our lives and who does not contribute to our well-being. We always believe that we can’t do better, that he already ‘loves’ me with all of MY faults and we must let that count for something, everything even. Women have been programmed by society, our parents, and our peers to believe that we are not whole unless we are in a relationship. Single women are not revered for their independence, discerning choices or their happiness. We have all looked at our single friends and felt sorry for them and wished that they found someone who would just love them. That same foolish pity with which we are so content to see in our single sisters, is the very source of the insecurity that makes us stay in a bad relationship. After all, it’s better to be with someone who treats me okay, than to be alone.
This one is a killer as well. God forbid, we approach 30 and either be single, in a relationship that is not on the road to marriage or engagement, childless. So when at 32 you find yourself dating the same fool for a year, and he isn’t fulfilling all your needs, you make the decision – Men aren’t perfect, and at my age what else is there out there for me; it is best I stay and try to make this work, rather than start all over again in a year; maybe he will change his mind; maybe I’ll get pregnant for him. The biological clock ticks at ear-shattering volumes in our thirties and deafens and blinds us into staying in the wrong relationship. Insecurity then slips in, as well, and together with age, we suddenly convince ourselves that no one else will want us as we get older.
This is more of a double-edged sword. On one hand we say that we have stayed for so long, and although he hasn’t committed to marriage or even cohabitation, so much time has already been invested. We love to see things through. We use this as the excuse not to leave an unhappy union that we know, deep down inside, is going nowhere, slowly and painfully. But we stay, because we have invested. On the other hand, we stay because of investment, because we can’t stand the thought of someone else coming along and benefitting from all the work we have put into him. How dare another woman reap the rewards of what we were working so hard to achieve and so easily just take our investment? So this dangerous sword really does cut both ways and once it is even a reason for staying in a poor quality relationship, it will hurt either way.
By nature, women are nurturers. We always believe that we can nurture the wrong man into becoming and being the right one. So we stay and try to instil change. We do it through our love, our care, our encouragement and support. When that doesn’t work, we have to get serious about what we want, so we prod a bit harder. It even reaches the point of nagging and giving ultimatums, threatening and entrapment. We prefer to run ourselves ragged, lose all semblance of dignity and of course, throw our pride aside, all in the name of love. So we stay and try to instil change. We refuse to understand that people change when and if they want to. It is not something that can ever be forced. But we are still willing to stay and try to instil change, because who would want us at this age, and he already loves me as I am, and I’ve invested so much time in him. The least he can do is change.
Making the decision to end a relationship is an enormous one, for all the reasond listed and so many more. Starting over at any age is daunting, even more so as we get older. Staying in an unhealthy, unfulfilled relationship in which the good that exists is the good that we created in our minds, is even more detrimental to our well-being.
If he hasn’t committed after a certain amount of years, he probably won’t. What’s even worse than that is him committing because he succumbed to the pressure and ultimatums and entrapment. If that happens, resentment down the road is not just inevitable, but assured.
Marriage is not and should no longer be the end goal for women….for anyone. We have too much more of ourselves to offer than to indulge in the undignified behaviour of expecting or forcing marriage. We don’t even consider that the success of a relationship lies in its healthiness, not in its legality. If our relationships are healthy, fulfilling, supportive and we couldn’t ask for more, then we shouldn’t. Marriage isn’t for everyone and that is perfectly fine. Marriage is no longer a legal bind. Marriage is a decision two people make together, to commit, to build a life, to raise a family and to be happy. A legal document can never provide any of those things, if they didn’t exist before. If you are hypo-religious and believe with all your spiritual soul that marriage is essential to a serious relationship, you should also ensure that fornication was not part of your journey, because then you are just a big ole hypocrite.
The bottom line is that we do not want to see the warning signs. We deliberately ignore all that they are telling us by their words and actions. If you met him saying he just wants to keep it light and have fun, understand and accept what you are getting into. If he doesn’t have time for you, it’s because he doesn’t want to make time for you. If he doesn’t take you out regularly, it’s because you are NOT his girlfriend and he doesn’t really care for you to be. When he refuses to include you in his already active social media presence because he says he is private, it’s because he doesn’t want the world to know about YOU in his life.
The longer you stay in the wrong relationship with the person who is wrong for you, is the longer it takes to regain your dignity and open the pathway for the right people to enter your life. The right choices are hardly ever the easy choices.