Are you looking for someone to partner you? Do you already have a partner? Just come out of a relationship and not wanting to get into another? Does your relationship give you what you want? Is it exciting, thrilling, dusty or boring or somewhere in between? Not sure if you want it not but can’t decide to leave? In or out? Simple question with no easy answer.
No matter what we might feel, relationships are things we just don’t seem to be able to do without. We crave them, reject them, resist and entice them; they give us the best and the worst experiences. We put up with bad ones for fear of not being in one and then throw out good ones because they no longer excite us or give us what we want.
And no matter what our last experience of a relationship has been, whether it be good, bad or indifferent, we usually set off at some point to search for a new one; fully expecting that this one, this new one, will be the one that fulfils our heart’s desire; that we will meet that special someone who will be our soulmate for all time.
It will be a real triumph of hope over experience. Whether we like to recognise it or not, we are on the whole a relationship-seeking race. However, what we seek is often not quite what we end up with.
How many of us in our list of requirements for the perfect mate include someone who bores or someone who snores or someone who is faddy about their food? Yet these qualities are the things we eventually discover in that “perfect” relationship. While relationships can give us a whole basketload of things we desire, they are almost always guaranteed to disappoint.
So, when we say we “want a relationship”, what do we mean? Usually, we say we want to be loved and cherished; want to feel secure and protected, and above all we want to feel special. To be the one person who means the most to that special other. We don’t want to share, we want to be “the one” and by that we mean the “only” one.
And at the beginning of relationships we can often feel like this. You set off on a skin to skin, huggy, can’t get enough of you dance that allows nothing to come between you and you want this to last for ever. Maybe you feel so alike that you cannot imagine any conflict or challenge coming between you. And yet we know that at some point, the fluffy bunnies will skip off and the balloon will deflate and you will look at your partner and wonder how you ever ended up with them.
After the dazzling sunshine comes the cloudy with bright intervals and a hint of rain. How come you didn’t realise that all those previously “endearing habits” would come to irritate and annoy you? When did sitting around in their old pants or without make-up cease to be adorable and become a big turn-off.
That’s the trouble and value in relationships – while they can give us the things we crave, they also give us a whole lot of stuff we maybe didn’t think we were getting. Security and stability might also be accompanied by monotony and boredom, which were not noticed as they were tucked away behind the books on the history of brass bands.
While we love and cherish when things meet our needs, we might not feel the same if our partner wants to do things that we no longer desire. Or, when they start to make demands on us to satisfy their needs and wants. Relationships are not just about what we want others to give us, they are also about what we can do for others, about what we give to them. And that can sometimes seem a bit unequal, sometimes we need to give more than we get back and if that’s happening during one of the “bored” times then we might feel it’s time to move on.
The thing about relationships is that they can change, they don’t have to stay still, they can adapt, move and change to meet new and different needs .
However, we have to join in with those changes – it’s how relationships work.
• Anne Chilton is head of counselling at Relationships Scotland