When you know the partner you have chosen is not "the one"
Have you found yourself committing to intimate relationships very quickly only for them to end a few months or even a few years later?
A group of my friends and I were out socialising recently, with another joining us at the pub, and announced dramatically “Well that’s done, I never want to see her again!” Quickly followed by “I’m hopeless and will never find someone to spend my life with, lesbians just can’t commit”. Of course, we ooh’d and ah’d trying to say all the right things to support her.
This got us talking about lesbian jokes that are banded about. The first that came to mind was “lesbians meet someone, instantly fall in love. move in together and within a few weeks get a cat to complete the family unit”. I’m sure most of you will have heard this or similar. I don’t know about you, but my personal view is that there is a lot of truth in jokes such as these. I mean, they wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t right?
I confess, I have been there myself only to observe my relationships tragically fold and end with drama I really could’ve done without. You may have been in (or are going through) a similar situation, wondering how the heck you were ever attracted to the person you’re with in the first place and questioning how you are going to get out of it, whilst making a huge point to everyone you know that you will never get into a relationship so quickly again. Only to find you press that repeat button. Sound familiar?
This way of approaching how we choose our partners can, of course, relate to any relationship, same sex or not. And It’s certainly not true for all lesbian relationships because some do last many years. However, I think the long-lasting relationships are few and far between.
I believe what happens for many of us is that, like the joke, we commit to our relationships far too quickly in the early stages, at a time when a person is presenting the best version of themselves. We drown in the euphoria of those feelings that meeting someone we are attracted to brings. The outcome, usually and especially if we have suffered in the past, is that we eventually go down the road of thinking either, we are no good for the person and the relationship disintegrates.
Or, on the other hand, we settle with someone who is not at the same life stage as we are because we believe we don’t deserve anyone better and eventually find ourselves being dragged down and unmotivated to move forward with that person. And, of course, we know the “players” that are always on the hunt for the vulnerable so that they can exert power and control that stems from their own insecurities. They turn up full of charisma and charm, draw us in only to drop us when our mental health is diminished, and we are no longer able to give them what they want.
I identify as lesbian, a late bloomer some would say. I didn’t come out until during the 90s when I was in my mid-30s. I had two failed marriages behind me, both with men. I am sure some of you will resonate with this and have also followed this path for your own reasons.
Since coming out, I have found myself in many, some would say, short relationships. Most that fit into the categories I have mentioned. I need to point out here that I have been involved in a couple of healthy relationships, but I just wasn’t in a place to commit to them at the time so you can see it works both ways.
My latest relationship having come to an end, I started to think about the reasons my relationships ended and, more importantly, what it was about those people that I had chosen to be my partner in the first place. I say chosen, because when it comes down to it, I was the one responsible and clearly made the decision to commit to them. People assume that because I am a qualified counsellor and coach that I have all the answers, but the reality is we can’t support ourselves when we are going through something. We need the support of someone outside our situation.
Having come to some personal conclusions, I want to share with you now, however you identify, that you can choose a partner that is right for you and at the same time erase the drama from your life that’s usually associated with breakups.
First things first, people always have and always will have opinions, I am sure you will agree, it’s part of being human and realistically, how would we ever develop and grow if we all thought the same? As such, every person reading this will have their own view depending on their own personal circumstances.
Some of you may be reading this and recognise it as true for you, some of you may deny you have ever done such a thing, and some of you may even be getting annoyed that I am writing about it at all, and you know what? That’s ok because I am writing this from my perspective, that of my friends and client experiences.
Let me tell you about one client’s journey in finding an equal partner. To protect her identity, let’s call her Clare. Clare reached out to me because she was tired of all her relationships ending. She was in her 30s, successful in her chosen career and in every other part of her life except for her intimate relationships. Clare just couldn’t understand why she was unable to maintain a healthy, loving relationship.
When she looked back, she was astonished at how many girlfriends she had been involved with. During this process, she became very upset and asked, “what is wrong with me, I’m an intelligent woman and should know better”. This gave us the opportunity to explore and work on the ways Clare approached her relationships and why she had chosen the girlfriends she had. The breakthrough came when she realised she had been committing way too early, attaching to her relationships based solely on physical attraction because she believed this was the most important thing to her.
Working with me, she realised she gave her heart freely to potential partners believing they were “the one”. Clare felt hopeless and believed she would never meet someone she could spend the rest of her life with.
We unpacked what it was that Clare really valued in a relationship and what she believed a true, intimate relationship looked like. During this process, she realised she hadn’t given any of her relationships enough time for her to really get to know her chosen girlfriends properly but rather, made up her own story of who she thought they were. The reality was that the girls she met were not who they presented themselves to be and after a few months or even years, showed their true selves which was no longer attractive to Clare.
Clare started to value herself more and was able to move forward in her relationships knowing exactly what she would accept and what she wouldn’t in her close relationships. It took time, but she is now very happy in a loving, healthy relationship. Furthermore, she is now able to recognise the value of taking her time and getting to know someone before committing to them.
From my own experience and that of speaking with my friends and other clients, I discovered this way of approaching relationships within the lesbian community is very common. As a result of this, our acceptance and rejection experiences rise with us sometimes being left feeling that there is, indeed, something wrong with us and that we don’t deserve to have a healthy, loving relationship.
So where does this pattern come from and how can we put an end to it? The answer is it comes from many places, and I certainly won’t be able to cover them all in this article. Rather, I will explore the ones that have presented through many conversations with people.
Rejection > Recognising
Society has so many expectations and rules of who we should and should not be that most of us have spent our lives feeling like we need to prove ourselves to be accepted in this life we live. Most of us fear rejection so much that we enter relationships presenting an idea of who we are rather than who we are at our core.
It’s not until we understand that all we need to do is just be ourselves as well as being clear around what it is we want and need from a relationship. Otherwise, we will continue to break down with the result, we move on to the next person hoping they will be “the one”.
Recognising our patterns is crucial. Because once we become aware of the ways we approach our relationships, we can make the necessary changes to move forward increasing our chances of a long-lasting partnership.
Conditioning > Belief
Conditioning is where people in our lives, usually our parents, teachers and other important people in our lives have taught us to think and believe as they do.
To have our own belief system, we must dig deep and ask ourselves those questions that provide us with the insights around what it is we truly think and believe. That way, we can be sure we are making the right choices and decisions when it comes to choosing a partner that is right for us.
Judgement > Confidence
Judgement and rejection play a huge part in how we trust others. When we find our relationships constantly ending, we can sometimes build the belief that there is something wrong with us and we will never find someone to share the rest of our lives with.
Building confidence in the knowledge of who we are is key so that we can be sure we are making choices and decisions that are right for us.
Blame > Ownership
Not only can we blame ourselves when our relationships end but we sometimes blame the other person. That way, we can avoid exactly what we are doing and so the pattern continues because we believe it’s nothing to do with us.
Taking responsibility and ownership of our life is so important. Because if we don’t, we will continue to do the same things we have always done, and nothing will change.
Past trauma > Moving forward
Trauma, for those who have experienced it, is extremely significant in determining who we become. We can get stuck in the past and build strong beliefs about ourselves based solely on what other people think about us. The consequence here is that we don’t fully live our lives or achieve what we are capable of.
Moving forward is so important so that you can love and be loved by someone who genuinely cares about you. I am not for one minute saying forget your trauma but rather find support so that you can, at least, make peace with it and allow yourself to live in the present achieving what you have always wanted. Making peace with my past was crucial in me allowing myself to live my life the way I saw it rather than through the eyes of other people.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope you have some takeaways from it but before you go, I would like you to ask yourself - how do you approach your relationships to ensure they are long lasting?