I’ll be your mirror…

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. I’m preoccupied by the dynamics of my own romantic history, but also the societal norms. The things we tell ourselves, the advice we give and believe.

There are tropes I find easy to dismiss. I know you don’t need to love yourself to have others love you. Lots of warm, kind, excellent folk don’t like themselves all the time. Self doubt doesn’t make good qualities any less appealing. Obviously loving yourself is beneficial in countless ways. Whilst you’re working on it, you aren’t exempt from third party estimation.

I’ve never bought into ‘you’ll find them when you’re not looking’ thing. I found a few lovely people by actively looking. They might not have been forever, but they were good experiences. A couple I’ve kept around on a platonic basis. It’s always struck me as daft advice. The exact opposite of the accepted wisdom on goal achievement. We tell each other to put the work in when seeking career advancement, not to buy the first thing we like when making big purchases, practise hard to develop new skills and so on. If every other life enhancement requires careful consideration & applying ourselves why should we leave finding a life partner to chance. Sure, a meet cute is romantic; it’s just not all that realistic for most people. Very few things of value fall into one’s lap. Putting yourself out there appears sensible.

There are many more obviously problematic cliches. I’d love to bin that ‘if you can’t handle me at my worst’ nonsense. It lends itself way too easily to toxic situations. Everything happens for a reason is similarly flawed. You’ll drive yourself crazy with that one. Sometimes life is random & people are fuckwits, you cannot base decisions on chaos. Trust your gut is 50/50, lots of us have less than stellar instincts. Plenty of fish in sea, tonnes of utter garbage too. Love at first sight is usually just desire. We each have more than one soulmate and karma rarely gets involved in romantic entanglements. I’m sure you get my point. I’ve had my share of passion & I’m not buying the prosaic instruction.

If you can’t handle me at my worst, you probably have healthy boundaries in neon lettering

Or am I? I do find myself stuck on some well worn pearls. I can’t completely rid myself of the notion that how we feel about ourselves inform the partners we choose and how they treat us. Nor can I discount, we get the love life we believe we deserve. Perhaps these speak to my own experiences & mental struggles. I can see how that would make sense. I often think of myself as difficult. I’m uncompromising on many points, strident, damaged. I recognise I also have more endearing characteristics. Still, you could summarise most of my amorous affairs as complicated. Kind souls with simpler offerings rarely hold my attention for long. Out & out baddies are likewise swiftly disguarded. I learned early not to let anyone smash my heart to pieces. However, I will absolutely keep coming back if you make a riddle of slowly dismantling the pieces.

I think loving me is laborious, so I choose relationships with challenging dynamics. Can it really be that simple? I know my penchant for the fickle isn’t unique & many other unhelpful patterns exist. Believe me, taking all the blame isn’t a huge leap for me. On the other hand, wouldn’t establishing that as fact encourage the beliefs that started this? Confirming that one’s perceived maladjustment is the cause of failed romance seems to solidify those negative beliefs. That strikes me as sticky little trap.

I feel there has been a shift in the focus of romantic guidance we consume. These seemingly deeper insights are definitely well intended. I think we offer this advice because we want to protect people we care for & we believe it for self preservation. Having control is comforting. Thus it’s tempting to internalise blame. If you’re at fault, you can fix it. I’m just wondering if it all becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. When think we pick the wrong people and we accept the wrong behaviour, don’t we just lower our opinion of ourselves? I worry that just leaves a person open to more manipulation & ill treatment.

We accept the love we think we deserve in black lettering on pink background

It especially gives me pause because I see it most often aimed at women & people with mental health issues. It’s perplexing. On one hand introspection totally makes sense. On the other it plays into really unhealthy existing thought patterns. Basically I’m wondering if in the guise of taking responsibility we’re actually setting ourselves up to fail.

I’m in danger of going full Carrie Bradshaw with all the relationship pondering, but what do you think? Are there any wise (or not so wise) words that have had an impact on you?Carrie Bradshaw from s&tc with text ‘when it comes to life & love, do we accept our worst reviews’