I have been ‘uncoupled’ now for six years. Over these last six years, I have been on some dates, had a few casual liaisons, but essentially remained ‘uncoupled.’ I am sixty-nine years old and it is the longest I have been single in my adult life. I have been married twice, had two other significant relationships, maybe three, if I count one I don’t really count, even tho’ he was someone I had agreed to marry. That was a ‘rebound’ coupling up of sorts, a self -soother to soothe my heart after a previous break up.
In the face of the privileging of long-term happy coupledom as the ideal, it is hard to admit to my rather complex love life. However it is the truth and as I get older the more honest and authentic I wish to be.
I came across these words written by Jeff Brown, which caused me to reflect once again on my experiences of coupledom and becoming uncoupled.
“Sometimes the growthful step is to walk further into a triggering love relationship. Sometimes the growthful step is to walk away. Every difficult love relationship is an opportunity for transformation. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay. Sometimes the learning is in the leaving, the realising that you are not where you belong, the recognition that you no longer have the energy for a wound-mate dynamic. There is a tendency in some psychotherapeutic circles, to assume that triggers mean that there is work to be done within the connection. And sometimes this is absolutely true. And at other times, the nature and degree of triggering is an indication that the dynamic doesn’t work. That the work ‘to be done’ is to finally accept that this kind of relationship is impossible. We often see this in connections where there is a lot of parental projection being lived out. Sometimes, we can do a lot of work in the heart of those primal patterns. We can heal some of our inner child dynamics and find peace with our past. But sometimes the healing comes from accepting that those dynamics don’t work. And that it’s time to stop repeating the pattern and looking for love where it can’t be found. Sometimes the growthful step is toward a new kind of love- one that actually meets you in your healthier places”.
The dominant and powerful narrative that coupledom is what one should aim for is everywhere. The rhetoric of how wonderful coupledom is or should be, makes it even more difficult to leave an unhealthy relationship and choose to live outside the seemingly magical world of being a couple. And then, the pressure to partner up again is enormous. I see couples all around me, all of the time …. delightfully happy couples, happy enough couples, fighting couples, bored couples, miserable couples, toxic couples. I hear constant invitations from television, social media, and sometimes friends, to go on dating sites to find Mr or Ms Right. He or She is out there, somewhere, just waiting ! Then, there is all that praise for Mr and Mrs Smith being married for 50 years and what an achievement that is! The fact that much misery may be hiding behind the scenes of that relationship is not made visible or accounted for.
In no way am I dismissing the reality that of course, there are some long-term relationships that are meaningful, fulfilling and happy.
I feel proud that I have had the courage to leave relationships that were not right for me, including a violent marriage and another psychologically abusive significant other, despite the pressure to stay and the suffering involved in the leaving.
The legacy I carry from these experiences is two-fold ..
The cost is the sadness that comes from not finding the companion that I hoped for in romantic love.
The joy is the feeling that comes from being true to one’s own integrity, demonstrating courage of heart and soul, even when it is hard.
Twelve years ago after the break-up of one long-term intimate relationship and the accumulated stressors from the rollercoaster ride before the final rupture actually happened, I collapsed on the inside. One could call it a good old fashioned nervous breakdown! This was accompanied by the death of my father who I had also looked after, during his dying process.
As I entered the black hole of deep depression, despair, anxiety, wildly fluctuating PTSD symptoms making me feel as if I was some crazy woman, I grieved at the unfairness of Life.
I had tried to be a loving and giving person hadn’t I ? Look where it had got me ! Sooo unhappy! What was it all for ? What was the point of living ? Despair racked my soul.
As I waved my fist and raged at God and the Universe just like Captain Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, I made this decision …
I determined to not become embittered, despite my bitter disappointment about Life.
I decided that I will still choose to live my life from a place of love and generosity, not impoverishment and withholding.
And the last pact I made with myself was this …
I would live like this, regardless of someone else’s behaviour towards me!
This has been certainly been challenging. I have encountered a variety of nasty kind of people since then.
However, I will not allow such people to change my intention of living from a place of love and generosity, where it is safe for me to do so. Boundaries are necessary of course, with those that would seek to do me or others harm.
Kindness is a precious gift in this unfair, unjust and unequal world.
I try to cultivate warm, intimate relationships with the people that I like and love. I put effort into staying connected with these nourishing relationships. I create community in my life. Being alone with myself does not equate to feelings of loneliness any more. I have learnt to hold my own hand and to support and value myself.
I wish I had learnt these skills earlier. I wish I had the wisdom I have now when I was younger.
Lately, when photos appear on my Facebook page of my younger self, I feel angry that I gave my attractive face and beautiful soul to some who were not worthy. I wish I had valued myself enough back then to not do that.
For me empowered ‘uncoupledom’ is not about feeling strong all the time or never feeling regret. It is about making sure that the love and connections I cultivate in my life now, outweigh the sorrow and anguish of the past when their shadows emerge and swirl about me.
My ta moko on my arm in the photo accompanying this post, was beautifully designed and created by Rangi Kipa in Aotearoa.
It depicts courage, tenacity and resilience.
I trust that some of you will relate to this korero (conversation) …..