Valentine’s Day is around the corner and, if things aren’t entirely hunky dory in your love life, you may feel like hiding under the duvet and avoiding the whole damn thing.
But what if, to use that hoary old cliche, it really isn’t them and it is YOU?
Some of us have an absolute gift for trashing our relationships, don’t we? Our happiness lies in understanding the reasons behind this self-sabotage.
So, buy yourself some chocolate and settle down with a pen and paper and really think about the patterns that seem to endlessly repeat themselves in your love life.
Because they will be there, trust me.
Whether you are always cheated on, or your relationships fizzle out, whether you get bored after the thrill of the chase is over or you seem to pick someone with the same annoying habits over and over again, understanding why will help you move forward in a more positive way.
It’s too trite to say that we repeat childhood patterns but, very often, we do tend to recreate the environment we grew up in or pick people who remind us of a parent or strong authority figure – for good or bad.
We are also great at putting ridiculous amounts of pressure on ourselves to ‘couple up’. I answer lots of dating questions on Quora and a frequent one is “do I need to be in a relationship to be happy”? Of course not.
But if you find you are avoiding being in one when you secretly would love a significant other, it’s time for a little soul searching.
I think a good mantra to have is “connection not perfection”. By that, I mean that no relationship is perfect and if you tend to expect hearts, flowers and holidays in the Maldives and then strop off when they’re not forthcoming, you might be shooting yourself in the foot.
This year, take a step back and chill a little. These tips may help.
Accept the love life you currently have
It is what it is – as the husband annoyingly likes to remind me. There’s a reason your love life is the way it is and that’s what you need to work on this year. Whether you are in a relationship or single, it really doesn’t matter. Your goal is your happiness and deciding what’s right for you.
Tell others to mind their own business
Teach yourself to not care what others think about your love life. It’s really none of their business. Do what makes you happy, even if it’s not the norm. You don’t want to end your life with regrets.
You don’t need someone else to make you happy
You might think you do, but that way misery lies if you are constantly seeking someone new. It is easy to become addicted to the thrill of the chase – and then all too easy to become dreadfully disappointed when you realise that, yet again, this one isn’t ‘the one’ which leads me to…
The lie of the soul mate for life
Ever dated someone you just gelled with and yet it still didn’t work out? There are some lucky individuals who meet their partner and that’s it till the end of their days but they are the exception rather than the norm. If there was really one soul mate for all of us, the divorce rates would be a lot lower.
Very often couples who marry at a very young age find that they’re not compatible enough for a traditional relationship after five, ten, or twenty years.
Many couples in our parents’ generation stayed together because of the social stigma surrounding divorce in those days. Who knows how many of those relationships would have lasted if things had been different?
Don’t believe all you read about celebrity relationships
The savvier among you will be able to spot a ‘showmance’ a mile off. Yes, agents and PR companies will suggest to celebs that coupling up will increase their chances of work. (Love Island, anyone?). It’s all fake.
The airbrushed image these couples present to the world may belie what really goes on at home.
Career gone a bit flat? Let’s ‘split up’ and make sure everyone on social media knows about it then make up just in time for the launch of that new reality series.
What goes around, comes around
The late Helen Gurley Brown (the woman who created Cosmopolitan magazine), once said that she believed you don’t personally have to do the work of the gods.
By that she meant that if someone is an unreliable, unfaithful or unpleasant partner, sooner or later Karma will sort them out – without you having to do anything.
Now obviously this does not include any form of abuse or violence (for which you should seek help immediately), but in general life has a way of dealing with those who think they’re ‘all that’.
Lighten up and relax
There are loads of stories of people who met their partner when they weren’t looking and were concentrating on other things – like their own interests, goals and happiness.
Desperation is a huge turn off and confidence a huge turn on.
Make sure you have enough time to relax, rejuvenate, and become centered, whether it’s through meditation or other ways so that you present your best self to your partner or a new potential love interest.
Ultimately, you don’t need to rush to sort things out unless you are desperately unhappy and even then it is better to have a strategy rather than just throw the whole relationship away.
Once you have worked out what would make you happy then you can communicate that to your partner (existing or future) and set new ground rules. It may take time to work this out, especially if you have just gone from one relationship to the next.
It all starts with you. Not them.