With your partner, with your parents, with your friends, with the lady that served you at the supermarket.
What are they?
After years of trying to figure out what a relationship should be, I have come to understand that they shouldn’t be anything.
They are exactly what they are and whether you label them good or bad, doesn’t change them at all.
When I was growing up I was almost completely consumed by trying to make the relationships my life into what I thought they ‘should be’ and it caused me too much pain to think about.
Ever since I can remember I have tried to change people around me as well as myself in order to fit into what, on paper, makes for a good relationship.
I have identified with the condition of each relationship and I let them define me.
I had a ‘bad’ relationship with my mum throughout my teenage years.
Had I not identified with that and believed it was so, possibly the events that where unfolding would have been as they were and, like everything, they would have passed.
Instead of allowing events to unfold and for things to pass I held onto them.
I viewed my mother through these events and I painted a picture of her that stuck. It stuck for many years.
I tried to change my father and his ways so that I could be the ‘daddys girl’ I thought I was for so long.
I had labeled our relationship and so when it didn’t conform to the rules it should in order to fill the role, I was left heartbroken.
All because I had chosen to expect something from these relationships.
With my childhood boyfriend, I bent myself and forced myself to fit into boxes that I didn’t belong in. I confined myself, put myself on hold.
I gave all of my space to him and kept nothing for myself just so I could ‘support’ his wishes and dreams.
In all of these cases, I gave too much of myself and in turn expected too much from them. I was willing to sacrifice my dreams, to cancel my plans, to put them first. Why couldn’t they do the same for me?
When I was young I used to want to have kids by the time I was 20 years old.
This was me being reasonable and waiting for a ‘sensible’ age. The reason I wanted this was that I dreamed of having that family that sits around the fire at night together. I wanted to have a close family, where we share things, everyone likes each other and are happy.
It’s almost as if I wanted a neutral ground so my mum and dad would have to be ‘friends’ or have a ‘good’ relationship.
I wanted to fix my family by creating my own to glue us all back together. I would have visions of taking the kids to their grandparent’s houses, my dad taking them fishing and going to my mum every Sunday for a roast dinner.
This was all I ever wanted. But it’s not my own children I wanted, I just wanted a family.
The visions I would have would be my childhood dreams not that I wished for my own children.
My understanding of what a relationship was, was distorted. From a young age, I was always in a ‘relationship’ meaning I always had a boyfriend.
I was 14 years old when I got with my first ‘serious’ boyfriend and 22 when we ended.
Multiple times throughout this relationship I knew I should end it. I had more than enough signs, big ones!
At this stage of my life though, I did not understand myself, I did not know myself. I was lost in my life and what I thought it should be.
I was still so identified with my parents break up. It was a huge part of me, perhaps the biggest part of me for so many years. I lived with that.
Part of the reason I stayed with my first boyfriend for so long was that I never ever wanted to do what my parents did.
I held on to the relationship when I was unhappy when my intuition was telling me to let go, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t give up on us.
Such a responsibility to carry for such a young girl.
So much pressure, all from myself and my idea of what a relationship should be.
All that I knew, felt and saw from my parents break up was pain and sorrow.
There’s of course but ultimately my own.
The pain my dad endured at this time of his life was deeply traumatic. I will never forget the heartbreak I knew he was suffering.
I held this pain as if it was my own and I told myself I would never be the reason for someone else’s suffering in this way.
I was confused, I was young. I blamed others for this pain and much more.
The way my mum coped with this part of life was as much of an influence on my relationships as the pain that surrounded us was.
Her new-found life, her single life, only lead me to resent her further and I told myself I would never be like her. I stayed in a relationship because I didn’t like the way ‘single life’ was. I hated it.
I had unrealistic expectations of relationships. I was idealistic.
So when things in life weren’t as idealistic as I wanted them to be I would take another dagger to the heart.
I couldn’t understand why my dad couldn’t come home from the pub for dinner or why my mum always had to be the one having the party or why my boyfriend would never do anything for me.
I had created a picture in my head that made life almost impossible for me to be in.
After some years of living like this, I realized that this was unfair. Unfair to myself yes, but also unfair to them.
I wanted what they could not give. Unknowingly to me, I was willing to pretend, I was willing to sacrifice the life I was meant to live for there love and for what I believed was the ideal family, the ideal life.
This life was never meant for me.
I came to understand that I was asking for the impossible. I stopped asking why they weren’t like this, and I started asking why are they like that?
I started digging. I started to figure out for myself what happened to them in the past to make them the way they are. I started to look at how life was for them instead of how they were for me.
Over the years, years of inquiry. I have learned about myself. I have learned about my family. Most of all I have learned how to accept.
In my opinion, a relationship is one person seeing and accepting another. Simple as that.
I can choose to accept you as you are and love you as you are, or I can’t.
Every single person on this planet is different. We have different ideas, different interests, different opinions. We are all unique, In that, we are all the same.
This means that what makes me happy might not make you happy, How I cope is not how you do, What I like, you may not and what you do I might not agree with. But that’s just it, I don’t have to.
What any other person does is nothing to do with me.
It is this understanding that enables me to have healthy relationships today. Having a healthy relationship does not mean that my family huddles around the fire of an evening toasting marshmallows. It does not mean that my friends and I skip down the road holding hands, or that my partner and I never disagree.
What it means is that I accept all of this.
I accept my father. He is my dad and I love him more than words can describe. I understand that he is my dad with all of his heart but that is not all that he is.
He was alive before me, he had a life before me. Andrew White is a man, a man who had parents of his own, one of which he lost at age 15. A man who is delicate but hides it well, a man who will do anything he is able to for another. A man who has children, a man who has loved and lost. A man who does the best he can. He is my dad and so much more.
I accept my mother and I love her unconditionally. Deborah White is my mum but she is also a strong woman. A woman who grew up with a young mum and without her birth father. A woman who has birthed and raised two children. A woman who was the first in her family to go to university. A woman who left home at 19 to move to another country. A woman who has been in love. A woman who does the best she can. She is my mum but she is everything else at the same time.
I have learned to love people for who they are. True love knows no limits. True love makes no judgments. There are no conditions, true love holds only space, for people to be who they are. We are all perfect. We are all exactly the way we should be. Things happen to us on this journey, we all have a path, we all do our best.
True love knows that.