I have had a number of relationships in my life, some short and some longer term. The former were fun while they lasted while the latter, starting when I was 17, ranged from nearly 16 years with my first wife, another of 4 months, one of 15 months and one of 6 years before I met Gaynor. We have now been together for over 28 years and married for 22 of those. In between times, I also had many years on my own, the longest of which lasted for 3 years.
With all due respect to those who put up with me during that time, it’s only now that I realise what a relationship really is. Indeed, for many years, I had no idea whatsoever. You see that, somewhat, dysfunctional childhood provided me with no real experience of one. Such experience as I did have showed me very clearly that the one you loved wouldn’t be able to look after you properly and that she would leave this life at a very early stage, while the male in this partnership would leave as soon as possible and stay away; only coming back many years later and make matters worse.
Put simply, what other children learn at their mother’s knee was lacking in my case. There was an emotional hole where foundations should have been. So, when I had those relationships, I fell in love, somewhat indiscriminately, and then tried to make sure that it was hearts and flowers all the way. The problem was that I was programmed to believe that it wouldn’t last and that, when it went wrong, I would be unhappy again. Unhappiness being my default mechanism and something that I was used to. You see, I could cope with unhappiness; what I couldn’t cope with was living with the knowledge that the happiness wouldn’t last. As a result, I created the circumstances that made sure that, sooner or later, things got back to “normal”.
Fast forward a couple of decades and, as I continually remind people, for the past 28 years, I’ve gone to bed with my best friend every night and woken up with her still beside me in the morning. And, it’s that best friend bit that is crucial. You see, with children, well they don’t choose their parents although you may choose to have them. You would hope, therefore, that, almost by osmosis, you would be friends as, I hope, that I am with all of mine. But that other adult that you choose to be with is different. I no longer expect the relationship to end and, thus, make sure that it doesn’t. What was an effort for one person is now easy with two working together.
Many years of therapy has helped me to identify the sources of my problems and, in doing so, build those foundations. And they are now pretty solid ones based on a love that arises from real friendship, respect and support for one another. The hearts and flowers no longer have to be created; they’re there as a natural part of the package. A good relationship indeed.