Article - Are you ready for a Relationship?
"I’m really happy
just being me – life is great. I’ve lots to do, terrific friends and so on. It’s
just that a committed relationship would be the icing on the cake – but I’m not
Of course not.
There’s no real stigma attached to being single any more.
Personally I believe that everyone needs to be single for a clear period before
going into a new relationship. It helps us to rediscover our individuality We
can’t be happy with someone else unless we can be happy in ourselves first.
No-one should expect a new relationship to solve their own emotional hang-ups.
By the way, this doesn’t mean you don’t date meanwhile. As long as you’re not
misleading anyone about your intentions, that’s fine. In fact, it can be part of
the healing process – re-building self-esteem and helping you adjust to a
Go into a new relationship too soon and
you may give out signals that you’re too emotionally needy and scare the
potential partner off. Or you might attract or be attracted to the wrong kind of
Peter, a successful barrister in his thirties, often catapulted himself from one relationship straight into the next. It just seemed to ‘happen’ this way. There was always someone attractive waiting for him after the break up of the current relationship and he craved consolation - or so it seemed. At this point he was a magnet to the kind of women who wanted him to depend on them emotionally. This was OK in the early stages of intense feeling when he was really close. He always felt that this must be the woman he was looking for and said so. Then he would
find that his need for emotional space and independence would get the upper hand
and he would pull back. Result: tears all round. Most of us have been in this
sort of situation at some stage. But is it inevitable? In the hands of fate? Or,
can we get in the driving seat and be more in control of what’s
On the other hand, stay in bachelor
mode too long and you may find you’re rather set in your ways and have
difficulties adapting to the demands of being close to someone else. Laura, a
thirty eight year old TV director finished her last relationship when she was
thirty five. The adrenaline generated by her stimulating job meant she was
always in a whirl of activity: often up at 5am to be on location and sometimes
still in the editing room at midnight. And there were always the deadlines. Her
personal life took second place and although she had an understanding circle of
good friends she kept putting off the idea of commitment. With her bio-clock
ticking away she took stock. But there was something wrong with every man she
met – not that there were many whom were available. In other words she had
become too fussy and particular. Does this ring any bells?
By examining your particular strengths
and weaknesses both in an out of relationships you can spot the danger signals
long before they become damaging. So, if it’s a good moment for you, you might
try the following workshop exercises to see where you stand at
Let’s go straight into listing three of
the most positive aspects of being on your own. Date the list and print it out.
Keep it even after you go into your next relationship. Prune it occasionally to
encourage healthy growth. Remember that people in really happy relationships are
those who value themselves as much as their partner. Carefully identify those
things that you esteem about your life as an individual. You’ll probably include
stuff like more freedom, time to see your friends, control over decision making,
being more spontaneous, just to mention some possibilities. As you write these
down think about which, if any, you lost out on in your last relationship, and
why. What might you do about this next time so that you have a better
three or more plus points
for you of being single
Now move on to list three or more of
the downsides of being single
List three or more of the
downsides of being single
Any surprises? Are any of these
downsides avoidable? Have you mentioned missing out on good sex? If you haven’t
is it that you don’t miss it, or are you having casual sex and is this OK for
you?. Have you included not having children, or do you feel that this is
something which need not always coincide with a relationship? Maybe you have
children already and wish you had someone to share their good and bad times
What about getting too set in your
ways? Being independent is one thing, but being selfish is another. On our own
we quickly lose our tolerance of other people’s shortcomings. This can make us
very reluctant to get close to another person.
Just by being more aware of potential
problems the easier it is to not be bugged by them and let them take control.
Now go for all the positive things you
can think of about being in a good relationship.
List three or more pluses
for you of being in a relationship
I wonder what you’ve put for this one.
Sharing happy and also difficult times. Laughing together. Being told you’re
wonderful. I expect you’d want to put more than three points here.
Do the disadvantages of being in a
relationship include missing out on some of the advantages of being single?
Maybe your negotiating skills need honing? But this is the subject of future
Stop for a moment and see if your
feelings about going into a relationship have changed while doing the
If you feel it all seems too much to
contemplate, ask yourself another question: what about just dating? Seeing some
new people just as friends and getting back into practice, so to speak?
Providing you keep your boundaries clear between dating, sex and an intimate
relationship, making it obvious that you aren’t ready to rush anything if you’re
not, there is nothing wrong in seeing new people. This is quite different to
going into a relationship. Too many people feel that if they go for a drink or
dinner with someone new, that this is tantamount to saying they might want to
spend the rest of their lives with them.
The point of doing these exercises is
to check out what your own goals are in a relationship. Simply thinking about
them, writing them down and maybe discussing them with a friend can empower you
in such a way that fate has less influence on your life and you can make more
real choices about outcomes.
To conclude on a positive note draw up
a list things you need to work on in a relationship next time round. Perhaps you
feel hemmed in and lacking emotional space when you allow someone to get close?
Then you need to look at how to be more assertive about your needs while still
respecting your partner’s. Ask for what you need more often rather than simply
waiting for it to be offered and then feeling resentful when it isn’t
forthcoming. Your partner’s needs should be respected - check them out as you
would your own.
three or more things you
need to be more aware of in your next relationship
Don’t make heavy weather of these
exercises. Just keep the conclusions at the back of your mind and re-examine
them from time to time. You will find that you are more in the driving seat next
copyright Mary Balfour 2000