My story starts when I was eighteen, the age I learnt my most important relationship lesson. If you can bear with an amateur writer then it goes a little something like this; see people for who they truly are rather than who you would like them to be. It sounds simple, easy? However, over ten years on and I still have to remind myself to put the lesson into practice. I have found that there is a tendency to place silent expectations on others, even when the evidence is clearly pointing one way, and then experience disappointment when they have not been met.
So in this relationship I chose to see only parts of the person’s character, the parts that attracted me, and completely ignore the elements which were less appealing and not in keeping with the behaviour that I wished them to demonstrate. I told myself that the power of wanting them was enough to overcome any barriers. By doing this I did not see their character in its entirety and my self-imposed blindness was in fact just as destructive as their apparent lack of effort to make time to see me. Something else that I have also learnt in all my relationships, it usually takes two people for its success or failure. However, in the end the proportion of blame does not remove the feelings of sadness.
Of course when I was eighteen and learning these lessons I did not have the maturity to distance myself from the situation and when the other person’s behaviour did not match my vision of caring, I was inevitably disappointed beyond measure. I could not take a step back and understand that as two separate individuals we were perfectly good people but as a team we simply did not function. I kept coming back to the thought that logically the relationship could work, it should work because we both liked each other and supposedly wanted a future together. The problem stemmed from not being able to spend enough time together in order to get to know one another; there were logistical circumstances that neither of us could control and therefore fuelled our frustration. Then, when we did see each other it felt awkward and our underdeveloped communication skills (being eighteen) worked against us and so we never really moved forward. I remember telling myself every single excuse that I could think of as to why we could not make it fulfilling; transport, timing, I was not trying hard enough, I was a difficult person to be around…and the list went on and on.
The simple truth of course was that we were not actually looking at the reality of each other’s personalities or taking the time to understand other’s perception of what a relationship looked to the other. We liked each other but we did not take into consideration how our different personality traits and our values worked together as a unit. Unsurprisingly we ended our relationship via a telephone call about two weeks before I departed for university. I probably was the only one out of the both of us to shed some tears over it but then that is how I know it mattered to me at that time.
The ‘me’ of today is a completely different to the version of ‘me’ at eighteen and I can honestly say that I can look back at that very short period of time with a fond smile. I was trying to grow up far too quickly but in doing so I learnt the invaluable yet simple lesson; see people for who they truly are rather than who you would like them to be. Now, when I am becoming frustrated or upset by another person’s actions I repeat those words to myself because it helps me to look objectively at the situation and perhaps take a much needed reality check. Am I looking at the person but not making the conscious effort of seeing them? Sometimes I think we become so intent on wanting to confirm, to be society’s version of ‘normal’, that we can forget to ask ourselves what will make us genuinely happy.
The lesson I learnt from my experience was to stay grounded in reality and not allow my exceptionally vivid imagination to run away with itself. By knowing myself and accepting people for who they are without wishing to try and change them, I find life is far less disappointing and rather rich in diversity.
Who knows if I will meet someone to share my life with, but I do know that I wish to have a relationship that will be based on honesty and acceptance. But hey, that is just what the concept means to me.