This is PROJECT R: Relationship Interrupted.
On a vicbriggs blog-screen near you from the 14th to the 31st of October
Whether you are in a relationship or not, this is a project you can get your teeth into.
Why? To help a friend escape the white cushioned walls and complementary straightjacket.
How? Just follow the link below and answer eight questions about relationships or lack thereof, love and fulfilment, failure and success, flaws and accomplishments, and soul-mates.
There is no right or wrong way to approach this. Your way is the right way. It is up to you whether your answer is prose or verse, stream of consciousness or iambic pentameter.
Please send your contribution for PROJECT R to: email@example.com.
The deadline for submissions is Sunday, the 13th of October.
All for a good cause.
Yesterday I went a little off the Greek God handle in my answers to the Q&A. Could promise to tone it down for today’s commentary on LL’s insights into the single life, but chances are… it will still happen.
So, tuck your un-mythological seatbelts and enjoy the ride.
About: I think, therefore I am mad. The good kind
LL’s approach intrigued me; it found resonance in many of my own musings on the subject – such difficult issues they are too.
I find it difficult to believe that anyone would disagree, but then… There are always those who must.
So… to it then!
1. On Failure. LL: “How often they suggest that past relationships are failures, rather than experiences that can offer both parties the gift of insight, as if because something was time-limited or brief or is no more, that it was not fulfilling or wonderful or an occasion to learn.”
Every time when a friend comes out of a relationship, it is always a struggle to persuade them that they have not failed; that simply because a relationship has run its course, it does not make it any less meaningful. Perhaps they need to think badly of what has passed in order to get over it.
If I thought this would be helpful in the long term, I’d leave them to it. Alas… If only!
Being happy in a relationship, even if it is a short-lived one is a success, not a failure. Being on your own – again happily so – is equally a success. Failure is a term too often attributed without any forethought. Societal norms have a lot to answer for in this respect.
When it comes to marriage too… Is marriage a failure is it ends in divorce? Is staying in an unhappy marriage – because either or both are too afraid of going it alone – a success? Is “length of service” ever a consideration when it comes to success or failure?
To live in misery with someone for a lifetime is to fail them and yourself. It is to rob two people of the possibility of happiness, whether that comes in the form of another relationship, or in the form of single contentment.
2. On Being Flawed. LL: “How they imply that women and men who are single must be flawed, broken, undesirable, inflexible, psychologically damaged, unskilled at sex or love or communication, rather than, perhaps, individuals who may simply prefer solitude, prefer a different type of relationship arrangement, who may have done the emotional work that makes them less likely to enter hastily into (or stay in) abusive or unfulfilling relationships, who may have other types of partnerships and connections, or who may simply not have the desire to be in a romantic partnership (now or ever).”
This misguided attitude has been something of a thorn in my side for some time. Admittedly, society is less punitive in its attitude towards bachelors than ‘old maids’ – even at the level of language used that is evident, but still.
Feeling like a failure for not being able to make a relationship work, wondering whether there is something the matter with you, whether you are somehow ‘broken’ because your partner left even after you made every effort to keep the relationship going…
How can you explain to someone and persuade them that relationships sometimes end without any blame on either side. The flame burns out. That is all.
It is tough when it burns out for one quicker than the other, but why automatically assume that it must have been something that you did or did not do?
Sometimes it is simply better to say “thank you” and move on. Unfortunately the “f*** you” is far more often the preferred phraseology.
I do wish there would be a way to reverse this self-destructive tendency in both men and women.
The truth is that we are all flawed: we are human after all.
We are all broken (psychologically damaged too perhaps: one in three people suffer from depression) – sometimes; we all have baggage and it is not that easy to leave it behind. We’ve all done battle. We all have the scars to show for it. If you have never been broken, you have never lived, nor loved.
Undesirable? Well. If we expect to be universally desired, we won’t get very far. But undesirable how? And to whom? What about all the people who are there for us, always at our side? Who love us just the way we are. Why are we so quick to take all that is negative to heart, and yet so slow to see the good in our lives?
Inflexible. What does flexibility have to do with it? Sure, we are all slaves to habit up to a point. Yes. Perhaps we are not quick to adapt our routine to the new entries into our life. Hm. And high standards, high expectations, high – what have you… We are all guilty of this to some extent, but why sell our freedom short? (Excuse the monetary terminology).
To be happy with someone else, surely means to be able to be yourself when with them. If that means being inflexible, then I salute all inflexible men and women of the world.
Do we have to abandon ourselves, completely erode our identity for the sake of getting a partner? If that is the case, I’d get a vibrator. It would satisfy just about as much of your needs as a partner who expects you to become someone else for their sake.
3. On Eros. LL: “How they argue that there is one type of love and relation that is aspirational, against which all others pale. As if the love of our families, our friends, our colleagues, our communities, our lovers…were not enough. Eros trumps all, trumps philia, trumps storge, trumps agape.”
Being antisocial: one of the first visible signs of being in love. Perhaps Eros does trump all, when it arrives.
Complete co-dependency however… is deeply unsettling. Being joined at the hip for the honeymoon of a relationship is understandable enough, but… after? This, I suppose, will remain forever a mystery to me.
I would feel stifled, un-free, and somewhat claustrophobic had my ‘romantic’ relationship been the only meaningful relationship I maintained.
With my family I share a language that is simply not accessible to others except in the most superficial of ways. To be denied the pleasure of delving every now and then alone into that world, a casus belli.
My friends mean the world to me. They are beloved to me as much as a sister or brother might be. To be denied this: a maximum casus belli if there ever was one.
This is love too. Without it I would lose myself. So Eros can never have full dominion over my heart. He has to learn to share. I know I do.
4. On Soul-mates. LL: “How they infer that until we meet our (presumably monogamous) partner, and fall into some sort of nebulously and poorly defined thing called “love,” we singletons are mere shells of human beings, eternally waiting for our “other halves,” our “soul-mates,” or, at the very least, a person to co-habitate with, and at some point, possibly sign a legal contract that has nothing in actuality to do with love, despite social norms that try to convince us otherwise. As if we are less than whole people, always lacking.”
The language of love and poetry alas! This is so engrained into our psyche that I doubt any amount of lamentation would manage to dethrone it.
But “mere shells of human beings”? That’s a little harsh insofar singledom is concerned.
As for the rest…
Can we help it? All literature, all poetry tells us the same. The longing is real. It is grounded in our necessities as human animals – carnal appetites that will always be there is some form, of some intensity, and for some duration – but we have made Art of it.
Eros finds expression in our creativity and imagination. And whether you behold it or are forever alone, the longing will not be subdued, never fully conquered. We may learn to live with it, but it can never leave us.
The lacking however is self- and society- imposed. What is it that we lack? We are complete before we meet the other. We are complete after. If transformed.
Unsanctified by church, un-ratified by the state, unacknowledged by society, yet love is love is love. Relationships are that too, whatever our institutions choose to call them. Who are they to judge? Why do we let them?
5. On Self-Love. LL: “How they advise that a single person must simply “love themselves enough” before they find a partner, as if self-love and worthiness were not things that people must and should do for themselves and for the many other relationships they have with their families, friends, and co-workers. As if self-love were not, above all, for one’s self. As if the very people who believe that they are worthy just as they are, who have developed communication skills, who can be vulnerable and sit with others’ vulnerability, are those who do love themselves enough. As if breaking up with someone cannot be an act of self-love, or, indeed an act of love towards others to avoid mutual disappointment or resentment.”
Once upon a time, in a country far far away, when I had only just found my wolf and he dutifully agreed not to eat Grandma in exchange for my hand (I do have one tasty hand), this question found its way out of the woodwork:
Me: Why do you love me?
Him: Don’t know. Just do.
Me (winy): But whyyyy?
Him (indulgent): Because you’re amazing. Just wonderful. And because…
Me (expectant): Yes?
Him: I’m ecstatically happy when I’m with you.
Me (well pleased): Ditto.
Notice that, at no point in that exchange did he ever say “Well, darling, it’s because you love yourself so damned much!”
I still ask that question every now and then (because it’s fun, and I enjoy his variations on how bloody incredible he thinks me), but still… no self-love conditional ever came into the equation. Ever.
It almost scares me how topical this is. This friend I told you about, the one recovering from the heart-trampled-over situation, received the following message: “X will never be able to love anyone else before X learns to love x-self”.
To recap. This was a post breakup message, by the breakup initiator, to the mother of said “X.”
Low blow, isn’t it? Please promise me you will never do that to someone just because your relationship time is up. Why say it? Why say it via someone else? Why after the breakup?
I have no answers for this I’m afraid. It’s not something that I would ever dream of hanging around someone’s neck. I cannot understand it.
6. On Fulfilment. LL: “How they discount the other accomplishments in our lives by assuming our happinesses or our successes are not enough if we do not also “find someone nice to settle down with.” As if the only occasions worthy of public and community celebrations are marriages (and having children).”
The only people who can change this are the people whose accomplishments are being ignored/overlooked/insufficiently acknowledged by those around them.
Let’s take our share of the blame for this. Do we blow our own trumpets enough? Do we shy away from the limelight?
Perhaps the next time you do something you want acknowledged: it’s your “baby” and you can throw a “shower” for it, or have a big blow-out party (within budget mind) and yes! feel free to wear a massive white meringue to it. Guys too. No discrimination on party wear.
7. On Interpersonal Skills. LL: “How they presume that being in a relationship or being married automatically makes someone a more skilled communicator, empathic person, sexually open partner, considerate human being, or expert in love than any single person could ever hope to be.”
Well… that’s just silly. Celebrity crime couples anyone? How empathetic and considerate were they? Not very. Admittedly, they may well have been sexually open as partners, and skilled communicators in their field of ‘expertise’ at least.
And long-term relationships are just as liable to make you a worse communicator. I mean, you get to know one another so well, you guess what the other wants, needs, means to say. So empathetic yes, but as for communication: Stone Age grunts do just as well.
Me: You hungry?
Him: Gruh. (I know, from experience, this to mean “Yes, darling, it’s been a rather long day, and I am feeling somewhat peckish at present”).
Me: Ahem. (He knows, again from years of experience, this to mean: “Well then, my love, you’d better get that apron on, because I am rather famished myself.”
And dinner follows in due time.
That’s all there is to it. Great communicators? Well… in a manner of speaking we both are.
8. On Project R. Do you think this a worthwhile project? In what way, if at all, did this project help you think through the question of “relationships”? Feel free to add here any other thoughts you may have on the subject that was not covered by the above questions.
I am one of the lucky ones when it comes to singleness: have always taken it lightly and never questioned my worth.
I am also one of the lucky ones when it comes to being in a relationship: happily married for ten years now.
This project is not about me. It is about mending someone’s broken heart.
It is also about getting others to think about relationships in a different way. I hope with this beginning, I’ve managed to put the right foot forward.
Let your foot join mine. Awaiting the knock at the mailbox door any day now. Cups of tea all around for everyone who sends in a piece (or just needs a cuppa).
Thank you for being a part of Project R!
Great to have you here
Come again 🙂
Submissions will be posted on my blog starting Monday, the 14th of October. One day for each submission if there are seventeen or fewer. If there is a lot of interest and the project takes off then we’ll timeshare vicbriggs’ blog-screen accordingly.
For the Sample Q&A (if you work better with an example in front of you) follow: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/join-project-r-click-here-for-the-qa/
For more on what motivated me to start this project and for the questions to answer follow this link: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/project-r-i-think-best-when-i-think-with-others/ .
For your piece, feel free to do both: answer the questions and comment on LL’s quotes, but it is absolutely fine if you’d rather do only one or the other. Whatever works for you!
And don’t forget to add your info at the start so that other bloggers know where to find you to follow you! A short bio could be helpful too, if you feel like it, but I’m not a stickler for the rules, so just do what feels right for you.
Project R’s “they” section was inspired by Lucia Lorenzi’s On Being Alone: Rethinking the Single Life. To read her post, follow this link: http://lucialorenzi.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/on-being-alone-rethinking-the-single-life/ It is a beautifully written and insightful piece. Perhaps it may help you with your own.
Project R is also somewhat of a nod and wink to AOpinionatedMan’s Project O, a project on Opinion hosted on his blog during September. Follow this link to view contributions to this project: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/08/26/project-o
Finally, it is a reply to the WordPress Daily Prompt: Exhale. “Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong — and then, suddenly, you knew it would be alright. Photographers, artists, poets: show us SAFETY.” I thought it a pertinent prompt to the subject of relationships and alone-ness, since both can offer us safety and the reverse in equal measure.http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/daily-prompt-safety/
And since love can be an addiction, I’ve decided to add it to the WordPress Daily Prompt: Can’t Get Enough (ADDICTING) as well: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/daily-prompt-addicting/