(Edit 25/09/19: Yeah, never mind, just ignore all of that)
It’s time to see Fraser again.
If you’re one of the people who religiously reads this blog then you’ll remember who Fraser is (in which case you’ll probably be my mum, in which case, we’re out of Sriracha). For those who don’t, Fraser is my therapist/a total DILF who I’ve seen intermittently for 13 years.
As I’ve written previously there exists a stigma within our society that one only needs to see a therapist either when something incredibly tragic has happened or you’re one more Rosé fuelled emotional meltdown away from going all 2007 Britney. I couldn’t disagree more. This is going to be a happy visit, full of joy and discovery and probably a conversation I could have with someone who isn’t going to charge me $220 for it.
The reason being, I’m seeing someone.
An actual human female woman has managed to see something in me that was apparently worth hanging on to. For the first time in two years, I’m in a relationship. It isn’t the longest furlough ever, but it seems an age since I’ve strayed from the vapid, casual swamp of physically-based encounters into the meaningful, fulfilling and emotionally-demanding tundra of committed relationships.
Again, if you’ve read my other pieces you may know that my last relationship didn’t end so well, or really go very well at any stage, as much as I tried to convince myself otherwise. The issue lies in that I thought it was going well at the time, blinded as I was by blonde braids and massive mammaries. As much as this new girl seems so very far removed from the whore of Christmas past, it’s impossible not to let doubt seep in and whisper, “Yeah, but the last one seemed pretty good to start with, didn’t she?”.
Is this just another bitch in Cheer clothing (because of course she’s a cheerleader), or have I been fortunate enough to find someone genuine and special?
The natural instinct is to dig, to question, to criticise and scrutinise every aspect of this newcomer and put them on the rack; to vet them so thoroughly that there is no character flaw left unturned. But that isn’t fair on her. By all accounts thus far she has been kind, caring, understanding and most importantly, quite awesome. We seem to get along really well and so far I am happy to say that I am, well, happy!
So what now? If it’s unfair to pre-emptively judge the new girl, and we have (supposedly) moved on from the last, who do we grill? There’s only one person left.. ourselves.
After a bad breakup or shitty relationship it is tempting and somewhat automatic for us to blame the other party, to march around and say they were “too much of this” or, “not enough of that” or that if they only were a little more of “something” it would have worked out. It may even all be true! I have no doubt that your ex was emotionally distant and refused to let themselves be truly vulnerable with you, resulting in an emotionally shallow and ultimately meaningless relationship that left you feeling more alone than if they weren’t around at all. But they’re gone, and realising all of this two years later is bringing the right appetiser to the party after everyone’s already left in an Uber, gotten the driver to swing through Maccas and pointlessly asked them if they want any nuggets.
All that’s left is you, and you owe it to yourself to be self aware of the mistakes you made in the past, so you can avoid them this time around.
That being said, I present to you my list of “shit I did bad last time and hope to do less bad this time”.
Be honest. I mean REALLY honest.
I have enough faith in my fellow millennial’s to think that the majority of us live by the mantra of “honesty is the best policy”. I am fully aware that there are turds out there that are steadfastly against telling the truth (I’ve called plenty of them ‘friends’ in the past) but for the most part we all love to preach that we are honest beings who wear our hearts on our sleeve. I entered my last relationship with the intention that I was always going to be upfront and honest. If something bothered me, I was going to say something, and I did! What amazes me, however, was how quickly I was willing to bury the truth if it meant avoiding an uncomfortable situation. More often than not the conversations went something like;
“This is bothering me.”
“Hmm, that doesn’t bother me that much.”
“Lol! yeah doesn’t bother me much either haha goodnight xoxo.”
I ended up being honest so long as her views matched up to mine; my feelings seemed to be only as important as her feelings, so long as they didn’t rock the boat too much. I can’t blame her, she was just being the honest one, and in the end it made me a liar.
Don’t be a coward
Buried deep within my past experience or some long-repressed trauma lies the basis for a modern-day crippling fear of abandonment. I’m sure with a bit of probing and some extortionate visits to F-dawg they could be very easily discovered, but I just have far too much on my plate right now what with being an unemployed uni student and semi-professional Cheerleader. It’s never easy to admit one was wrong, but I’m left in the unfortunate position of having to admit that I was a huge factor in my own unhappiness (which is actually quite often the case with all events in life and if you think you’re an exception then I have some bad news for you honey).
If my repressed honesty was my magnum opus then my cowardice was the pen and paper. I said that I didn’t want to rock the boat, and that was because I was afraid; afraid that if I rocked it too much, if I really pushed hard on an issue that was important to me or caused too much of a fuss, she would abandon ship. Somehow, for some fucked up reason, her leaving became a worse alternative than me being unsatisfied. The answer to the question “Is someone else’s happiness worth more than your own?” seems so obvious now, but back then it was blurred.
“As long as she’s happy” became my personal mantra, shame I forgot to give own self a shoutout in there.
No, I’m not talking about the fact that there’s a ‘reacher’ and a ‘settler’ in every relationship. (If you even have to ask that question about your own relationship then I’ve got even more bad news for you babe). I’m talking about values, and how you should never compromise them for the sake of someone else.
A friend of mine was recently telling me about how she came to break up with her ex. She was unhappy, her boyfriend was by all accounts a terrible person and the relationship seemed to be going nowhere, yet she still was willing to work on it. When talking about it with her coach, she was given some advice; compile a list of five traits your ideal partner needs to have, and say these out-loud to yourself at least once a day.
So she did. She would look in the mirror every morning and list off the five most important qualities she looked for in a partner. She quickly came to realise that her boyfriend had none of these qualities. She promptly broke up with him.
If I could send myself back two years and tell my past self to do this exact same exercise past-Dan would probably scoff derisively and ridicule future-Dan for being such a loser. However, assuming past-Dan could stop being such a pretentious wanker for a moment (impossible) he’d quickly realise that his partner possessed very few of the qualities he valued most. The real issue lies with the complacency with which past-Dan was willing to accept this soulless fembot in stark contrast with the glowing angel of a partner he had always envisioned himself with.
Past-Dan had settled for less. Past-Dan was an idiot. Then again, so is Future-Dan.
Listen to your friends (and occasionally, your parents)
This point is going to be the hardest to write because I can already picture two massive shit-eating grins spreading across the faces of two particular ladies when they read this. I’ll come right out and say that my best friend never liked my ex from day zero, and I can’t blame her. At the time I thought she was being terribly unfair on my new girlfriend, their claims of “she literally has nothing to say to me” and “she treats you like shit” falling on deaf ears as I lazily daydreamed about spreading Nutella across her backside. But they were right; my ex made zero effort to engage with the people that meant most to me, with the one exception of my oldest high-school chum with whom she engaged just a little too closely.
I often like to say that “it’s easy to give advice, but really hard to accept it”. What I should start saying is, “it’s easy to give advice, but really hard to accept it from your mum”. To mums credit, she never once said that she didn’t approve of my girlfriend. She was kind, welcoming, and more than happy to include her as one of the family. But a child can tell. She was never truly on board with my relationship, but was willing to let me make my own mistakes and, in turn, learn from them and grow from them. What decent parent isn’t willing to stand back and watch their child dig their own grave? It’s just good parenting.
About a year after my breakup my best friend told me the story of a time we all went out to dinner together to my favourite restaurant. It was myself, the family, my best friend, and Skeletor. Halfway through the meal Mum and the friend went to the bathroom, and in between doing whatever takes the female species so long in there, my mother turned to my friend and said,
“I’m really trying to like her, I really am…”
I’d like to say that if they were a little more forthcoming with their opinions it could have saved me a significant amount of heartache and time, but I’d be lying. It’s very hard to accept advice, but if you’re fortunate enough to have surround yourself with a circle of friends and family of whom’s opinions you trust, you could do well to listen to them from time to time.
Know when enough is enough
This last point is going to be brief and fairly devoid of advice. It is often the hardest question to answer when looking at a relationship; when is it time to move on?
One of the biggest personal obstacles to cross when faced with the prospect of breaking up with someone is the stigma around ‘giving up’. I’m sure we can all agree that perseverance and determination are admirable qualities and that no one likes to be labelled a quitter. It’s in our nature to try and hold on tightly to something that once brought us great joy, even if it means throwing all notions of reason and common sense to the wind.
Many of us don’t get the benefit of a cataclysmic event or massive epiphany to spur us into making a decision. The death of a relationship is most often a slow burn, punctuated by a thousand paper cuts.
If anyone has any suggestions as to when the right time to end a relationship is, please tell me. The only guidance I can give myself for now is to try and think of a breakup not as quitting, but a reclamation of one’s own agency, freedom, and happiness.
I’d like to close by saying that I’m no messiah. I write these pieces not to preach or to lecture anybody, but as an exercise in self-reflection and because I believe writing about one’s issues is great therapy. I put them online on a crappy website that costs me $20 a year to maintain for some small measure of accountability and so that anyone curious enough can come and get a glimpse into the life of a spoilt, inner-suburban Melbourne man-child. Whenever I get to this stage in writing a new piece I always question whether or not it’s worth publishing. I honestly hate half of the stuff I write and the temptation is to just leave it in draft and go watch more clips of British panel shows.
When I wrote my last piece about therapy, an amazing thing happened; people started messaging me about my experiences seeing a therapist. Some even asked if I could recommend them someone to go and see. I was horrendously ill equipped for this kind of response, but I tried my best to steer some people in the right direction. That’s why I now push myself to publish anything that I write; for myself, but also in the hope that even if one, solitary person can read something I’ve written and use it for their own personal betterment, to save themselves pain or to make themselves happier, it’ll be worth the other 99% judging me for my terrible metaphors.
So heed my words, or don’t.
All I can say is buckle up new girl, it’s going to be a wild ride.