Bad relationships and why we tolerate them
This week Princes William and Harry have been talking about their mother, Diana and the loving, caring woman she was to two little boys being raised in abnormal circumstances. Their interview on ITV will bring you to tears.
But there was another side to Princess Diana – a woman who married a man who maybe saw her as ‘marriage material’ rather than a soul mate and whose fairytale entry into a relationship descended into a terrible realization that she was trapped in a loveless contract.
What makes us settle for less than we deserve? Is it loneliness? Desperation? Fear of being ‘left on the shelf’ in our old age? Thinking bad is better than nothing?
Sometimes it is the fear of change and all the mess that can bring. I met Carrie, just turned 60 and finding her feet after 30 years of a miserable marriage. She will admit she married for all the wrong reasons – fear of being a spinster, wanting a child, wanting to keep up with the smug marrieds. Most of all was a fear of being left alone without a mate. These were powerful enough to drive her into a web of fantasy – to herself, her family, her friends – always making out her partner to be something he never was. She constructed the man she wanted him to be and brainwashed herself until the reality became too much to ignore. By then she was a mother and stayed in that trap until her daughter left the nest. Carrie was in her fifties before she threw off the shackles of being with the wrong man. Her advice? Be honest with yourself and listen hard to your gut. If it twinges in suspicion, disappointment or alarm – it is right! See our article ‘Does your George Clooney have feet of clay?’
I wish I could have sat her down with Beth, a beautiful 50 year old who turns the heads of any man she passes. She is fit, slim, pretty, funny, gentle, affectionate and oozes personality (I dread sitting next to her!). But under this surface is a woman so concerned about having a relationship that she is searching various dating sites and seeing potential in men which her friends look upon in concern. It has even caused rifts with her dearest girlfriends. So why can’t Beth filter the good from the dodgy? It’s because underneath that lovely smile she is lonely – and as our article ‘Loneliness - Is it breaking your heart?’ covers it is a state of profound sadness. It goes against our fundamental drive to be with others and leaves a hole which pets, friends and hobbies cannot fill. Loneliness hurts.
There are things you can do about loneliness. There are organizations such as the Web of Loneliness http://www.webofloneliness.com/set up to help people connect. Good journalists like Sue Bourne create documentaries and articles about it and let you know you are not the only one. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/04/10-reasons-people-lonely-the-age-of-loneliness
But information will not get you out of the hole. You need to do something. But make it constructive. Have faith that out there somewhere is the person whose personality will fill that space, whose values will meld with yours, who will put you first and not use you, who will be a decent and not a dodgy bloke who will make your friends roll their eyes, who will be your equal not your financial drain. It takes faith – but holding out has to be better than holding onto someone who will become your nightmare. There is no place lonelier than being with the wrong person.