Gretchen Mitchell, Judy Theobald and Bev McKenzie.
BFFs, friends, boyfriends, parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, neighbours… relationships are everywhere and are so important in our lives. If we are having a ‘relationship issue’ it seems to affect everything.
Have you, like me, ever wondered why there's no How To Do Relationships Well class at school, Uni or TAFE? What do great relationships look like and how does one achieve them?
Can you remember back to your first ever relationships? Your very first relationship was with your mum while you lived inside of her. You got to know her voice and her emotions and the voices of the people she was in relationship with. These may have included your dad and your siblings, extended family and friends. The problem is that most of us haven't had help with how to have great relationships. We have single parents working really hard to be mum and dad, we have abuse masquerading as love, and this lack of knowing 'how to' shows itself in relationships all around us.
However it’s a beautiful thing when the 'how to' works and a man and a woman choose each other (even though there are millions of other fish in the sea!) and commit for life to love and cherish each other, despite the challenges that may come their way. When this happens there is a great strength released.
If we first work through those needs and find our needs met in appropriate places (such as through parents, healthy friendships and good self-esteem) we can bring our whole self to share in relationship with another whole person. This brings fulfillment and freedom! Any other answers, like one night stands or relationships based on what one can get out of them, no matter how exciting the media paint them as, are only cheap copies that can heap shame and guilt on us.
Perhaps you can learn something from these two stories.
As a girl I was filled with fear that what I saw in the relationships around me would happen to me. My dad abused my mum, and I had friends at school being sexually abused by their own fathers. And these things made me dread the men around me. And so I turned to girls, because I figured having a relationship with a girl meant I’d be safe.
Life lies to us and they say in your adulthood you are always trying to fix what went on in your childhood. After some years away from that lifestyle I can finally see that I was trying to protect myself from my past, and that meant I was actually hiding from love altogether. I have been empowered now as I’ve come to understand what went wrong in me when I turned to women for love.
I can’t say I had an epiphany or a religious experience, I just realised I didn't want to be a lesbian anymore. It wasn't really me, not the deep me. It was my fear. I no longer wanted to live like that, and the truth is I did not want to bring my future children up in what I saw as an unstable and insecure environment. My experience of the gay scene was not what I wanted for others and I realised I didn’t want it for me either.
It can be a struggle to stay away, and take the heat of being judged because I walked away. We usually just think people get attacked for coming out as gay, but I lost friends when I decided I was straight. But I don’t have to fill anyone else’s shoes for I have learnt that life is not a personality contest and people either like you or they don’t. I now know my worth for I have beauty, value and worth as a woman and as one who made a choice to live as who I really am.
To me now, identity is not sexuality, neither is it the house I own, the car I drive, the job or money in the bank, but how I believe in myself and see myself as Kathleen.
I didn’t really care about not having a boyfriend in highschool, that was until I was presented with a rose in drama class by Beau. He showered me with compliments and gifts, and I was one smitten kitten. Our relationship was a roller-coaster ride into commitment. I’d never really had a boyfriend before, so...
Beau swept me off my feet and led me away from all sorts of ideas I’d had about what I would or wouldn’t do in relationships. I let him distract me from all my friends by spending ALL my time with him. I ended up sexually active quite quickly because he spoke about how much he loved me and that we’d get married so I figured why wait? But I wish I had. We didn’t get married, and I still live with the scars of that relationship. I looked at my parent’s divorce and thought “I won’t be like them”, but I made so many mistakes of my own that I ended up just as hurt and broken.
I tried to break up with Beau so many times, but I’d broken so many of my promises to myself in that relationship that I wanted it to work so much. I stayed too long, and I gave so much of my heart that it tore me apart to leave, and I only ended it by leaving the State. If I could go back I’d tell myself to listen to my head as well as my heart, to take a step back and think for myself and to wait because if he wouldn’t wait, he didn’t love me that much.
Take time to find great relationships that you can watch and learn from. Take time to identify what your needs are and find healthy ways to get them met so that you can be in a good place to invest in a committed life-producing relationship!
Gretchen Mitchell, Judy Theobald and Bev McKenzie. Photo by Shutterstock.com/rock and wasp