The complicated, fantastic minefield that we all experience one way or another at some point in life. It can be the most fulfilling yet painful adventure that’s full of ups and downs, uncertainty and comfort all at the same time. The rush of excitement and anticipation when you first meet a new partner is unparalleled. Your head is in the clouds and your feet are on the ground. Warm. Fuzzy. It feels like coming home.
From an evolutionary point of view, for the continuation and survival of our species we must reproduce and create offspring. To be successful in this we have to attract and retain a mate. Picture these 2 scenarios:
- A gazelle on the African plain is eating, prancing along, going about his day doing what gazelles do. He bumps into a female gazelle and what does he do? Not a great deal. He acknowledges she’s there, it’s not breeding season, oh and there’s some more grass over there. He carries on with his day. If it is breeding season he approaches her and they engage in the mating rituals of bowed heads and characteristic vocalisations. They mate and separate.
- Cinderella walks into the ball and meets the eyes of Prince Charming. The story goes that they instantly fall in love. They are drawn to each other, something about a shoe and long story short they live happily ever after.
If either the gazelle or Cinderella is how the real human population depended on finding a mate we’d be in trouble. Love at first sight doesn’t exist – lust at first sight does. That initial attraction is vitally important. Our conscious selves are saying PHWOAR look at them, they’re a bit of alright whilst our instinctual selves are saying YES you have good genes I’d like to mix them with my genes to produce good offspring. But as human beings we have evolved and developed to not be purely instinctual, we have self-awareness and insight and now in the present day we value the relationships we have with the co-producer of our offspring. So what is the point in love? Well it’s a tool to aid us in the retention of a suitable mate, it’s our mating ritual. When we feel love we produce a neurotransmitter called Oxytocin. When released this leads to heightened cooperation between parties, less violence and lower levels of adrenaline. All these components make it more likely that a paring will work collaboratively rather than competing. Hopefully with little conflict and therefore making it more likely that they will produce further viable offspring and raise and care for these effectively together. We all know we’ve moved so far on from that now and that gender and production of mini humans isn’t always on love’s agenda.
In real life when we meet that guy or girl at the bar we’re not all thinking about them being the potential parent of our children. We think about their physical appearance, personality and their compatibility with us as a person and we all conduct ourselves very differently when in a relationship. For me, I am a person that doesn’t do things by halves in any aspect of life. If I’m doing something I do it with bells on, all singing all dancing, no half measures. I’m the same in relationships. You’re my partner? Then you’re my human, you’re the one I’ve chosen out of the other 7 billion to stand by. I’m on team you, I’ll wave the flag for you and I’ll support your team no matter what. I’m 100% in and if you’re hurt I’m hurt. You’re happy then so am I. It’s me and you against the world.
Despite all the Oxytocin and goodwill in the world it doesn’t always work out.
Last year I was dumped. How could that happen after I’d invested so much?! I couldn’t get my head round that after being on this team, someone said actually I’m not really feeling like supporting team us anymore, I’m gonna go over here and support team me. I really couldn’t get my head round it. I’d been in love before but this was the first time it had been cut off and taken away without me being prepared, ready or comfortable with endings.
On reflection, it was the rejection that hurt most rather than the actual end of the relationship. It’s never nice to say goodbye to someone. A proper goodbye that means you’re not part of my everyday life anymore. And as much as I wan’t ready for that it was the person saying I DON’T WANT YOU that got me. The blow to the old self-esteemand having to manage the rejection of not being wanted was what affected me the most.
Low self-esteem paired with pretty piss poor mental health at the time resulted in fairly shit outcomes. Rejection confirmed and reignited my negative self-schemas and cognitive biases that I’m not good enough, nobody will ever love me, I’m a failure blah blah blah. Now I know that’s a load of rubbish but at the time you realllly do believe it. A number of other life things plus a relationship ending resulting in me really not being too well and it took me a while to get back on the waggon. I got there though and I learnt such a valuable lesson!
All or nothing isn’t always healthy or the best way forward. You can still be invested in something without giving 100% of you away. It’s important to retain a bit of you for yourself. It’s about looking at your values which I talked about in this post and assessing whether you are living by these. You may value a happy relationship but you value plenty of other things in life too and therefore happiness isn’t dependant on whether another person deems you good enough or not. Just because you’re not part of a team anymore doesn’t mean happiness is unobtainable. Most importantly, even when you are supporting team ‘us’ again, remember to support team ‘you’ too.
No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail disturbances many times greater than the pleasures themselves – Epicurus