By: Antoneta Bursac
I recently ended an amazing 6-year long relationship with a man I respect and love, but our core values did not align and we were definitely not right for each other long term. I am now really single for the first time in my life just before turning 30.
Obviously I have been single in the past, but not really. Being single in the middle of a lockdown is different from being single at university whilst surrounded by peers and boys, or whilst working in Central London.
It’s been over 5 months now and I wanted to share some feelings about being alone. Living alone, working alone and being truly independent and alone, during my Saturn Return, in the midst of a global pandemic, with no clue or sight of meeting anyone any time soon.
The reason why I mention how amazing my ex was at the start is because I want you to understand that even though I am someone who is led by emotion
(Eg: being deeply affected by a bout of severe adult acne led me to found a company to provide resources and products to effectively remove it)
- my head has always been stronger than my heart. I have also come to the conclusion that this is actually more common in women than I thought.
As a woman I think that we are conditioned to believe that we are not very emotionally stable, strong or decisive. We get periods every month and have complex hormonal fluctuations, unlike the stable 24-hour testosterone cycle our male counterparts are blessed with.
It is common that whenever we express any level of emotion other than neutrality we are asked if we are PMSing. We have learnt to second guess our intuition and question our feelings (am I really pissed off with him or am I just hangry?), and quite often I see us settling for things, careers and people that are just not good enough.
Since I’ve become increasingly interested in what I am actually looking for in a future husband and relationship, I have seen a pattern of confusion in myself and my friendship group of women going through the same thing in their 30s. Books I used to come to these conclusions are cited below:
Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
Mr Greene believes that we have an ingrained animal nature and have to constantly work to overcome deep rooted animal forces within us such as anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, etc. These primal forces can create negative patterns of behavior.
He says that we are basically irrational creatures. We think that we are rational but really our emotions govern us and we feel something before we have an idea or think about it.
Understand that as humans we are built to constantly compare ourselves to other people in that we are always thinking of what the other person has, and how we can get that thing too. We constantly compare ourselves in rank and power and status with the people around us. Social media completely exacerbates this – it is the source of envy.
Another powerful statement of his is that contagiousness of emotions is real and strong. We tend to think of ourselves as autonomous human beings, that we are independent and we feel affection on our own. We don’t realize how deeply affected we are by the emotions of people in a group and those closest to us. We pick up moods of other people, our ability to click with viral emotions is unbelievable and I really think this is obvious from the many online movements that are happening today.
In fact, levels of self-absorption and narcissism have been growing steadily from the 1970s. A lot of people are really bad at observing basic elements in human psychology, and he blames the excessive use of technology for a lot of this behavior.
Mr Greene says the number one problem he sees in people he consults is that they have an inability to understand the people closest to them. They partner with the wrong people for work, they hire the wrong assistants, they get into relationships for the wrong reasons with the wrong type of person. They don’t understand the basics about understanding their own emotions or the people around them.
What I found really useful to understand from his book is that there is something deeply ingrained within each individual person which causes us to go into compulsive patterns of human behavior, and that this is our own personal nature that cannot be changed.
Everyone has these patterns. Some of it comes from our DNA (that we inherited from ancestors and our parents), some from early attachments, and some from interactions as we get older that create the way we view and think of ourselves.
Each person has a mix of these qualities – we are really mysteries to ourselves. We have patterns of behavior that we don’t even fully understand, where our feelings of anger and emotion deeply stem from. He states several times in the book that taking the time to gain knowledge and understanding about who you really are is an end in itself, and will help you become the human being you have the potential to become.
His advice: Take baby steps in learning how to understand yourself better on a daily basis. When we have emotions and specific behaviors, we should question why we have this idea, why we are feeling this sudden emotion and what has led us to take this action.
It definitely takes a degree of intersection that I was not comfortable with at first, but by examining it you begin the process of admitting where your biases and anger and feelings that might be holding you back actually come from.
Recognizing who you are and questioning what is reality, and what is actually just you and your thoughts, can lead you to the other side of the story. Stop assuming everything you do is so brilliant, smart and right, and maybe your ideas don’t come from yourself, maybe you’re just assuming it from other people, getting swept up in a viral emotion or in other people’s feelings and viewpoints. Denial can cause blockages in how you look at yourself and it is a process to work on confronting reality for what it really is.
In regards to your partner, the most important step you can take is to admit that you might have a problem (with them or yourself!) and that you actually might not understand them.
Once you admit this you can begin going through the steps of starting to learn. A lot of the time when we think we understand someone we are projecting our own emotions onto them. If we start to look at our partner’s nonverbal communication we can start to notice and understand their perspective (this is so useful in the middle of arguments. I’ve had to step back and tell myself to stop being so self-righteous many times, which has helped me come to a conclusion about if I am actually with the right person faster).
The biggest problem with human nature is that we deny there is human nature.
We have to learn to become rational through a human process, and it will help confirm if our relationships are right for us personally once we learn to do this properly.
19 Hours worth of audio books and talks by Esther Perel - mainly The State of Affairs & Mating in Captivity
I think my main takeaway was to understand that there is a lot of goodwill at the start of every new relationship. The experience of being seen, known and having all of your partner’s attention on you is really fun.
Obviously this fades and over time, with complacency, with small steps and actions and perceptions and biases, negatives are amplified and we run into problems.
When looking at the problems in any relationship we need to first look at what you are personally doing to improve things or make them worse. Stop only looking at the other person and understand that there are always 2 sides to a story.
Love, sex and money are three big themes that are worth exploring in her books and talks.
There is no way to condense this woman’s depth of knowledge when it comes to romantic relationships, because we all have an individual story that defines our relationship, but these two books will definitely help you explore whatever your story and cultural context is.
We basically have to tease out what we want, from ourselves and our partners and understand who we and they actually are.
To conclude, and without sounding too cheesy, being single at this age is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I have worked on my female friendships more in the past year than ever before, and have soulmates for life in that sense. I have learnt more about myself, who I really am, and what I really want and need from a partner. And I am really bloody comfortable in my own skin– with or without acne.