Relationships Aren’t Always How They Appear from the Outside

Photo:  Rose growing high in a tree.  Beauty is sometimes in unexpected places.

Some of my  friends and family are worried about me.  They’re concerned about my relationships, one in particular. 

It’s not a bad relationship.  In fact, I consider it the sweetest, most caring relationship I have ever had with a man.  Yes, any man.  It’s also the deepest, closest relationship I have ever had in this lifetime.  With anyone.   Absolutely no one knows me better or has ever known me better.  But in general, no one in my closest circle approves, and some are very vocal.  They do not understand the nature of the relationship, and it doesn’t look like they think it should, so they fret about it openly or either give me the silent treatment on the rare occasions when I talk about this area of my life or what I want in the future.  And it hurts that they can be supportive of other people’s relationships but not of mine.   I mean, downright gung-ho about other people’s relationships, but with mine, they want to stage interventions without ever having met the person or give me  a choose-him-or-me ultimatum.   Sometimes I feel that they think other people deserve sweet relationships more than I do and that I should just be happy in my role as friend or family member and not want more out of life than I have with them.  They give lip service to being happy if I should ever choose an emotional bond with someone again, but when faced with the prospect, they don’t want me in a relationship of my own choosing.

For the most part, I don’t discuss it with my friends or family.  I learned my lesson on that in the past when a potential relationship, right after my divorce, was starting to brew and my then-friends hounded me constantly until I ended not only any chance of that relationship getting off the ground but also ended the relationships with the friends who were just too much “in my business.”   There’s a certain beauty to keeping moments of caring private, but the downside is that no one else has any idea how much support two people can give each other when times are rough and no one else is there for them…including  the  disapproving friends and family.

Like I said, it’s not a bad relationship.  There is a solid, long-term foundation of friendship and respect.  It’s the most evenly matched friendship I’ve ever had, with more in common than I could ever have believed.  I would not be in my current job position had he not talked me into getting back in the game.  I would not be writing again. I would not have regained my health.  I would be living a less fulfilled life in different circumstances, though I’d probably still be dating underwear models.  Yeah, not bad when you can point to one person as the catalyst for so many pockets of happiness.   It’s not perfect, and there are several jagged issues between us that both keep us apart and cement our deep compassion for each other.  Some of my friends like to tell me that I don’t need this relationship because they’re there for me.  And they are, to a great degree, but the times in the last year or so when I have been most distraught, it was he who was the first there for me, and often the only one there for me.  Even my most devoted (other) friends have their own lives that must be put ahead of me and not a one of them has sat with me for hours while I cried over a deep wound or a fresh anxiety.    He is there for me in the way that I have been there for them, and in a way that no one else is for me.  I have been absolutely blessed to have this particularly relationship in my life.

Now here’s the irony of  it all:  I’ve been in two really bad relationships–romantic relationships or what at least I considered romantic–since I’ve been an adult.  Three if you count one from my teen years.  My friends and family were incredibly supportive of those relationships.   Not all my friends and family, but the majority of them.  The only ones who weren’t supportive were one or two who saw things up close and personal and knew first-hand that I had to get out of those relationshps as fast as I could.  Most of my closest circle, however, were not only not supportive of my leaving truly bad relationships, but they insisted I needed to stay because I might otherwise end up alone…or they really like the guy.  Even when I explained to one that I’d rather slit my own throat than to live in it another minute in misery, I was told it was better to be with him than with no one.

My bad relationships looked the most “normal,” strangely enough.  On the outside, they were everything I was supposed to want and need and carried that social status of legitimacy with them, so they “had” to be good.  It was almost as if discovering that relationships that looked good on the outside sometimes had rotten cores was some kind of dirty secret we weren’t to admit. Just cover it up and keep living the lie, I was told.

I learned when I was 14 that perfect-looking relationships often aren’t.  ( I’m sure there are some that are wonderful, so if yours is, feel blessed to be an exception to my rule.)   As an idealistic teen, it was an awful surprise to me when one of the ideal marriages in my community ended in a very sudden divorce.  Assumptions were made about the man’s fidelity as a way of explaining it away, but I later found out–years later–that the wife had had a long string of affairs and had a history of mental illness.   The husband just kept trying to keep his family together and bore it all silently.  But the public facade was perfect.  By the time they separated legally, they hated each other’s guts but no one else had any idea.  When I divorced, I had colleagues who didn’t speak to me for a year or more because they were angry that I’d spoiled their perception of a good marriage.  They didn’t have problems with my husband so they didn’t understand how I could have problems with him.  The truth was, regardless of whose side anyone took, things happened inside our relationship that no one outside had a clue about, so it seemed perfect based on how well we fit into the mold of partnered-up happiness in a nice home with nice careers and two kids and a dog.

So no one really knows what happens in anyone else’s relationship.  It’s easy to assume based on our own viewpoints and reference points.  We want the security of believing that if a relationship looks a certain way, then their life should be perfect and so should ours.  But all relationships have bumps and joys. 

Some of my friends think I should be alone for the rest of my life because that way,  no man would ever hurt me again. They know I was hurt badly a couple of times and don’t want to see a repeat.   If I allow no one into my heart, then they can live peacefully and joyfully with the idea that I’m not going to be hurt.  But they love me and want the best for me.

Some of my friends think I should be with someone who is whatever their mate or boyfriend or friend is to them.  They want me to have someone close to me but someone they approve of.    Oddly, I know enough about their relationships that I would never want to trade places with them.   But they love me and want the best for me.

Do I have everything I want right now?  No.  I’m not sure I ever will.   But I am closer now to having everything I have ever wanted than I have ever been in the past.  No one seemed worried about me getting hurt when I was in a bad relationship, but they worry when I’m in a good one?    Getting hurt is a risk any time you give your heart, regardless of the type or texture of the relationship.  I’ve been just as hurt in platonic female relationships as in romantic male relationships, and I never saw it coming until the relationship was gone, gone, gone forever.

I can say it doesn’t matter to me what others think, but it does matter to me what people I care about think.  I want to believe they’re behind me, even when they disagree with the choices I make.  I certainly don’t agree with their choices, but I know it doesn’t matter as long as they’re happy, even with occasional relationship turbulence in their lives.  I wish others could rally behind me like I’ve rallied behind them, not judging their choices in life, but short of that, I’m just very glad to have one person who does rally behind me.


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