We don’t always associate the word stress with love, dating and relationships, but I am seeing a surprising level of it these days. It’s not just the regular things, it feels different. This is a more pervasive sense of overwhelm that seems present in those looking for love, whether that’s for the first or second time. Most are in the thirty five plus age bracket and many in their late forties through to their sixties.
For the first timers, the dating journey has gotten fast and downright brutal. I hear the burnout stories, the disbelief having been ghosted, the confidence drop and the inability to start again after what feels like endless rejection in this swiping digital dating landscape. So many are simply exhausted and give up, not knowing how to fix whatever has gone wrong for them, and often wrongly,blaming themselves.
At the other end, marriages are ending in greater numbers. No matter who decides that time is up in a marriage, everyone, yes everyone has a minimum of two years of stress.
The one who makes the decision carries the burden of undoing this agreed life.
They must deal with the judgment of others, their own self doubts and often the wrath of their children. The aggrieved party, with less forewarning, must adjust to a new single life, unimagined until now. They must manage their own self questioning, their anger and disappointment and simultaneously they must navigate the legal terms of this once cherished, promised life.
They’re shattered, bedraggled and struggling to get forward and maybe, just maybe, after a few years feel they need to find love again, but confidence is low and suspicion is high.
Are we as a society,sufficiently acknowledging these stress levels and their collective impact on people’s mental health and are we doing enough to upskill and build resilience around relationships, breakups and marriage breakdown. I think not!
We blithely state that relationships are core to wellbeing and happiness, but what’s really out there to help you when the love road gets incomprehensibly difficult. Who do you ask when you’re feeling a bit lost? Sometimes it’s just too early to ask family or friends or maybe it’s too late. People hold their love cards close! It’s a journey that is kept very private, and for that very reason,so too are the struggles.
The problem with relationships is that the answers are deep and complex because it’s where dreams and hopes get crushed, where a lifetime of believing in something or someone has to get reviewed and abandoned, where someone must encounter their past because it’s strangling their behavior in the present.
Would it help that person to know that the average person has three significant breakups and spends eighteen months getting over them or that we generally love three times in our lives and have between five and ten love partners.
Would it help them to understand that their own way of loving is very determined by how securely they were loved and that this can be reviewed and adjusted.
Would it help them to know that when someone cheats on them that it’s not a reason for self blame or loss of confidence- people can be hard to read and relationships can be difficult to forecast.
Would it help them to review, upskill and feel empowered to go forward. Yes it would!
Because, we can learn and control what’s going wrong in our relationships. Negative patterns and obstacles known and unknown can be cleared, like an overgrowth, giving fresh shoots a chance. Not everyone needs or wants therapy but when you’re feeling low and stuck, the disciplines of psychotherapy and psychology help us to understand what might be happening both consciously and unconsciously. Reviewing the aetiology of your relationship issues can free you to build for a better relationship and a brighter future.
The narrative, that love will find you somehow, is an unhelpful confusing message to the one who struggles to find love or is navigating another breakup. Do you know what it does? It leaves that person feeling yet more alone, more helpless and more stressed.
I honestly think we can do better to prepare everyone for what’s ahead, not only by discussing consent with our young adults,which is imperative but there is also a need to introduce the skills and attitude needed to navigate the inevitable ups and downs that are part of life’s love journey.
We can take the mystery out of it! Teach and explore the language of love, need and desire, in our schools and workplaces. Challenge the luck and fairytale story and empower people to find the love that they want and to feel less stressed when it doesn’t work out, whether that’s after the inevitable early breakups or after a twenty year marriage.
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