Evolving Relationships | Pushing the Wave

Evolving Relationships

Opinion, 25 August 2023
by L.A. Davenport
The Flame by LA Davenport
The Flame, by L.A. Davenport, 1999.
What does it mean to be in a relationship?

We all know what it looks like from the outside, when two people get together and create something between them. And we have lots of expectations, both rooted in both cultural and personal beliefs, of how individuals should be, and behave, in a relationship.

But what does it mean to participate in a relationship, to be one of the partners? What do we expect from the other person, and from ourselves?

In reality, we, our partners, and the relationships with create with them, evolve constantly throughout our lives, as we move from adolescence to young adulthood, mature adulthood, middle age, older age and beyond.

Crucially, what we perceive in others changes over time as our experience grows and we become more sure of ourselves and what we want. What we find tedious or annoying in youth may soften into something seen, with time or with another partner, as charming.

I have, fortunately or perhaps otherwise, had a number of relationships over the years, and was married once, before I tied the knot again last year.

Interestingly, I have seen, as I look back across the years and the people I have dated, patterns emerge.

Individuals who, while apparently extremely different on the outside, turned out to be remarkably similar the more I got to know them, to the extent that what had seemed like a conscious ‘choice’ to be with someone not at all like my previous partner was evidently a subconscious leaning towards a person who met a series of predetermined criteria. (When this was pointed out to me and I understood what it all meant for my dating history, it blew my mind.)

Moreover, I acted in approximately the same manner in pretty much every relationship, with the same reflexes and demands on myself and on them, which resulted in me having the same set of experiences over and over again, much to my frustration.

Until my current relationship, that is.

This time, I have worked hard, indeed we both have worked hard, on not repeating the same patterns and mistakes that we made in the past.

That effort has been illuminating, as we have, sometimes, struggled to break out of moulds that were cast in our childhoods, and even far back in our family histories, to be handed down from generation to generation as received wisdoms, assumptions, generalisations and ways of behaving.

The result of these apparently predestined relationship patterns can be quite toxic. Yet you may be barely aware, if at all, that you are repeating actions and conversations held by your parents and grandparents, and that you are, in some ways, not in control of your own behaviour.

Challenging yourself to break out of these patterns and develop new ways of being is difficult, and requires the consent and help of the other person in the relationship. And for that to work at all, you both have to believe you are capable of creating something better, something more nourishing and stimulating, than what you have already, and that all the work and effort required is worth it.

Often, relationships fall at those hurdles, and I have seen many couples who have had a path to a better life together open before them shy away from it because admitting that they were wrong, or could be better people, was too much.

Consequently, they have walked away from someone they, deep down, love, from a life and home they have built together, and from the children they have brought into this world, and instead chosen uncertainty, insecurity and to break up their family.

It’s too easy to say they are letting their ego get in the way of their happiness, as some people truly do not believe that personal growth and development, and the deep challenges it demands of them, is something they can undertake. Perhaps they believe that, with no guarantee of a better relationship with the person they love, they would rather not take the risk, and instead stick with greatly increasing the unhappiness that they already feel by giving up and leaving.

Of course, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and I have had the immense sadness of watching a couple in which one person is willing and indeed taking the steps to address her personal difficulties and remould the way she interacts with the world to be a better person, while her partner will not admit that there is even the slightest thing wrong with him. It turned out he would rather ruin all that they have together than to take a cold hard look in the mirror.

(Indeed women are just as capable of avoiding the path to happiness as men in these situations.)
Then again, as I said earlier, your sense of what to expect from a relationship, and indeed what one feels while living in one, changes over time.

While going through my archives recently to find short stories, I have had a really interesting experience looking back at some of the snippets I jotted down in notebooks.

Picking out some of my jotting on relationships, I found this one from well over a decade ago:

There is no-one so cruel as those closest to you

How about this one for an intriguing reflection:

Surely our greatest and most long-lasting relationship is with ourselves

And yet a few years later, I wrote this, which suggests a more positive view of what it means to be with somebody:

You are never truly alone when you know someone loves you

And of course relationships do not have to be romantic:

For some, friendship is merely a form of advanced knowing, with no affection and no care.

I have no interest in this sort of companionship. I want to care deeply or I don't care at all.

And yet the cynicism is never too far away with me. Having seen someone settle for a relationship they neither liked nor wanted, simply because they didn’t want to alone anymore, I wrote the below. I think I was trying the concept on for size. It didn’t fit.

We like to believe that there is only one person out there for us. Just one person with whom we truly fit, to whom we can open up our souls and not be afraid.

However, for some people, such a relationship is not desirable. They do not want to share, to open up, to fit with someone. They wish merely to coexist, to drown out the howling silence that blows within them.

For them, anyone, anything is better than nothing.

The truth is that there are hundreds of people out there with whom we could fashion a satisfactory and happy life. And once we find that ‘someone suitable’, we can stop looking for anyone better.

After all, we have to get off the merry-go-round at some point, don’t we?

And finally an observation I made a few years ago after some rather dispiriting discussions with some friends and acquaintances:

Men consider women’s bodies to be objects, not the extension of a person’s character or soul. This is one of the greatest problems that we face in this world.

I don’t think I actually believe this anymore.

Or rather I believe that men are indeed often brought to think that women and their bodies are objects to be attained and then used, and act accordingly. The person behind them is a secondary consideration, if it is a consideration at all.

However, men can be educated differently, and even educated out of that viewpoint. And if a man actually loves a woman, as opposed simply to having a relationship with one, her body, character and soul are interwoven to the extent that they all become part of his adoration.
The exciting news on the writing front is that I have finished the second draft of the follow-up to My Life as a Dog. I am editing and chiselling away at it so that the next version can be sent to my trusted, and highly brilliant, editor for her to cast her eagle eye upon it.

I find having her go through a piece in depth on the third or so draft is a good step for me. She illuminates so many aspects of the narrative and how it is being told that I am fired up for the next two versions at least, before it goes back to her again for another go.

I like this collaborative to and fro, and it certainly brings out the best in me, as well as, hopefully, in the story.
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Evolving Relationships | Pushing the Wave