Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

One Hit Wonder Friends

Posted: January 13, 2012 in Life, Relationships
Tags: , , ,

You know what it’s like.  You meet someone new – perhaps a friend of a friend on a night out, maybe someone in a group who you vaguely know about but aren’t actually friends with or perhaps someone at work who you bump into in the corridor once in a while.  Then suddenly you’re ‘friends’ on Facebook, even though you probably have nothing in common with them!  What is it about social networking sites that makes us want to ‘collect’ people we have little interest in outside the virtual world?  How on earth can we have 600 or so ‘friends’?!  It’s just not possible – realistically it’s more like a handful of real friends and hundreds of people that you’ve met briefly in your life! And yet there is nothing that makes me feel more inadequate and unpopular than to compare the number of Facebook friends I have (216, some of whom I actually know!) to the number that a lot of my friends have!   Slightly pathetic I know but I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Strange, ironic even, that something which is intended to bring people together and make it easy for people to keep in touch with each other actually has the opposite effect.  How many meaningful conversations do we really have on Facebook?  Isn’t it just more of an outlet for our voyeuristic tendancies?  We can safely keep watch on other people’s lives, know who they’re going out with, who they’ve broken up with, who they’re engaged to, where they go on holiday, even watch their children grow up, all without even having to leave our armchair!  And we forget that people know they’re being watched on Facebook and will often carefully construct their status updates for maximum effect!  To let everyone know “hey guys, my life is really great at the moment” or “things are going badly, I need some sympathy” or even subtle messages aimed at a specific person (ex’s for example!).  Or just to be seen as really clever and witty…!  We all do it.  Few of my friends are truly honest and open in their Facebook status updates – the ones that are I often read and think “noooooooo!  That’s such a bad idea”!  Sometimes raw human emotion is hard to take.  You really don’t want to be reading about it on Facebook!  Because Facebook is after all just a method of keeping a superficial eye on what a lot of other people are doing and trying to show that your life is just as good / fulfilling / satisfying as everyone else!  It’s a place to be seen with your hair up and your Sunday best on! Rather like a box at the opera!  Treat it like that and it serves a purpose!

I’m relatively choosy about who I accept friends requests from but even so in reality many of my friends probably don’t even count as aquaintences! Some I will probably never meet again! They’re one hit wonders in my life – they must have done something at some point to warrant being a friend but it was probably a long time ago and nothing interesting has happened since.  Still, at least I have over 200 friends to show off about to those who have less….!

Don’t get my wrong! I like Facebook.  But i’ve had cause to really think about my friendships over the last few months – how I treat my friends and how they treat me.  Sometimes I’m lazy and I use Facebook as an easy way of reminding someone I’m still there rather than pick up the phone or send them an email or a card.  That’s not being a good friend!  Sometimes, even when I see them every day, I take their friendship for granted and forget that it’s a two way street and I need to work at it too. That’s not being a good friend either!  And other times I over react to something they do, say stupid things that I immediately regret and spend the next day trying to make it up! Sometimes I wonder why anybody actually wants to be friends with me I treat them so badly!  But there’s the essence of a true friendship – whatever you do there’s normally a way back.  Your true friends understand you and why sometimes you act a bit crazy or just get caught up in other stuff!  Having a few friends who always accept you for who you are is far more valuable than having 600 friends who don’t know the real you so look after them well.  Facebook may chronicle your life but it’s your real friends who will help you live it!

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It’s a question that has vexed me for years and, as I find the gap between the end of my last relationship and the current time growing ever wider, the fact that I still don’t know the answer (and at my age too!) worries me even more!  So exactly how do you know when you’ve found the right person?

Ironic really – in my last (and first) long term relationship one of the reasons I fell for the guy was because I could imagine us together forever – don’t ask me how! It was just a feeling I had!  And yet we split up. I’ve never really had that feeling about anyone else since.  But how can I trust my own feelings when they turn out not to be true?! Maybe I’m missing out on a great relationship because I want this illusive ‘forever feeling’ that I think in my heart is an indicator of love but actually has no bearing on how a relationship will work?!

People often quote the ‘it’s a short life therefore you have to make the most of it’ comment in support of two opposing theories.  Ie, don’t waste time searching for the perfect man, life is short so enjoy the time you have with someone nice. But also don’t settle for someone who isn’t your perfect match – life’s too short to spend it with someone you don’t feel passionately about!  When I think of my life to come it terrifies me, in equal measures, to imagine being alone as it does to imagine being with someone.  What if I end up with someone who isn’t right?  What if I make a mistake? What if I waste even more of my life on someone who’s not the one?  How do I know if someone’s right for me?  What if I never have another partner?  What if I don’t go out with someone because i’m not sure if they’re right for me and then they end up with someone else and I realise I’ve made a mistake?

What if I’m alone for ever and ever?!

We’re all sold this beautiful picture of love and romance by books and movies – they make us want to feel the passion and magic that these fictional characters all seem to experience but we forget that most of these stories come from dreams and desires, not reality!  Honestly, I sometimes wonder if my habit of watching rom com’s and reading ‘chick lit’ has permanently damaged my ability to experience love as a normal human being!

Well, I’ve decided that my motto for this year is going to be ‘Do Something Different’ so maybe I should apply that to men and relationships as well?!  Singledom is all very well but it’s nice to have some variety! 2012 look out – I’ve decided this is going to be my year of plenty!!

“So Cat, are you married? Any kids?” 

“No, I’m happily single actually”

“Oh, right.  I see…..” (Nodding head, sympathetic look)

I wasn’t always single.  From the age of 21 to 34 I was very much attached to one man (Nearly married as I like to think of it!) and always felt a strange sense of pride and, dare I say it, possession when talking to people about my partner.  “My boyfriend” is such an affirming phrase – it says to people “I am loved therefore I must be worthwhile”.   Which surely means that being single says to people “I am not loved therefore I am not worthwhile”.  It’s not true of course but it’s this sense of being defined by your relationships that is so prevalent in today’s society and so damaging to those who are struggling to cope with the aftermath of a break-up.  However successful, charming and beautiful you are if you haven’t achieved coupledom then you’re somehow incomplete.  If you’ve ever read Bridget Jones (or watched the film) then you’ll know what I mean! 

After the crying shoulder, tubs of ice cream and bottles of wine, what’s one of the first things people say to us when we split up with a partner?  “Don’t worry.  You’ll find someone else”.  What’s the first thing most of us do when we find ourselves single once again?   We start looking for someone new!  Some might say we are gluttons for punishment…. 

I often see people playing seemingly happy families  – in the supermarket, on holiday, walking down the street – and I can’t help but feel a bit jealous.  But I have to remind myself that I’m only seeing snapshots, one moment in time when for that featured family everything is good, nobody is rowing and the sun is shining!  Who knows what happens down the next aisle, or in the evening when everyone is tired and fed up or when they get home and the baby starts screaming as the gentle motion of the pram stops giving comfort!  We always think the grass is greener but I cannot truthfully say that my life is any worse now than it was when I had a partner, it’s just different – in fact if anything it’s marginally better than before!  I have more friends and more freedom although unfortunately less money! 

Yes, there are times I still miss him – I would be inhuman if after all those years I didn’t occasionally think of the times we spent together – but most of the time I don’t.  And yes, I hope I won’t be single all my life!  Because let’s face it, we are programmed to want to be with other people – this is not just a biological drive!  Most of us thrive on being around others – having friends is another way of persuading ourselves that we are worth something.  That if we were no longer around we would be missed, even if only a little bit.  And we enjoy the company of people who we share similar interests and values with.  So despite all the evidence that actually human beings should probably stay single (affairs, divorce, roving eyes of both sexes!) we still strive to find that ideal someone – the person we’re willing to share our life with if not forever then at least for a year or ten! 

But while we’re waiting to find the ideal there’s no reason not to enjoy the freedom of singledom – so all you couples out there don’t feel pity or sympathy.  It’s just another way of life.  And don’t feel envy either – enjoy what you have while you can as you may not always have it!!