by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
There is societal pressure to be partnered. When you are not, you often feel as if the entire world is wondering what is wrong with you. If your best friend gets engaged, a cousin gets married, a co-worker has a baby shower, you may feel a twinge of jealousy and find it hard to be happy for them. Their outward signs of success may make you feel like a failure. Your relationships have not worked out. Your partners have been terrible.
- It’s important to understand that many people settle for a warm body with a pulse.
- It’s important to understand that outward appearances do not truly represent behind closed doors.
- It’s important to understand many people put more energy into planning a wedding than understanding how to have a happy marriage. The attention that wedding favors receive is much greater than most people give to their compatibility with their mate. HOW CRAZY IS THAT????
In my book, Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding REAL Love After the Big Breakup (GBOT) I relay the story of a man who went to stay, for a short time for a business opportunity, with his best friend who had moved across the country shortly after they graduated from college.
He had not really known his friend’s wife too well, but was excited to be staying with a guy who had been his best friend since junior high. They had been each other’s groomsmen at their weddings and his friend had posted and boasted, via Facebook and Instagram, photos of a happy, loving family life.
After staying with them for a few weeks, he knew that his friend was miserable and the Facebook photos a complete sham. His friend’s wife was not a nice person and they bickered almost all the time. The reality had no connection to the Facebook life that his friend bragged of….But, most of us don’t manage to get that close,–to stay IN the homes of our friends….but it does happen. Sometimes the truth does leak out….I know of another woman whose friends all beat her to the punch with weddings and children…so when she got married, she had the most SPECTACULAR wedding and when she had her children, her Facebook photos were just amazingly happy sweet family.
But the truth was much darker. Her husband was controlling and critical and didn’t allow her to go to her parents’ summer home with the children because HE couldn’t get time off. Before they had children, she went to her parents’ summer home every summer of her life but now he was forbidding it. He was afraid the children would get hurt even though her parents and her siblings would be there and all her siblings had children slightly older than theirs and had been going since THEY were babies. The husband said no and she was shattered.
While her parents – young and in good shape…her siblings and her siblings’ kids were frolicking on the beach…the same beach she frolicked on every summer of her life…she was stuck in a house 100 miles away with a bored, hyper toddler who didn’t nap and refused to be entertained…she just was fussy the whole day long…and mom would sit and cry sometimes…so frustrated…so lonely…so unhappy. Was that sadness and upset on Facebook? No, it was not. Only the happy photos of her kids playing in the kiddie pool at home when their father was there (he didn’t even trust her to pull out the kiddie pool when he wasn’t there and he worked SIX days a week!) So her Sunday photos of the hap-hap-happy family….the quintessential suburban family….hid a much darker reality. It was all a bunch of crap.
Another woman showed all these photos of the child she had fought long and hard for in a custody battle for the AGES with her ex. The FB and Instagram photos were of a loving, sweet child who enjoyed being with her mother. The photos weren’t of the nasty, insolent child who called her mother names and said she hated her at least several times a day…how the woman’s ex had planted all these terrible things in the child’s head about the mother and the child was nasty and mean and unhappy almost all the time she spent with her mother (the custody battle resulted in the mother getting about 60 percent physical custody but the things the husband had planted in the child’s head during the custody hearings were terrible…and the child’s attitude was dripping with disdain for her mother when they were together…the few times the mother managed to see a happy child, she snapped a photo and plastered it all over social media. Which was a shame. If she had been truthful, her friends could support her in the situation…instead her private hell was never talked about and friends noticed it when they were in the company of the child (which the mother made sure was NOT TOO OFTEN).
So people’s social media personas are very very different than their actual life….so….Don’t fall for it!
When you’re lonely it’s easy to get sucked into the social media pretense of others and use it to judge yourself and find yourself lacking. The social media happiness of others is usually a bunch of nonsense. It’s the presentation of a life that is carefully staged. It’s the HAPPY MOVIE version of a life without the warts and pimples. It’s the life that others want to make you believe they have. It’s – for the most part – complete BS. STOP COMPARING YOUR INSIDES TO OTHERS’ OUTSIDES.
But to get back to YOU and what you want for the future. Most people have NO – and I mean NO – clue what it is they want or what qualities a future partner needs to have to make it work with you. They just wait to find someone decently attractive who “clicks” with you. There are many more people who are attractive and will “click” with you than there are people who can be true and good partners….who can share a life with you – a life that consists of REAL love and partnership and compatibility.
So it’s IMPORTANT…so very important….to figure out what it is you want and need…LONG before you’re ready to meet someone.
Many couples fail to discuss the important things that GBOT calls the Standards and Compatibility List. Others simply ignore the red flags and hints that things are not going to be so smooth or happy. ( please see the GPYB YouTube video on Standards and Compatibility and please see THIS page about using GBOT with GPYB).
Despite all the stories of relationships gone wrong and the high rate of divorce, single people who are unattached can still look longingly at others and hope that they will soon be happily ensconced in cutesy coupledom forever and ever.
To avoid being the one putting false images on social media and trying to keep up with the joyfully joined Joneses, it’s important to know why your relationships have not worked and what you need to do to change things.
- Forget the pressure to be partnered. What the rest of the world is doing is none of your business. Like the guy who went to stay with his friend, you have no idea what the real story is. Affirm each day, “I am me and I am okay whether alone or partnered.” Say this several times a day as well as other affirmations that say that you would rather be alone than be in a bad relationship. Social media can be brutal. Reduce your time on it for various reasons. Friends may want everyone to like the 4000th photo of their firstborn, but you can skip it if it’s really getting to you.
- In Getting Past Your Breakup (GPYB) and GBOT, there are very important inventories to do. It is important to really address the issues in your relationships before you begin again. The Relationship Inventory and the Life Inventory and the Standards and Compatibility Inventory are very important. They help you frame the issues and the work you need to do in order to address them.
- Figure out what needs to change. What red flags have you ignored and why? What compromises have you made that you shouldn’t have? What have you given up that you should have insisted on keeping? The most important thing is to decide exactly what has gone wrong. What have your standards been? I remember telling someone I wanted someone cute, smart and funny. Being good to me was not on that list. Not smart. The FIRST thing on your list must be “is good to me” followed by “wants to be with me.” The other things are trustworthiness and loving behavior. Cute can be a “nice to have,” but it should be after all the standards that have to do with how you are treated.
- Read “Bumps in the DatingRoad” (the 5 R’s) in GBOT and decide if you’re ready, if you can deal with rejection, if you understand recycling and if you are on the rebound. If you are not ready and start to date, you can always retreat. Take a LONG look at this section as it is so important. There are bumps and then there are BUMPS, but this section will reassure you that you are normal and relieve the pressure to keep dating the wrong people or to keep dating when you’re not ready.
- Commit to your goal of having a healthy relationship. It requires a good, long, hard look at the past via the Inventories (Relationship/Life) and a clear understanding of what you will and will not put up with (Standards and Compatibility) and preparing to walk out whenever a situation is not going to work out. Prepare to put yourself before the idea of a relationship. Eschew dumb statements like, “No relationship is perfect.” or “Every couple has issues” in order to justify or rationalize your decision to stay in a bad relationship. To thine own self be true, or another way is “BS yourself not.” If you decide that you will never ever put up with x and x happens, don’t give yourself time to back pedal, get OUT. THIS is why it is VERY IMPORTANT to read GBOT long before you are ready to date. It takes a LONG time to commit to the changes you need to make and to commit to the standards and boundaries that you hold for yourself. It’s EASY to say “I want someone who won’t….” once and then when you meet someone with a cute smile and warm body, throw it out the window and just take whatever bs they decide to start flinging. If you have NOT done the work LONG before Mr. or Ms. Cute Smile comes along, you will abandon it at the first flash of that smile. You MUST do the GBOT work LONG before you are ready to date.
It’s work but it’s absolutely imperative that you understand that if nothing changes, nothing changes. If you really want real love with a good person and to be with a healthy person, you have to put the work in upfront. It’s possible, it’s plausible and if you hold out, hold on and hold tight to your standards, it will happen.
Happy and healthy healing to you all!
Copyright 2017 Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
“I Teach What I Know. I Have The Degrees, but I Have The EXPERIENCE and I don’t ask anyone to do anything I have not done.”
All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author
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If a post has a tag PT Article it means that it was once on Psychology Today and I am recreating and re-publishing for the blog…it takes a while. I recognize, by the amount of email I received and the traffic and comments my articles had, that my articles were VERY POPULAR. But I had over 100 articles on Psychology Today that helped everyone. I’m trying to recreate them as fast as I can. They’re ALL coming – eventually….but I did my outline for the articles on my local machine, uploaded to PT and edited them there so I have to recreate the process…it takes a while..but I’m writing as fast as I can!!! Read about the HORRIBLE PT breakup HERE
*Included here because it’s the most popular GPYB post/video over the history of the blog/book etc.