Over Or Okay? Here’s How To Tell If Your Relationship Will Last
The course of true love never did run smooth, but how do you know if it’s just a bad patch or it’s actually really, genuinely over? Vicki Notaro has the answer – and it’s more simple than you might think.
The greatest lie the devil ever told was the myth of ‘happily ever after’, and sadly it’s been a myth perpetuated by the fairy tale culture little girls are so fond of. When a Disney princess meets the man of her dreams, we’re told they spent the rest of their lives in bliss together. When a regular Irish gal does the same, it doesn’t always go that way.
Relationships by their very nature are cyclical; there are high and low points, tough times and thrilling ones. And let’s be honest, break ups are absolutely vile and something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy – oh okay, maybe only on your worst enemy – so sometimes we do everything we can to avoid them, perhaps staying coupled up even though we’re not happy at all.
Other times, we make rash decisions and end something that wasn’t over – cue The Notebook style drama of wondering about the One That Got Away. The worst part is, it’s nigh on impossible to really know which path is the right one – and what if one party is on an entirely different page to the other? How do you know when love is well and truly over?
When Ciara*, 28 from Dublin, met Simon, 30, six years ago, she thought they’d be together for ever. “I’d gone out with other lads before, but nothing ever really stuck,” she explains. “When I met him, it was like everything slotted in to place. I thought I’d found The One.”
For a while, everything was great – until they started fighting about their future. “I wanted to move in together, get married, the whole shebang, but he didn’t seem that committed. He was very private, and it made me really paranoid. I started to feel like he didn’t really love me, and every now and then I’d throw a fit and break up with him. But he’d try and woo me back, and when he paid me attention like that, I’d fall for him all over again.”
Thus began a vicious cycle. “Every time we split up, I was sure of what I was doing – I felt like he didn’t respect me or my feelings. But then after a few days, the doubts would set in. I’d start to worry that I was throwing away the best thing that ever happened to me, that I was being too hasty and I’d regret it for the rest of my life, so I’d go back. After the third or fourth time I started feeling really awful, my confidence was at an all time low. But by then we were kind of getting off on the drama of it all, and I didn’t know which way was left or right.”
Ciara ended up finally ending things last year, when she realised Simon had no intentions of changing his mind about living together. “I sort of had an epiphany one Tuesday. I just realised that he was incredibly selfish, and he was bringing out the worst in me – making me feel needy, desperate, unhappy and not good enough. When he saw how clear everything had become to me, he didn’t fight it and let me walk away for good. In a way I was glad I hadn’t given up without a fight. But at the same time, I think I always knew I was fighting a losing battle underneath it all.”
For 26-year-old Niamh* from Waterford, it was pressure that disrupted her relationship with Paddy, also 26. “We’d been together since first year in college, and it was like our life was set out for us – a house, kids, wedding all to come. I’d been panicking about it for a while and feeling trapped, and I guess I was being a bit of a bitch to him. I didn’t want to tell him I had doubts, so I just kept it all inside.”
Then Niamh met a guy at work, and instantly developed feelings for him. “I’d be sick looking at him, he was just so gorgeous, and then I felt so guilty for fancying someone else so much. But this guy was completely wrong for me, and Paddy was so right. It all came to a head on a night out with my colleagues, when the guy I fancied was coming on to me. I could have slept with him that night, but once I realised that I actually had a choice, and a say in my own life, it was like everything clicked – I wanted Paddy, but I wanted some excitement as well.”
Niamh finally opened up to Paddy about how she’d been feeling. “It turned out he felt exactly the same way, pressured and scared. We sat up talking all night about it, and decided that we needn’t follow anyone else’s plans for us. When Paddy finishes his Master’s this year, we’re taking some time out and going travelling together. There’s nobody I’d rather see the world with than him.”
Like anything to do with love, there’s no right or wrong answer – all we can do is be honest with ourselves and each other. Nobody likes the idea of giving up too easily or slogging it out and wasting time, but deep in our guts we do know if a relationship is worth saving or not – or at least worth trying to save. Sometimes, we just need time, either together or apart, to be sure of what we want. Relationships are never easy, and the conflicting advice we get can only make them harder.
So perhaps when it comes love, maybe we should ignore the head and heart and listen to our gut. It might make us sick to our stomach, but our instincts rarely guide us in the wrong direction in the long run. Godspeed.
This article first appeared in STELLAR’s March issue. The August issue is on shelves now!
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