A majority of single people try their best to stop being single. While there are many who despite their best efforts remain single for long, there are those that jump from one relationship to the other and maintain their “in a relationship” status. Is it because they enjoy the feeling of constantly being in love? Or is it because they are nervous to be single?
P, a 35-year-old client of mine doesn’t remember a time when she has not had a boyfriend. Her first relationship was at 18 when she started college. They were classmates. The first two years were great. After college, P’s boyfriend went to the US for further studies. Their relationship became a long distance one. In retrospect, P thinks that the relationship had ended then for her boyfriend. He would rarely call her and when P called, he would make excuses to end the calls quickly. Eventually he stopped taking her calls and ghosted her.
Only a month had passed since and P was still nursing her broken heart when a colleague approached her and shared his feelings for her. At that time she remembers feeling like it was perhaps too soon to even consider getting into a relationship. But her colleague was persuasive, and she started enjoying the attention. That relationship went on for six years. It was an abusive one. And like most abusive relationships, every time P wanted to end it, her boyfriend would profusely apologise with a promise to never do it again. P felt lost and a friend suggested joining a support group. That gave her the strength to end this toxic relationship.
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Two months after that, P was on dating apps and matrimonial sites. She describes those two months as the most unsettling months for her. P says, she just did not know how to be single. Thoughts like “Will I ever get married?” or “Will I die alone?” possessed her. She decided that she wanted to get married. Within a month of being on a matrimony app, she met the third person she had a yearlong relationship with. He said that he was keen to get married too and that’s all that P needed to hear. Yet, he strung her along for year with no attempts of even meeting her parents. When P got obsessive about getting married, he left.
P had not invested much emotionally in this last relationship, so she promptly got back on to the matrimony apps. It’s been five years since she’s been on the apps. The pattern of being in and out of a relationship continues, and the relationships have lasted from three months to eight months. P has come to me now to achieve her goal of getting married.
An acquaintance of mine, let’s call her V, had a similar journey of wanting to be in a relationship all the time. According to her, she was somewhat addicted to the heady feeling of being in love. Her first relationship was with her classmate when they were sixteen. V calls it a sweet relationship. The next relationship was soon after she joined college. That relationship was happy and solid and lasted five years. V even considered marrying this batchmate. Both set of parents loved the two of them, they loved each other – it all seemed right. They broke up organically when both decided to go for further studies to different parts of the world.
Within a month in university, V, fell in love with a senior, but he was from a different country. She recalls that relationship as a three-year long party. She was madly in love with this man, and it was just a lot of fun being around him. While V was keen to get married, her boyfriend had been very clear from the beginning that he did not believe in the institution of marriage. It was hard for V to consider living-in and having children out of wedlock. She decided to end the relationship and come back to India.
Three months later she was serendipitously introduced to the man she has now been happily married to for the last seven years. V says that she has only fond memories of all the three relationships she had been in before she got married. In those years, she developed clarity about the kind of relationship she wanted. V also got to learn a lot about herself and how she herself was in a relationship: like how she was very controlling in the second relationship she had in college, or how she took so long to articulate what she wanted in her third relationship – two extremes of the spectrum. But these experiences have taught her how to maintain a healthy balance of speaking up early or letting go when required in her current relationship with her husband.
Both P and V have never had long periods of being single, however their journeys have been different. P’s journey can be described as filled with toxic relationships. This made P insecure and laden with self-doubt, which in turn kept her jumping from one relationship to another. The fear of remaining single got highlighted with the mounting number of breakups. Self-doubt started creeping in. P started dating any man who showed even a slight interest in her irrespective of how she really felt about that individual. In V’s journey, she had experiences where both partners were equally invested while the relationships lasted. They were honest and genuine about where they wanted the relationship to go. In fact, V is still in touch with all these men, who she describes as thorough gentlemen and very affectionate people. V’s grateful for all three of them as she feels being with them gave her the confidence of making the right decisions for herself, and the knowledge of how she is in a relationship.
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In my opinion, the important question to ask is why you are seeking a partner as soon as you get out of one relationship. If you are on the path that P followed then you need to pause, be single for a while to get to a confident place. Perhaps get the external help of a counsellor. This re-calibration is necessary and that will happen only when you give yourself time and space without being in a relationship. If you are in a similar space like V, then use the knowledge you get about your own self and how you are in a relationship to eventually find the right person for you like V did.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org