The weight of great expectation




       ‘If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content’    

                                                    (Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenia)  

How do you know if your partner is the one? Do soul mates exist? Is it ridiculous to expect one person to ‘complete you’? We sometimes make life harder for ourselves by having unrealistic expectations of others that no one can live up to. In the age of self help books, online dating gurus, relationship blogs and various magazine articles we are bombarded with experts telling us what we should feel and when we should feel it. If we set the bar for our love lives at such a high level aren’t we setting up our relationships for failure? 

We live in an age of unprecedented choice. We are all expected to strive for the perfect career, life and partner. Yet all of this choice comes with a price. If we fall short of making the best decisions in life we are made to feel that we have failed. Generations before relationships were such a pragmatic affair, you married the stable provider or the affable girl next door. Now it seems that people are paralysed by indecision, opting to flit in and out of relationships instead of deciding to commit to someone. At the end of the day that’s all that love is – a decision. You decide to allow someone into your life or to walk away.

The tools used to make that decision is very important. I have heard the strangest reasons given to explain why an individual ended a relationship. One friend told me that she hated the way that an ex boyfriend chewed their food. An acquaintance told me that although he really liked the woman he was dating that she wasn’t as glamorous as his previous girlfriends. He decided that he wasn’t comfortable being seen with her and let their relationship fizzle out. Attraction is important; it’s the magic ingredient which separates potential love matches from platonic friendships. That said people can allow really trivial things to thwart a solid relationship in the making. I really doubt that those who focus on the shallow and superficial are ready to experience a deep meaningful relationship.

I just want to reiterate that I am not in any way trying to champion settling or for making do with less than you deserve. However, as with anything in life there should be a clear distinction between the attributes/qualities which are deal breakers and those which can be lived without. Happier people are able to make that distinction. Personally, someone’s character, their moral/belief system, being family orientated would be deal breakers. Everything else can be worked around, work being the operative word. Anything worth having always requires effort. We have been indoctrinated by romantic films that love conquers all, with minimal effort. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is not reality. We all come to any relationship with our past experiences, baggage, dreams and issues. It is our own personal responsibility to deal with this. It’s wonderful when we come across someone who inspires us to become better people but it’s the individual who has to do all the heavy lifting, resolving past issues and achieving various milestones. It is also for our own self preservation that we enter relationships as complete individuals. We leave ourselves in a perilous position when we expect others to make us totally happy. It is exhausting to be someone’s everything and cannot be sustained in the long term. It is also easier to manipulate someone who is desperate to be loved. Those with confidence will not stay in a relationship where their needs are not being met.

 We should be glad that not only one person can make us happy. It makes the odds of finding love very favourable. Those who do hold on to this belief are set up to have unrealistic standards for themselves and others. There is no magic equation to love, even if someone were to tick every single box, there is still an element of risk. Love is the ability to care for others without fear or judgement. It requires courage as we have to let our defences down and be vulnerable. It is not always an easy process, it requires constant effort. All we can do is try our utmost to ensure that our relationships are worth the work needed. If two people can be kind, share similar values, be honest and authentic with each other, they have a shot. The search for perfection is just another barrier for those who are too scared to reveal who they really are. Let’s not continue to waste time chasing after an abstract ideal and celebrate our unique imperfections.

 Please let me know your thoughts


The trouble with love


Love…. It’s what we all crave and makes the world go round. Why is it so hard to find and harder still to keep? I interviewed a woman for my film that came up with a very interesting concept. She said that people expect ‘microwaveable relationships’. This is where love can be put it on full power for a minute, left to stand for thirty seconds and ready to go. If modern love is now all about instant gratification, it stands to reasons that people expect an upgrade every 18 months.

Modernity has brought speed into every aspect of daily life. Food takes a minute to cook, purchases can be made with a single click, and everything can be uploaded or downloaded in less than a second. This insatiable desire for speed clouds the way we see our emotional relationships. Our lifestyles may have changed over time but human nature hasn’t. Long lasting bonds between people doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to get to know someone properly. I am always bemused when people claim to be in love in such a short space of time. How can you possibly be in love with someone you don’t know? Love requires true knowledge of another person; lust simply requires desire and a lot less information. The problem is that the lines between the two have been blurred. If I desire you, I must have you and therefore I must love you. For some people, relationships are like acquiring a car or handbag where the thrill is all about obtaining a new commodity and then it’s on to the next adrenaline high.

In modern relationships the focus is now about instant chemistry, the attraction, the sexual thrill and the fireworks. In the past I have been guilty of that way of thinking, expecting to hear fanfare from the heavens when I met my Mr Right. Effectively we are encouraged to base our relationship choices on what our eyes and sexual organs tell us. It’s not that I don’t trust the lower regions of my body but I know that a washboard stomach is more sexually stimulating than a trustworthy character but the latter is more important in a long term partner. If we focus on the superficial, how can we expect to have deep and meaningful relationships? I am not advocating for people to date people that they are not attracted to. Sexual attraction is important as it separate friends from potential lovers. It just can’t be the only filtering system we use to weed out the compatible from the incompatible.

When it comes to love, two should be the magic number. I don’t understand why people date individuals to curry favour with others. Once the number of people in your relationship exceeds two, it’s fair to say that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The person needing the external validation is making the relationship all about them and their issues. To have a beautiful girlfriend or a wealthy boyfriend means that I am desirable, that I am ok. If you are doing all the taking, what exactly are you offering the other person? You are also limiting your partner by focusing on one small aspect of who they are. No one is just defined by their looks or status. You have not taken the time to figure out what makes them unique as a person. If you ignore the various facets of their character you are effectively having a relationship with a stranger.

While I am in full rant mode, I blame the entire rom-com film industry for making relationships seem so easy. This is a seriously misleading fantasy. To truly love someone is hard work. As Chris Rock once said ‘You have never been in love unless you have contemplated murder’. We are all stubborn and selfish creatures. Loving someone requires so much compromising, listening, trust, patience – the list is endless. All you can hope is that you choose someone that is worth the effort. Real love is such hard graft because the process should make you a better person. If what you have is real it should bring about growth. To grow you need to make yourself vulnerable to embrace a new way of being and loving. It is not easy and will take most of us a lifetime to get it right.

So how can you be sure if someone is worth loving? No one wants to waste all that effort on a dud. Simply, take the time to get to know them. Even then there are no guarantees – things change, people change and often not at the same pace. Love may be many a splendid thing but it is not an instant thing. We live in age which is obsessed with self and instant gratification even at the expense of others. We spend too much of our time expecting good things to come to us without any struggle or limited effort on our part. I don’t believe that love hurts and if a relationship is diminishing you, you need to escape pronto. We are all too precious to allow anyone to waste our time and break our hearts. If love is not making you better it will only leave you bitter.

How does this tie in with Black women and marriage I hear you ask? Well Black women don’t come from outer space; we too are exposed to the same mass media messages. Love as an ideal has been commoditised and sexualised. A lot of men and women mistake sexual attraction as the foundation for a deeper connection. Love is depicted as the pleasure of the individual and not a sustainable union between two people. My mother always advised me to find a man I liked to talk and laugh with. After the sexual dust has settled talking is what long term couples will do most. If we as a society have a skewed view of what love is how can we hope to find it, cherish it and keep it.

Please let me know your thoughts