People ask me sometimes why I think so much about relationships and examine my past and analyse what people could really mean when they say things. The truth is, when the same questions get asked of you over and over again, you have no choice to keep thinking about it until you find an answer that rings true.
For example, just recently two people I regard with some fondness asked me the age old question - “Why are you single?” This was inevitably followed by - "I mean you're so... (insert a list of my apparent best qualities - smart, attractive, fun, cool, etc). Sure, you're also... (insert a hopefully shorter list of my obvious ‘problem' areas - commitment phobic, too many exes who are still friends, not 'wife-material’ in the pleasing-mom-in-law and cooking well ways, etc). But still... Why are you single?"
The standard defensive, conversation-stopper responses popped into my head but the truth is, as I mentally scanned through my romantic history, I realised I had never yet come up with a response to that question that made sense.
After all, why was I single? It wasn’t for lack of opportunity nor an adventurous spirit. It wasn’t even for a very hard-to-achieve preconceived notion of romance. After all, as long as there was laughter and chemistry and mutual respect and communication, it was as good a place to start a relationship as any. So then why was it that with this winning combination of traits and quirks, I was single?
Because none of my relationships worked out.
This reminded me of something someone famous once said (and I’m probably paraphrasing) which was - If there is a problem with every relationship you’ve ever had, then you have to consider that the real problem lies in the one common element i.e. you. Or, in this case, ME. And looking back at my romantic history (yawn!), I have to agree.
See, the problem has always been me - or rather, my feelings of insecurity in its fairly literal sense. I have, quite simply, never felt safe with anyone. This goes back to some deep-rooted stuff. Like for example, my father whom I adored left me when i was not even in my teens and for the longest time, I thought that it was because he didn’t like me. Sure, over time and distance and increasing maturity, I know that couldn't possibly have been true. But deep down, I have to admit that that’s my psychopathy - the fact that I believe that people I love will reject me once they get to know me fully because then they will discover something about me they won't like. I mean, if my father discovered something about me that made him leave his wife and two kids and even his country after 12 years of being around me - then I can hardly blame anyone else, right?
This insane belief was reinforced subtly by everyone I ever was with. There was always that one thing about me that someone didn't like.
My college boyfriend thought everything about me would be perfect if only I wasn’t so angry and aggressive. The one after that thought that I was great except for the fact that I couldn’t love (him). My next boyfriend felt I was wonderful but if only I was more ambitious and the list went on. If one wanted me to be more grounded, another wanted me to be more feminine or more tactful or less commitment phobic or not-so-needy or friendly or fucked up in some other way. And this was when I was pretty much on my best behaviour!
The thing is - when someone says the same thing about you over and over again, you start to think that this stuff matters. When it's someone you love and trust saying the same thing, you start to think there's something seriously wrong with you. And then you start to think - "sooner or later he's also going to know that something is seriously wrong with me - and then he'll leave. Because that's how it is."
And thus, I never felt safe with them. It always felt like there was a Damocles sword hanging over the relationship because sooner or later they would discover the quality that they didn’t like or that I couldn’t change fast enough and they would leave. And they did. I wasn’t blameless in that equation because I helped speed us the process. After all, I'd rather know what the breaking point was sooner rather than later. So if someone worried that I was sexual - bring on the Nymphomaniac! Someone felt I was unemotional - Voila! I bring you the Sociopath! Someone thought I was not ambitious enough - I present to you - the Couch Potato!
I'm not proud of it, but somehow being single always felt better than being with someone who was working out his insecurities by stirring up mine.
The thing is - being with another person is hard work. It requires you to be mature and accepting, sensitive to another person's needs and all those things. Entire scientific studies have indicated that people in relationships are stronger and more stable, and thus more prosperous and more adventurous than single people - probably because of all that character-building hard work. I buy that entirely. After all, we're always better together, like the song promises.
But at this point, not knowing what the future will bring, or even knowing if my epiphanies have the power to change my neural pathways, I think the real reason I’m single is because the only time I feel safest is when I'm home, with my cat, in ugly pjs, eating messily in bed and not caring for a second that someone I love is somewhere saying a sentence that goes like - “She's great you know… except for one thing…"