I previously wrote a post about how it seems, to me, that we are arbitrary about demarcating those areas in which we will demand respect for our/others’ feelings and those areas in which we expect logic and consistency from people.
Another inconsistency I have noted is the distinction between the ways in which we assess the suitability of a potential romantic partner when we are advising a friend and when we are dating someone ourselves.
For example, if someone dumps you and you are upset about it, supportive friends will often query the logical reason behind the dumping, act perplexed at the reason (or lack of reason) given and tell you that you clearly deserve better than someone who would treat you in that arbitrary way. They will also talk to you about how objectively great you are and how you therefore deserve a good partner.
But, when it comes down to it, people simply don’t employ this reasoning when it comes to managing their own love lives. The factors that influence the decisions they make are subjective in the extreme. And if you challenge their decisions, they will say you have to just accept them as they are because that’s just how they feel and if you don’t like it then you should find someone who thinks the way you do.
Sometimes, people will even act like they are completely fine and happy with X from the outset but then cite it later as a reason for dumping you. Within a matter of weeks, “I don’t mind what we do as long as I get to see you” morphs into “I’m not happy because we don’t go out often enough”, and the emotional baggage from their last relationship/perceived lack of common interests/extraneous life pressure that didn’t put them off at the beginning of the relationship morphs into a deal breaker. No amount of beating them over the head with the inconsistency of their behaviour can change their mind; and, like a politician trying to implement Brexit after having campaigned against it, the genie is out of the bottle and they just don’t know what to say. So, while the above inconsistency could perhaps be attributed to personality differences between individuals, this is clearly a paradox. In fact, liberal though I am, I will say one thing for conservative girls: at least they make what they want clear and take logical steps to achieve it.
One explanation for this is cognitive dissonance brought on by social desirability bias – essentially, we are not as nice as we would like to think (and we would like others to think) we are, so we claim to want A when we really want B, or we look at these issues more objectively when we are backseat drivers. Another is that people sometimes get carried away in the heat of the moment and don’t pause to think about the potential difficulties, then freak out when reality finally sinks in.
Tonight, I went against my better judgement and pressed my recent ex for an explanation as to why we broke up. To cut an already long story slightly shorter, what it boiled down to was that she just didn’t like me texting people when she wasn’t around. She steadfastly refused to give a reason as to why this was a problem, admonished me to simply accept it and asserted that I should have compromised with her. I retorted that I shouldn’t have to compromise if I am doing nothing wrong. I then asked her how she would react if her partner told her to stop talking to her mum without giving a reason; shockingly, she actually said that she would consider doing this if she loved that person enough. My jaw dropped.
One lesson I have learned from all of this is that… *gulp*… maybe the people who advised me to take things slowly were right. Asking someone out while they have the butterflies is almost like asking them out when they are intoxicated. Sadly, you can’t assume that you’re over the line just because they were always aware of potential problem X and they agreed to go out with you anyway. If you want someone to date you because they genuinely want to, and not because you made them feel guilty by holding them to what they said initially, then you need to know what their stance on X will be in the cold light of day, or when they have to put their money where their mouth is regarding what they previously said they were OK with. There is no screening process for this, so you are stuck with taking dating slowly to see their true colours.
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As much as I like to vent and to navel-gaze on this blog, I do like to consider the practical implications where I can to try and improve my happiness and stop feeling down so frequently.
There is a wider issue with my life at the moment in that I still haven’t got it all together. Since I left law school with an underwhelming BVC grade I have been moving around the country chasing better and better experience and qualifications in order to slowly but surely get my legal career back on track. I’ve sacrificed life savings, driving lessons and my social life on the altar of my career needs. I’m also saddled with student debt from law school – I pay £487 per month, which is like paying my rent again.
However, that plan is – at long last – starting to come together for me. In 2010 I was a washed-up BVC grad collecting JSA and thinking my legal career was dead in the water. Then I worked in a coffee shop so I could at least get a bit of pocket money while I considered other career options. Then I was taken on as a freelance County Court Advocate, though I still couldn’t get pupillage interviews and there was a question mark over how much further I could take it. Then I got experience of more advanced litigation and advocacy (including winning a fully-fledged trial). Then I got qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive Lawyer. Then I moved to start working at a top law firm in this sector. Now I stand on the cusp of applying for a higher CILEx qualification with a reference from a top QC in support, and if I get this then I could even apply for a pupillage exemption and finally realise my dream of becoming a barrister. I will also get rid of my BVC debt in 21 months, which will be up before I know it as long as I hold fast.
In short, on 9 August 2019, when that last career development loan repayment leaves my account, the world will be my oyster. I won’t have to make any more drastic sacrifices in my personal life for the sake of establishing myself as lawyer (obviously I will still have to work hard etc. but I mean I won’t have to keep uprooting myself and moving around the country). I will finally have the funds to learn to drive and to start saving properly. It will happen much later than I planned, but it will happen and I can see it.
Obviously, this is all great in and of itself. But it also has implications for my love life. I will be able to think about returning to Essex and rejoining my family and my friends who have been so amazing over the years. So my social life will return to me and so will my happiness and lust for life. I will have more disposable income and I will be able to drive, so I will have far greater independence. These factors will make it far easier to meet someone for a serious relationship, and many of the points that currently drive me mad about the dating scene will become moot. So perhaps I can afford to take it easy on the dating front until that point.