My best friend, Gwenllian, in Wales, once asked me whether there was any truth in Tennyson's famous quote, "It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I didn't even have to think about that one because the answer was crystal clear: Love conquers all. It's at the heart of our existence, so how can we live without loving? For me, there is no doubt that Love is the only influence on our life which makes it worth living.
Improved choices, in the quality and standard of living, have freed the modern generation of women from having to depend on their male counterparts. People who are hurt, particularly men, also become fearful of new relationships. Put the two together and you have an awful lot of people who prefer to boast about the benefits of the single life, while dying with loneliness inside, instead of actively encouraging potential partners for mutual enjoyment. They fear 'getting hurt' so much, they avoid one another like the plague, becoming hardened, loveless, unattractive people in the process. Yet life consists of both pain and love, manifested through death and rebirth, being two sides of the same coin. We cannot have one without the other other. The love is there to nourish and sustain us while the pain helps us to develop our experiences and to face our challenges with greater strength, resilience and new knowledge. Take both of those opportunities away and we are like fossilised beings in a deepening rut, not getting hurt, but not being loved either, cynical in our expectation of the world while judging every one with our own negativity.
However, the results of a survey carried out in Denmark some time ago should be a little worrying for single people. It examined hundreds of heart disease patients and came to the sorry conclusion that people living on their own were twice as likely to have serious heart disease. Doctors found the risk was even higher among older, single people over 50. In fact, among the single men in the study, two-thirds of them had some kind of heart disease compared to only one-third of women and those in relationships. The message was clear and unequivocal: any kind of relationship and connection with someone is good for us. According to the research leader, "Age is of course a risk factor, and when you combine that with living alone you have a group in the population at a very high risk."
Human beings are not meant to be on their own. We realise our existence, identity, usefulness, worth, significance and purpose through others. Left on our own without any other life form for very long periods we would go mad. Our emotional health is the most important to a long, satisfying, healthy life, and the love and affection from others is crucial in that respect. What keeps people from committing to relationships is their fear of being hurt again, their need for perfection in potential partners (disregarding their own imperfections!) and a desire to control their relationship by burdening it with expectations of long term bliss. Yet the potential soulmate is probably there temporarily to guide them through a rocky path (one of the four reasons for our soulmates) and not for any permanent reason.
We get disappointed when the relationship doesn't work out and, instead of allowing ourself to be surprised and just enjoying what is unfolding with us, we lock ourselves down and keep out another person afterwards who might truly care for us and be quite different. Yet we should be seeing every relationship as an opportunity to learn and to take our development one step closer to the ideal, because we will soon gradually understand what we have to do for our own happiness through the lessons learnt from those short-lived liaisons.
In 2002, soon after I left my marriage, though I was in the worst hurtful period, I unexpectedly fell in love with someone else, chalk and cheese we were. It wasn't meant to happen, as he was in transition too living apart from his wife, but we did. For two glorious years we had the most amazing time together. Two books have been dedicated to him. I have not, before or since, met anyone remotely like this loving, caring, but fiercely independent man. However, we affected each other so positively, he decided to return home when he realised that I wasn't ready to settle down again with anyone so soon, and his own fears kept him from considering other options. We were both terribly pained by the parting. But you know what? When I think of him now it is so wonderful because all I can think of is not the hurt which followed, but the incredible time we had.
Many people, after any hurt, just sit and brood on that hurt, cutting off all communication through guilt or pain, instead of giving thanks for the pleasurable time they had, for someone coming into their life to cherish them and keeping the channels open. They vilify ex-partners instead of accepting that the person actually changed them for the better by sending them on their way more experienced and more competent to cope with their life. Any hurt is only ever temporary. As the saying goes, 'Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened'.
For me, Tennyson was absolutely right. It IS better to have loved and lost because I will take all those wonderful memories to my grave, of the tremendous love between that guy and me, whom I fondly call the 'love of my life'. I will also take memories of my marriage and the other three men who have been significant in my life so far. If I had sat there judging men for a lot of things, while I searched for my perfect man, I would have missed out on some fantastic love, the inspiration to write two books and the positive self-development which has rapidly followed because I am an entirely different - more loving - person in the process.
I give thanks with much grace for the experience.
Elaine Sihera (MsCYPRAH)
Emotional Health Adviser
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"