WHY GROW THEM?

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - BODY & SOUL -

Ipheion, a mem­ber of the onion fam­ily, is an un­de­mand­ing bulb that flow­ers in spring, pro­duc­ing de­light­ful star­shaped blooms in white, blue and pink. The leaves give off an oniony smell, but the flow­ers them­selves have a sweet, hon­eyed scent. hen a se­ri­ous re­lat ion­ship ends, whether you wanted it to or not, it of­ten marks the be­gin­ning of a long and bumpy process of re­cov­ery. No mat­ter whether you con­sider your ex an an­gel or a devil, they may prove sur­pris­ingly dif­fi­cult to for­get. If they ended things while you were in love with them, it can be hard to rec­on­cile your anger with the idea that you wanted to spend your life with them; it’s con­fus­ing to love and hate some­one at the same time. If you ended it be­cause they were a night­mare, you may have to ask your­self tough ques­tions about why you were with such a ter­ri­ble per­son in the first place.

When I was in my mid-20s, I left my gen­tle, easy-to-talk-to boyfriend of four years for some­one who seemed more ex­cit­ing. It quickly tran­spired that ‘ex­cit­ing’ was a eu­phemism for ‘im­pos­si­ble’. Still, this re­la­tion­ship lasted more than twice as long as the first. When the sec­ond one ended, I was left with a dou­ble set of re­grets: why did I blow it with some­one so lovely, and then why did I stay for so long with some­one with whom I was un­happy?

It wasn’t at all easy to get on with the next phase of life. No one I met could match up to the first boyfriend (who had, in my mind, be­come a saint). And even the sec­ond had an en­ergy that made oth­ers seem dull. The idea that you could sim­ply ‘for­get and move on’, ‘draw a line un­der it’, or any other cliché, seemed ridicu­lous. Peo­ple af­fect each other, and the ef­fects can last a life­time.

But what can be done about it? One of the worst symp­toms of a ro­man­tic melt­down is of­ten the ques­tions you are left with: did I do some­thing wrong? Why did they do, or say, that? If th­ese are ques­tions that can only be an­swered by your ex and your ex chooses to ig­nore them or to give an­swers that don’t make sense, your head can be left spin­ning. While you want him ei­ther to apol­o­gise or to ex­plain, there is a big prob­lem with ex­pect­ing your ex to do any­thing that would make life bet­ter for you. In any case, while you are hop­ing for some­thing from him, he has power over you. Giv­ing up on the idea that he can ‘fix’ you by say­ing the right thing can be one step to­wards feel­ing less out of con­trol.

On the other hand, if you’re left with ques­tions about your­self, it can be even harder. You may won­der why you be­haved so badly or picked such a scoundrel. An­swer­ing them will in­evitably pro­voke more ques­tions. Se­ri­ous self- ques­tion­ing is of­ten a huge part of the fall­out of a re­la­tion­ship. It can be ex­tremely painful. In this state, it’s of­ten tempt­ing to drink/ date/dam­age your bank bal­ance by buy­ing new clothes, any­thing that might make you feel good. But rather than block­ing the ques­tions out, it can be help­ful to try to an­swer them. A trusted friend or a ther­a­pist can help keep you on track and stop your ques­tions be­com­ing self-pun­ish­ment in their own right. Psy­cho­an­a­lyst Dar­ian Leader says: ‘Peo­ple of­ten rush to “cure” or try to ban­ish sad­ness and de­pres­sive feel­ings, but they can be a sign that some­thing is be­ing reg­is­tered or worked through.’

With luck, and good man­age­ment, the first phase of re­cov­ery will set you up well for the fu­ture, but it’s in­evitably not the whole story. If you’ve re­ally thrown in your lot with some­one, it’s vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to make a clean break. Years on, things can still come back to haunt you.

Lucy, a TV writer in her 40s, sud­denly lost her hus­band to another woman 15 years ago, when their baby was six months old. Now, de­spite hav­ing a job she loves, a beau­ti­ful daugh­ter and a part­ner of 11 years, she says: ‘You kind of for­get, but then some­thing al­ways comes up. We have to be in touch from time to time be­cause of our daugh­ter, so it’s never com­pletely over. It’ll be some old

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