Nothing More Lonely Than Being In A Bad Relationship?
October 20, 2011 § 48 Comments
My mother always told me that there was nothing more lonely than being in a bad relationship, that in fact it is far worse than being on one’s own. Is that so? People come out with this stuff because it’s just what people have been saying for years and so they carry on saying it. Not unkindly, just knee-jerkily. Someone only has to hint that they they may not be entirely happily married and that they might be feeling a tad lonely, and any wise old so-and-so within a radius will come out with it as sure as rhubarb comes out of a school kitchen with custard: “There’s nothing more lonely than being in an unhappy relationship. You know, it’s far lonelier than actually being on your own.”
My mother, bless her, was never on her own for more than about three and a half minutes. What does she know?
Of course I can see that being in an unhappy relationship can be very lonely. But more lonely than being entirely alone? With the exception of an abusive relationship, that has got to be bollocks. How many (non-abusive) relationships or marriages are really that bad? Call me deluded, naive, but I am of the optimistic opinion that if things were once good enough for a couple to have got together in the first place and stayed together even a little while, there must remain a dreg or two of something – an in-joke here or merry memory there. Something that means those two people are to each other a degree up from absolute nothingness. Surely?
If someone is forever sulking or shouting, it is hideously alienating, of course. But there is still life in the vicinity. There is the noise of grumpy footsteps overhead, or the call for a cup of tea, a slipstream of someone else’s air, bread broken together, if seethingly, and pepper passed. Someone, who if you die, will know within minutes, not hours or days, certainly before invasion by maggots, and someone who did care once, and will have more than just your face in their mind’s eye. There is at least contact, the possibility that the great freeze will thaw and with it the chance of a smile as you pass in the hallway or an apology, however blow-me-down. A narrative of sorts, if truncated. Someone to tell you about his lunch even if only because there’s no one else and even if you’re not interested. Someone to ask, is it cold or is it just me? Someone who knows who you are talking about if you say you bumped into Susan. The sound of a human being’s voice, a human being with whom there has been warmth despite the fact that what warmth remains is merely residual or entirely nostalgic.
That has got to be less lonely, surely, than the ghastly pump of one’s own heartbeat, muffled and mocking. The dust in the house just your own skin; unmingled. A bed sprung wholly for cold, singular sleep. The 375 gram cod in mornay sauce sealed for one. The yearning to share a curious pain or unexpected joy that doesn’t involve recourse to a handset, or wi-fi. The laughter at something on the television or in a book that doesn’t echo slightly, and make one feel self-conscious, for being lone. Texts slithering shivery into your Blackberry in their inimitably intimate way but never quite intimate enough for you. The hollow crunch of the key in the lock late at night, the emptiness within. A twisted-sheet nightmare, no one to whom to clutch at while reality shakily resumes.
By God, I have been in a few lonely relationships in my time, but don’t give me that line about it’s far lonelier than actually being on your own. I can assure you, the proper plankton experience is as lonely as it gets. It may not apply to me today because I am one of the lucky plankton in that I now have my beloved children and the odd pathetic twinkle.
But as a general saying, it’s complete knee-jerk fucking tosh and an example of the kind of endless drivel peddled on a loop by non-plankton to try to make us feel good about being so terminally lonely.
What can I say? It fails.