A couple of years ago I did a sort of psychometric test at work to help understand more about myself and how I interact with others (we’ve done tons of these at work but this one in particular is called FIRO-B). One of the results that was most significant was that I have extremely high control needs, but an extreme dislike of someone trying to control me. A great combo, right? I know too, that not only do I try and control relationships, I also try and control the situations, environments and outcomes in my life. This isn’t through some kind of nefarious desire to manipulate people for my own gain (I am not like that at all), but more that I like my comfort zone and the reassurance of things going to plan, and so I try and make sure that that happens so that I can plod along at my own pace.
I’ve reflected on this a lot over the last couple of years – particularly since I became single last year after being in a relationship for 8 years and having the type of life that I thought was exactly what I wanted. In some ways I have more control than I ever – I get to call the shots on where I live, where I go on holiday, what I spend my money on – and in some ways I have less. I have no idea what my life will look like in a year; and though I know a lot of things that I want, I have no idea whether I’ll have them. I could have been sure a few years ago that I’d have the marriage, the house and even one day the children, but now I have no idea. And no matter how I might try and control this, I have to accept that I can’t.
One of the things that hasn’t worked for me is trying to control the situations I come across, rather than go with the flow. That’s been one of the hardest lessons – to accept that some things will just float on by me and no matter how I try, I just can’t change their course. It’s a tricky one when you’re single because you realise that you can’t make people like you, you can’t conjure relationships out of thin air and you have to accept that the timeframe you might have for meeting someone might not be the plan of the universe. When I was much younger, I would meet someone I liked and I would spend hours trying to make something happen with them – choosing the right outfit, finding out the bars they might be at, willing them to like me back. Nowadays I’m much happier to shrug all of that hard work off. I’m happy to find that balance between putting yourself out there and being authentic, and letting things come and go. It’s a much more contented way to live to believe that what is for you won’t go past you. If someone doesn’t like you back, they’re simply not the one for you – and that’s fine.
Instead I’m just busy doing things that make me feel good – booking trips away and making plans for the future regardless of what my life looks like at that time. Years ago I might not have planned to get on a plane to Australia in December because I’d be wondering what if – what if I meet someone, where will I be living by then (my lease is up in November on my flat), what if it doesn’t fit in with my plans at work? But now I’m happy to – as one of my old friends used to say – ‘be a dead fish, and go with the flow’. It will all work out. And giving up that control feels really, really good. You have to take your hands off the wheel a little sometimes and see where you end up – it might be so much better than the life you might have planned for yourself.