A Recipe For Relationship Success

We all want to have our cake and eat it too and, as the old adage goes, if you’re going to bake a cake then you’re going to need to break some eggs.  You may be happy with a Coles-brand sponge or maybe you’re the kind of person that dreams of a multi-layered rainbow cake romance. Perhaps you’re a new-age paleo/vegan/ gluten-free  romantic and you need some kind of flourless carrot cake love. Whatever your hungry heart desires, like cake, a good relationship requires some methodical mixing of ingredients and a good pinch of patience.

We’ve all sat back and wondered why such a promising love was such a flop. You started out with a picture of a Women’s Weekly birthday cake and before you know it you’re elbows deep in a singe-crusted, oozy topping, food dyed disaster. You’re weeping on the floor of the kitchen, covered of course, in the main ingredient: flour. No relationship, no love, no cake. Just a big bloody mess and a torn up photo of a multi-layered, dinosaur cake with green butter icing and peppermint leaf spikes.  The white dust settled on every surface quietly transforms into gelatinous papier mache glue as it mingles with your cascading tears.

Such life events show us that it’s not a matter of following a simple recipe. Being human – all too human – we rush into things. We miss crucial steps, skip ahead, think we know best, ignore the oven timer and become completely distracted watching Family Feud, delivering a half-baked, lackluster love, droopy and distinctly lacking some key ingredient. So what are the essentials?

Obviously there’s got to be flour, you are trying to bake a cake after all.  I’ll call the flour (or almond meal if you’re that way inclined) love. . All you need is love, right? Love is all you need. That’s what I was told. Wrong. Whatever it is your heart desires from love, you’re going to need more than just flour. You’re also going to need a raising agent, a spark, a chemical reaction, something to turn a bowl of beige stodge into a fluffly delight. Without baking powder, you’ll end up making friendship crepes. Now, if you have flour and baking powder then you can have a crack at damper – you might even magic up some play-dough or a scone – but you’re still only half way to a relationship.

Holding the cake together is the eggs, the milk, the butter or the mashed bananas for my vegan friends. Key binders in a love cake might seem critically obvious, but they are often the most neglected component. Your eggless cake is the relationship your peers turn their nose up at. The foray that causes you to fall out with old friends. It’s trust, respect, communication, equality, understanding, acceptance, openness. Without a minimum of three of these components the partnerships skews towards ownership. Old eggs in your love meringue ruin your chances at that soft, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, delivering instead a disappointing dish that really should go straight in the bin.

A cake should be sweet and it needs measures of kindness, caring, thoughtfulness; all that vom-worthy couple stuff. But there’s no level of garnish that can can uncook a catastrophy. No extravagant couple holiday, kissing selfie profile pic, overtly affectionate post or tacky couple tatt that can overcome a blundered base. There is no measure of silver cashews that can convincingly bedazzle a bland bundt cake. Some of us think we want a hot partner, nice dinners, holidays, presents. While a thick layer of icing can mask a dry cake, remember that the best chocolate brownie needs no extra decoration.

In truth, you can’t make a cake without flour. You also cannot call a bag of flour a cake. It’s not enough to fight for a relationship because you’re in love. If you are missing trust, respect, dignity, honesty and communication, it’s going to be a shitshow,  not a souffle . Too many times I hear vile, unhealthy and downright repulsive behaviour condoned and defended by love. So babe, what you’re telling me Neanderthal Neil can be excused for crushing you confidence, destroying your friendships and ruining your life? “…but, but you don’t understand, we’re in love.”

Mmm. Cool story. Neil is not a masterpiece, he’s got less personality of a bag of sugar and is not a healthy or balanced addition to your diet. You may as well throw fistfuls of flour at each other to show your love, it’s roughly the same result as your dysfunctional relationship. He makes everyone around you sick, most of all you, whilst you trip-out on some kind of delusional sugar high. “Ohhhh doctor I know I have type two diabetes…. But, but you don’t understand, Neil and I are in love. Neil doesn’t mean to destroy my health. I couldn’t possibly end it with Neil, Neil, love, Sugar, love blah blah blah”

*Self-destructs in a puff of sprinkles*

In the past we’ve all hoped for a bombe alaska and instead landed a cream pie to the face. In hindsight it’s generally safe to say the measurements were a bit off. Next time if you’re thinking of baking a cake with someone check your shopping basket first before you hit the check out.

The proof is in the pudding.

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“So, What Are We?” 5 Questions from the Grey Area

It’s a tale as old as time: boy and girl meet, boy and girl date, girl is too scared to clarify the nature of relationship, girl goes insane (see Gone Girl for further details). Grey-lationships, as I’ve coined them, can carry on for weeks, months or years, with sufferers meandering through love limbo, trying to play it cool but forever wondering “So, what are we?” Somewhere between a flirtationship, a fling and a relationship is a grey-lationship. It’s always one of two things, a transitory state or a holding pattern. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, “what am I holding out for? And how long am I going to be kept hanging?” Here are a few common questions that plague punters, rest assured you’re not alone.

How do we respond to the public?

“Hey guys, this is my…. *awkward pause* ahffffriend (?!)” Then you endure curious looks from everyone there as they wonder how many of your ah-friends you are currently sleeping with. Noticing that friend was not a very suitable description you improve an already uncomfortable situation by clarifying exactly how many dates you’ve been on (six, if you include today) so that people don’t think you’re easy or desperate. Mmm, well, that was awkward for everyone involved! Now you smile meekly at each other and wonder with fierce curiosity what the other person is thinking as your date is continuously mistaken for your boyfriend.  You both nod politely and cringe internally, ignoring the elephant in the room.

What are the boundaries?

So let’s say a grey-lationship has been in full fling for a month or two. It’s hard to decide at what point you get to institute reasonable accountability. You’ve been trying to act like a cool girl, not reacting when he bails on plans and/or feigning amusement when you see a Snapchat of him licking whipped cream off a stripper; you wonder where to draw the line. Like de facto status is to marriage, it seems plausible that after a certain time you should be entitled to half their stuff and to tell them they are being an inconsiderate a-hole. I would say berating them on a late reply after three dates is a bit premature but disrespectful behaviour from a regular beau needs to be addressed, either directly or indirectly. Guerrilla Snapchat tactics are not advisable, as posting revenge videos of hot boys in your story is unlikely to help him realise the error of his ways.

In a grey-lationship, you walk a fine line between girlfriend and fling. Can I date other people? Is kissing someone else cheating? Is he seeing other girls?! Who are they?! Tell me, I know you know. Not setting boundaries leaves you in love limbo. If you take yourself off the market you might miss an opportunity but if you get caught out dating when he thought you were exclusive you might stuff up what could have been a great thing. You didn’t know if he was dating other people and whether you should be too, all because you guys never had the talk. As always with grey-lationships, you should proceed with caution. It’s good to have a few cards up your sleeve but don’t risk an ace for a number card.

Where do you stand?

If you don’t know where you stand, it’s pretty likely you’re not in control of the situation. When a relationship goes on for a long time in a thus-far undefined state it’s usually because one person, quite clearly, has the reins. Whether we like to admit it, we are either the one leading or the one following. If we are both on the same page, then the necessary conversations tend to happen quite naturally because you both have something to gain. When there’s inequality in an arrangement, our motivation to get clarification is low. Why don’t we ask the question we’re dying to know the answer to? Because we’re not ready to hear that the answer is no, or that the timing is wrong; that he’s not over his ex; or that dreaded “you’re so amazing but…” Any of these textbook platitudes can confirm your worst fear: he’s just not that into you. Instead, you ignore the obvious signs and cling to tiny actions or phrases that undeniably confirm he’s in love with you. Taking two days to reply, well, he’s just busy of course, but two emojis in that long awaited text message proves undeniable infatuation. 😉 ❤

Where is this going?

Start by asking yourself whether it’s realistically going anywhere – and if not, then why not? If you’re having fun with your hot neighbour boy but stalling every time he hints at meeting your friends and there’s no way in heck you want to meet his parents, are you leading him on? We all feel hard done by by fuckboys, but there are plenty of fuckgirls out there messing with innocent guys’ emotions because they want a Saturday night booty call (“come save me, I’m drunk”) or a Sunday snuggle (“bring me Chinese”). Does this sound like you?

Casual flings are only casual if there’s a consensus, and frankly it’s just mean to let someone think you really like them just because you like some of the benefits of their company. Yes, it’s nice to have someone pick you up from airport, but if they don’t mean more to you than an Uber driver then you really shouldn’t ask. Similarly, if your prospective bae lets you bake him brownies and iron his shirts but has neglected to invite you to his last three group dinners or family events then you better stop for a reality check on you way to the 24hour K-Mart where you were headed at 10:30pm because he forgot to pack work socks.

When do I give up?

“I’m going to talk to him,” and other famous last words escape your lips, just before you lose your nerve completely and the light drains from your eyes. All anger is replaced with fear and you start to bargain: “it’s fine, we basically are together anyway, right? Yeah, he buys me lunch, we’re having a physical relationship, I’ve met a few of his friends – we’re together. It’s the same thing, it just doesn’t have a label.” Yeah, well, that’s a nice thought but how can you know you’re the only one if you’ve never asked? How can you be sure he won’t cut off his own arm and run for the hills once he realises he’s cornered in enemy territory? If you’re having to justify and defend his half-hearted actions to your friends it might be time to call it a day. Being busy is just not a justifiable excuse anymore, we are all living below the time-poverty line.

 

Figuring out if your situation is a natural transitory state or a hostage situation of the heart is the turning point of most grey-lationships. Love is a gamble, its part strategy and part luck. You gotta, know when to walk away and when to run. No one wants to be the first to give the game away but showing some of your cards is the only way to work out whether to hold or fold. Enjoy the grey while you can but if you want to walk away a winner end you’ll have to take a risk or cut your losses. Happy gambling.

Handling Dating Fluctuations: Feast or Famine

Romance is a tropical island, subject to unpredictable weather and extreme conditions. The rainy season may be overwhelming at first, but what follows is plentiful feasting. As a single twenty-something I’ve observed two states of polarity in our romantic lives: lonely as a bottom dwelling hermaphrodite from a deep-sea abyss or popular as Harry Styles at a tween-ager convention. There is rarely a middle ground, so eat while the goings good. A feast can quickly become a famine.

One day out of the blue, it really does start raining men. God bless Mother Nature! It’s thrilling when out of the blue every Tom, Dick and Harry starts trying to hit you up; suspiciously you wonder if somebody has written your contact details on a bathroom stall: “Call for a good time.” But regardless of the cause, the sudden influx of boys blowing up your phone gives you a Ke$ha-like feeling of celebrity. “Yassssss, I am queeeeen,” you hiss as you skip merrily along, tossing your hair and giggling with delight while a pied-piper trail of men follow along behind you. The drought has passed – hallelujah, you’re saved! Line up in single file Bachelors, you get a rose, you get a rose, get a rose, you all get a rose.

Once you get a grip of your intoxicating ego trip you start to realise the logistical nightmare ahead of you. How should you prioritise your options? Do you pick the guy with the nice hair, or the one with the dog? What about the PT, or maybe the businessman? What on earth have they put in the water to send all these men shooting out of the ground where there was once only barren soil and optimistic exes? Now you’re wading through oceans of devotion and tossing up whether to dip a toe in the water or dive in head first, but the question is, at what stage does interviewing multiple candidates become unethical? Because if this was a reality TV show it would be okay to start dating all twenty as long as I slowly whittle down the numbers week by week. Maybe play it safe and start with five. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Wining, dining, flirting, banter; everything is going so well, you can’t even remember what it was like to be trapped in the barren desolate wasteland of the drought days. It’s all fun and games for a few weeks then, suddenly, your show has been axed. You were basking on the beach of love until you saw your top three guys have mutual friends and they’ve all just checked in at the same event: game over. You thought in this modern age it was okay for girls to play the field? Well, apparently not. Due to your silver-tongued antics your popularity has significantly dropped and suddenly you’re alone and confused like an ousted Australian Prime Minister. Yesterday you were on top, now your swarm of suitors have disappeared, leaving you to wonder if it was ever really real or just a mirage.

You start to really regret throwing away your favourite volleyball, Wilson. Sure, he wasn’t great at conversation but he was good listener and they are getting hard to come by. It’s an all-too-familiar feeling when the sky stops raining men and all the dateable/mate-with-able guys seem to disappear from the planet. Now there’s only tumble weeds rolling across a grim social media feed. Your ovaries shudder in terror and your browser history is filled with cat memes and baby sloth videos. You’re back on that tropical island all alone, catching fish with your bare hands and washing your hair once a week – at the very most. You wonder if it was a bad idea to go on a  spree of saying “yes” and kissing babies like a sleazy politician when there was no way you were ever going to follow through.

You surrender back into your life on Single Island. This is where you live now. It seems this may be the end. Your dating show has been axed and this is the final curtain, the end of all love. Climb into your adult-sized onesie and nurse a bottle of moscato; make yourself comfortable as you settle in for a full Bridget Jones montage of sad, single moping. ‘Allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll by myself’ humming in the back of your head as you relentlessly check your phone for the buzz of a direct message or cheeky “like,” but there’s nothing except your friends tagging you in Instagram memes about insane single girls and binge drinking.

Moving further into single hysteria, you start uploading falsely glamourous Instagram selfies (#TBT to when I wasn’t a hot mess) and Snapchat stories (I’m cute, remember!?) to test the waters. But alas, the only bites come from three creepy guys who’ve messaged you sporadically over the past six years telling you (and probably 15 others), again, how beautiful you are. *Ugh* Thank you, Creepy Greg, but puh-lease, that selfie was not meant for you. Why not try again in another six weeks when my self-worth has plummeted just a little further?

“Pull yourself together woman,” a voice inside your head says. “You can stay here rehashing history and living in your pyjamas, leading a sad half-life consisting mainly of Grey’s Anatomy repeats, desperately scavenging social media affirmations of your worth, or you can fashion a raft out of drift wood and save your sorry self. You can’t sit around your whole life praying for rain because the only thing you can rely on is this: it won’t happen when you want it to. Remind yourself that being single is a situation, not a character flaw and get on with being a girl boss!”

You’re most attractive to the opposite sex when they are the last thing on your priority list. Whether you’ve devoted yourself to travel, your career, being a better friend/ relative/ human, or you’ve completely given up on Homo Sapiens and finally bought that puppy.  The only time you find what you once wanted is when you stop looking for it, and the less you want it, the more likely you are to find it. Like a dripping naked toddler that’s escaped from the bath that refuses to be clothed, the faster you run away the harder they will try to catch you. “Let me be free,” I scream, whilst they try to wrangle me into restrictive dating patterns. That’s when you realise that, actually, things were so much easier when it was just you and Wilson.

 

It’s good to be back in Arcadia, thanks for stopping by! Jump up to the menu box in the top right hand corner of the page to subscribe by email so you never miss a post!  Jules x