How Not to Be Tortured by a Love Rival

How Not to Be Tortured by a Love Rival
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    Sometimes, we are not only left in love; we are left for someone else – a rival who
    comes to assume a large, indeed monstrous position in our imaginations. The torture
    comes down to one essential question which pursues us into the early hours: What do they
    have that we do not? Part of the agony rests on a basic feature of human psychology; we
    know ourselves from the inside, in great and dispiriting detail, whereas we can know others
    only from the outside, from what they choose to reveal, which may be almost nothing, aside
    from an attractive face and a charming manner. As a result, we may feel that the person we
    have been left for – and whom we know only on the basis of having briefly met them at
    a party or stalked their online profile – is wonderful in every way. Where we are shy,
    they will be confident; where we are chaotic they will be well-organised; where our sexuality
    is complex, theirs will be simple; where we're too domestic, they will be exciting… Well-meaning
    friends may try to bring us back into contact with our good sides: they will speak of our
    kindness, intelligence or sense of fun. But this may not be the best way forward; the
    point isn't to rehearse how decent we are. Properly to get over the pain of a love-rival,
    we need to realise how mediocre pretty much every human who has ever existed tends to
    be. There is not, in fact, ever any such thing as a 'perfect person', there are merely
    differently tricky ones, as time will inevitably reveal to our idealising ex. Our failings
    or defects may well be real but the picture we've got of ourselves as compared with
    our love rival is skewed by undue ignorance. Recovery does not involve the denial of our
    less admirable sides: it requires a more nihilistic, and therefore more balanced sense of what
    people in general are like. Of course the rival has qualities we lack. It is true that
    they have better hair, or a more impressive salary. But at the same time they have an
    enormous number of very serious problems which we can be assured exist, not because we know
    them, but because we know human beings in general. No one examined from up close is
    ever anything other than disappointing – and every person one has to share a life with
    will prove so maddening over time, one will at points wish they had never been born. Whatever
    attraction a new lover can offer our ex, they will also supply them with a whole a new set
    of irritants, which will end up frustrating them as much we ever did, indeed more so,
    because they so sincerely hoped – as they packed their bags – that such flaws would
    not exist in their next partner. Our ex-lover has not entered the gates of paradise, they
    have merely exchanged one imperfect relationship for another. We should never compound our
    grief with the thought that our ex will be uncomplicatedly happy. The deep lesson of
    being supplanted is not that we are so bad. It's that we have been left because of a
    common delusion: the belief that if only one was in a different relationship, one would
    be substantially happier. And yet, the truth is that more or less every human relationship
    has its own special and beautifully distinct forms of acute unhappiness. That there is
    much wrong with us is, of course, true; but this dark fact invariably sits within a far
    larger, grimmer and yet strangely consoling truth: that every person has much wrong with
    them. In future relationships, once we get over abandonment, the person we need to find
    is not the one who thinks we are perfect (and will never leave us on this basis) but rather
    one who can quite clearly see our failings and yet – the key advantage – knows how
    calmly to make their peace with them. The lover we need is not someone who stays with
    us because they think we are irreplaceably marvellous but because they've wisely realised
    that no-one is as attractive as they seem at first – and that to smash up a relationship
    generally involves nothing much finer than a prelude to novel encounters with frustration
    and disappointment.
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