'Like Mel B, I had my own moment of clarity with my ex...what should you do when the relationship you’re in is just okay?'
Mel B and I are obviously sisters from another mister.
Maybe not quite, but when she spoke out last week about breaking up with her husband Stephen Belafonte, I had a strange bang of familiarity. According to one report, the Scary Spice decided to file for divorce in what’s being called a ‘moment of complete clarity’ after the death of her dad Martin.
If you’ve ever had to pull the plug on a relationship, you’ll know all about this moment of complete clarity. It’s the point where the cold hard truth lands: that your relationship, which has probably been a lame duck for quite some time if you’ve been brave enough to admit it, will inevitably and unavoidably flounder, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
My best friend and I even have a name for this. We call it the 'celebrity chef' moment.
Some time ago, I was seeing a man who, despite his status as a former musician, still fancied himself as a bit of a friend to the stars. We Irish tend to ignore celebrities in our midst, but not this guy. In fact, he saw himself as one of them. He’d sidle up to celebrity strangers in bars as though he’d known them for years. The star in question, not knowing the guy from a bag of sand, would stand blinking, bewildered, nodding awkwardly but dying a little inside. Toe-curling doesn’t even begin to describe it. It got to a point where I had to tell him to just chill out and be cool. But even this seemed beyond his comprehension.
One night, we went to the opening of a very hot new restaurant, and I beseeched him to not embarrass me. Within minutes, he had asked the waitress if there was any chance he could meet the A-list chef in question. As she cringed, I felt the truth in my bones. There was a whole wave of realisation: we were utterly, inexorably doomed.
Of course, sometimes things are a lot less trivial and a lot more serious than that in relationships. There are bigger deal-breakers than just 'thinking you’re mates with the A-list'. A fist might have been raised. An affair uncovered. A secret six-figure debt uncovered only via a final demand notice.
But what happens when the relationship you’re in is…just okay?
You’re kind of happy, and happy enough to muddle along?
These are probably the hardest ones to break up. Your guard is down, so it takes a lot longer for you to realise that you’re the one who is always footing the bill, or he flirts just a little too enthusiastically with your friends. And in a Just Good Enough relationship, it can be hard to be the first person to call out the truth.
When I broke up, eventually, with that boyfriend, he was devastated. There was no reasoning with him that we weren’t right for each other. Just Right Enough was more than okay with him. And because it wasn’t enough for me, I became the baddie that pushed us both off the cliff.
Of course, in time, the man went on to marry someone else and appears to be, if Facebook is to be believed, very happy. He’s certainly never lost his love of taking selfies with celebrities. Is he 'just happy enough'?
That’s probably his business.
Those ‘good enough’ relationships are like being a boiling frog that’s slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in cold water, which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. And in relationships, some people are unable, or even unwilling, to react or even be aware of any threats or difficulties.
Breaking up is hard to do, but the Boiling Frog, as we’ll call it, is probably the hardest relationship to tear apart. Admitting that something is failing is hard to begin with, but what about when it’s not failing in any huge, dramatic, tangible way?
I know it sounds ridiculous when a person says that their deal-breakers are 'likes Fair City' or 'makes stupid noises when he eats', but often, these are symptomatic of a wider relationship malaise not seen by the naked eye.
It’s very likely you’ll always wonder if things could have worked out if you’d just put the spadework in. If your respective deal-breaker was little more than a rough patch.
Not helping things is the sex haze — a bewitching fog of sex hormones and endorphins — that clouds a person’s judgement, at least for the first year.
This is where that moment of clarity comes in. It’s a sinking feeling in the gut, sent from the gods of romance, that you’re with the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Ignore that instinctual feeling at your peril, because it’s there for a reason.
Otherwise, you could end up in boiling water. Or worse, in a selfie with Jamie Oliver.