Times have changed. Real life and Love Island’s loose lessons show us that the game is not what it used to be. But, do people ever really change too? I’m not just talking about when trying to meet Mr Right (Now), but just in general life. Can leopards ever really change their spots?

I think so.

One of the best things about moving back to my hometown in leafy Hampshire when my marriage ended is picking up with friends who I had lost touch with over the years. Some of the people who I am now in most regular contact with first came into my life around 20 years ago. Wine buddies, play date friends, a couple of men … they have all come into my life, gone again and then returned.

Some of those people are exactly the same as they were back in our teenage years. That’s brilliant. I have picked up with them right where we left off. That’s a great sign of a true, honest and enduring friendship. Let’s hope that never changes.

Friends for life

However, one person who I had a bit of a chequered past with back in the early 00’s has made a recent return. It’s safe to say neither of us performed well. But he definitely crossed the line – obliterated it, in fact – on more than one occasion. So, when he literally crossed my path again a few months ago and we got chatting again, I had to question my own judgement a little. Was I setting myself up for a barrage of crap again? A couple of months into ‘hanging out’, and it doesn’t seem that way at all. He’s showing colour, strength, genuine care, generosity of every kind and compassion when none of that was that apparent before. Only time will tell if this continues to be the case – but I do hope that it does.

Love for life

One of the hardest things about ending a relationship is seeing them move on with their lives. It doesn’t matter if there is any emotion left there. Seeing someone you used to be in love with be in love with someone else hurts. A lot of us will emotionally self-harm and lurk on their Instagram to see what they are up to. When you have to co-parent with that ex, you have no choice but observe their life circumstances in reality. TJ’s dad is now sharing a home with a girl he met six months after we ended our marriage. I have to take TJ there every other week. I see the flat he bought as a newly rediscovered bachelor transformed into a home for a new family. It’s weird, to say the least.

I see how TJ’s dad is performing in that relationship – showering her in love, making her feel special, the days out and holidays they share together. So, I took him off my Facebook to stop all that popping up on my newsfeed. But, I can’t do the same when it comes to the parental handover. The feeling I get isn’t jealousy – it’s confusion. That is definitely not the way TJ’s dad behaved in our relationship. I felt alone, sad and trapped in an emotionless shell of a marriage. So, if he has the capability of being this amazing partner who knows how to keep a girl happy, why didn’t he do that for me?

Maybe he’s changed. It could be that he has learnt from his mistakes and he doesn’t want to go through loss again. I really hope so, I genuinely do. It has made him a better and obviously happier person. That’s only a good thing for our son to be around.

Me again

So, what about me? Gosh, I know I have changed. I barely recognise the girl who I used to be. Who the girl in the picture above here is I don’t know – and that was only taken a few years ago when now three-year-old TJ was a baby. I can honestly say that I behaved appallingly on many occasions in my marriage. My head was struggling, my heart was broken and I made a catalogue of mistakes. Would I do that again? Hell, no. It’s been nearly two years since that marriage has ended and the course of finding a new love has not gone smoothly for me. Thank fuck for that. These two years have given me the space, time and capacity to sort myself out. I know what I want, I know more about myself and I know how to make myself happy without the need of affirmation from others.

Love and understanding

We’re born as blank canvasses and within the first three years of our lives, 80% of our brains have formed. But they are constantly changing and developing based on our life experiences. So, can leopards change their spots – I think so. We can learn from the times when we have fucked up. Plus, we know what to do to stop that from happening again – if we really want to. Lots of us, myself definitely included, are led by emotions. I think that’s a good thing as it shapes your actions and means your behaviour is accurate and honest.

So, the lesson learned is to be true to yourself. Speak your mind. Don’t let anyone walk all over you. If they don’t know they have done it, take them aside for a less scripted but Love Island-inspired chat to tell them about it. Take people for how they treat you now, not in the past. Have hope that they will keep those good parts as we all move into the future.

See the best in people – most of us aren’t dickheads when handled properly.