Six. That’s how many relationships it took for me to change. You might be wondering what the hell I was doing in each of those if I wasn’t changing after each one. If you think I was avoiding change you would be mistaken.
Each of those six relationships changed me and changed me for the better. But, what I never realized is that even with all the changes I made I still had no idea how to actually be in a relationship. I still only knew how to be with myself and protect myself. This isn’t to say I was selfish, quite the opposite in fact.
While I was working on my self-esteem and my ability to give…and my education and my career…I realized I had never really worked on the relationships themselves. This was quite a shocking revelation, really. I guess I always thought I was fine because I was working on myself and my issues so my partner should just do the same and work on themselves and their issues and it would all just work itself out.
My relationships all started and ended the same. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl have immediate chemistry and connection. Boy and girl date and/or fall in love. Eventually, Boy withdraws. Girl gives more. Boy and girl break up. Boy and girl get back together, but girl has changed emotionally and breaks up with him for good. The end.
Every time I ended a relationship I thought it was because they failed to meet my needs. The problem is that I NEVER told them about my needs. I thought giving to them and loving them was enough. They thought being nice was enough. None of it worked, but we did this dance of pretending intimacy for years sometimes.
Do you wonder why you keep ending up in the same spot over and over even though you think you learn and grow? Do you repeat the same patterns? Do you do the same thing over and over expecting a different result?
Do you keep giving in the hopes that they will see your worth and your value? I did. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work.
M was my catalyst. I met him and I knew that, finally, I had met a really good, honest man who had the same ethical standards that I did and that treated me really well. I knew we were a good match from the start. Although there were some red flags I ignored them in the hopes that he would be “the one”.
Imagine my surprise when, lo and behold, those stupid patterns came back. Yes, it happened….AGAIN. I started giving too much. I didn’t speak up. I pretended everything was okay when his behavior wasn’t up to snuff. I ran a movie in my head of how he wasn’t doing things right and how he’d never make me happy.
By this time I had been telling myself this story (that it was his fault and he could never make me happy) for so long that even I was starting to doubt it. I knew it wasn’t true, but I literally couldn’t help myself. The story wasn’t done yet. It kept playing. The reel in my head was going and going until the final scene where I broke up with him. I didn’t want to end things, but I realized something was wrong and I didn’t know what else to do.
I know you know what I’m talking about. There are little voices in your head that say, “if only he would do this….”, or “if only he would do that…” I would be happy. The problem is that it isn’t his job to make you happy. Only you can make yourself happy. Maybe you know this intellectually, but do you believe it internally? Do you feel it in your heart?
When you stop looking to others to fill you up or make you happy you gain a certain freedom you have never known. This is what I had to find. He was my catalyst for change.
We all need freedom. We need the freedom to be who we are and feel how we feel. Only then can we accept and love ourselves and others in a healthy way and only then can we find the right partner.
What Happened Next
From the moment M walked out the door everything changed. I knew I had to change. I knew nothing could ever be the same, but I wasn’t really sure what was wrong or what I needed to do. I only knew that everything I had done up until then had not worked.
So, what do you do when you aren’t sure where to start? Search the internet of course!
I started searching about relationships, scouring dating and relationship coaching websites, and began learning what it means for a man and woman to interact and have healthy communication and what is required to be in a real relationship.
One of the key lessons was the topic of self-love. Self-love is an essential requirement for any relationship. Yes, its cliché, but you really do have to love yourself before you can love someone else.
Next, I had to dissect what I really wanted in a relationship. Were my expectations realistic? Was I expecting a man to give me something that I should be giving myself?
Even though I had known it forever, I came to finally understand (duh) that men are not women. Who doesn’t know this? Everyone knows this. But to know and to understand are two different things. I knew it and I thought I understood it, but I was wrong.
What do you need?
First, decide what you really need in a relationship and be realistic as to what the other person can give. They cannot give you an emotional connection the same way your girlfriends/guy friends can. A guy can be your rock and your supporter and your hero, but he can’t be your girly best friend. A girl can be your supporter, but she can’t be your mother.
I decided that M had everything I had always wanted, I just didn’t see it. I was too busy making up stories in my head about how he didn’t care enough and how he didn’t like the way I spoke, or how he wasn’t interested in me or my life. It was garbage. All of it was garbage. Stop making up stories in your head.
Next, ask yourself what you need to give. Everything isn’t about you and what you need and want. Seek to understand then you will be understood. Why should someone want to give to you if you never care about their feelings or their needs?
Men want to feel like winners and if they don’t think they are making you happy they feel like losers and really both of you lose. I realized that I had spent all my time focusing on the one thing he didn’t do right instead of the tons of things he did do right. Not only had I focused on the wrong things I had never explicitly communicated my needs in a way he would hear and understand.
You can’t imply things, nor can you demand things. What you should do is let them know when they do something that makes you so happy and that you’d be even happier if x, y, z.
We all like a sappy ending where the couple falls in love and rides off into the sunset together. What I do know is that after getting back together with him again I realized he wasn’t everything I needed. I had created a fiction in my mind of who I wanted him to be. He didn’t really make me happy. He had good qualities, but he would never have made me happy. I think I knew all along, but I ignored the truth.
I also know that no matter what happens I have changed my patterns forever and I am a better person because of it. The break up with him was really the best thing that ever happened to me.
What do you want your ending to be? Do you want the loop to play over and over with the same story or do you want to write a new movie? Maybe it will even be a blockbuster.