From as far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to get married.
My mother used to tell me stories about how, when I was younger, I wanted to fall in love and get married. She used to tell me about dreams she would have about who I should marry, what they looked like, and what they did, and where we would live. Then one day I had my first crush. And as far as my puppy love phase went I happily fell for some truly sweet wonderful people and to this day I have fond memories about those experiences.
When I transitioned from being a kid to a teenager my hormones started hitting me hard. I had my first kiss and shared moments with wonderful people that still bring back those feelings of nostalgia. Unfortunately the pursuit of the past does not end well in the now and I started to realize this as I transitioned into adulthood. As I got older my relationships seemed to get more toxic but my relentless pursuit of the past kept me blind to that fact. I ended up compromising who I was while trying to bend a twist my personality to fit the expectations of others. As a result I opened myself up to abuse I and inadvertently hurt the people I love. One of the consequences of my actions was that I had lost my sense of self somewhere along the way.
Growing up I used to be proud of my chameleon personality, someone who could change to fit anyone and any situation, but I was now trying to undo the damage I had done while attempting to rediscover who I was. During this time I met my wife and fell madly in love with her. We got married, had three kids, bought a house, and checked off all of the check boxes of the things I wanted. Unfortunately, I had not yet fully found myself before I decided to tie the knot. My eagerness to live happily ever after caused me to skip steps in my recovery which I know was a contributing factor in my marriage ending. There were more factors that pushed us to the breaking point but I can’t change anyone other than myself so my responsibility is to focus on self improvement and not letting history repeat itself.
After my marriage ended I fell into a series of rebound relationships in an effort to feel loved and to keep from being alone. Unfortunately the state that I was in was an unhealthy mix of codependency and insecurity and I walked away from some amazing people who deserved someone that had their shit together but instead ended up with me. Fortunately I got a wake up call, in the form of several of my friends and family telling me that I need to be single for a while so that I can recover emotionally from everything I had just gone through and to refocus on my kids.
I have been single for seven months now and am continuing to work through my issues before I give my heart away again. My journey is far from over but I have had time to consider what some of the major issues are that I need to work on before I pursue any sort of relationship. The following is a list of things that I am working on:
Use my brain to offset my gut
I am a very sensory and empathetic person. I pick up on people’s emotional state and respond accordingly. As a result most of my friends come to me when they are struggling with something and we talk it out. The downside to this is that when legitimate interest is shown to me I show attraction in response which is not a great first response. This has happened to me for years and most of my close friends have warned me that I should probably avoid those people who I feel an instant attraction to.
Stating my preference is not a crime
I have been doing better at this, especially when it comes to simple decisions like where to go, where to eat, what to order, what to watch… Unfortunately I am super conflict adverse, so much so that if I feel like stating my preference would start a fight I just clam up or withdraw. As it turns out, most people don’t like when you withdraw like that, especially when you care for them and want to get to know them. I still struggle with this issue a lot especially when it has the potential to upset people. I am steadily working towards being confident when stating my preferences.
Speak up when words cut deep
Sarcasm is fun sometimes, but in the context of a relationship it’s a two edged sword. Communication is one of the keys to a healthy relationship and I love to talk, er… I mean communicate. But in all seriousness, sometimes the words we say can be so damaging. Some examples of damaging words can include (but are not limited to) poorly timed sarcasm, passive aggressiveness, or just a flat out attack. I have a terrible habit of laughing, smiling, and nodding while internalizing the pain which is incredibly unhealthy. These bad habits resulted in me harboring resentment towards my significant others and creating rifts in my relationships. This sets a horrible standard especially when I start internalizing at the beginning of a relationship during the time when couples are still learning about each other and establishing healthy boundaries. This is an area where I need to let go of the fear of rejection and just be myself and let someone else accept me for me and not just the image of myself that I allow them to see.
While we are talking about fear I think it’s important to point out that at the start of almost all of my relationships I try to be the most understanding, accommodating, easy going person who is always there for my significant other. That being said I think it’s healthy to focus on all of those things in a relationship but I pour so much of myself into embodying those qualities, that as the relationship progresses I tend to burn out. I understand the importance of creating and atmosphere that is nurturing and supportive but I usually take things to an extreme and as a result set very unreasonable expectations of myself in the process. All of these qualities are important to maintain throughout a relationship but being more realistic at the get go is vital so that it doesn’t look like my interests are waning as I get acclimated.
Don’t sacrifice too much
Relationships require compromise and sacrifice sometimes. It’s important to only compromise over peripheral things that are healthy to give up or at least set reasonable boundaries to maintain a healthy relationship. Nothing good comes out of sacrificing the important things that are priorities or that you are directly responsible for in your life. This rings particularly true in my case because I have 3 kids that come as a package deal with me and they are my #1 responsibility, period. I may transition from one-on-one to group socialization with my close female friends to honor my significant other but I can’t sacrifice the well being of my kids to accommodate a relationship. I know that the best relationship for me will be one where I can accept the other person and everything that comes with them and visa versa.
Don’t try and fix anyone
If I could go back in time to tell younger me one piece of advice, that advice would be “DON’T TRY AND FIX PEOPLE!” The amount of trouble I have gotten into by trying to fix people is legendary. Ultimately, even if someone in your life is broken, what we really mean when we say we want to fix them is that we want to change something about them. Don’t misunderstand, I believe that significant others can help support people who are in the process of changing or can help facilitate change in someone. At the end of the day however the only person you can change is you. Accepting this fact is so important to maintaining a healthy relationship and something I am still trying to master.
“When you stop trying to change others and work on changing yourself, your world changes for the better.” – Unknown
If it isn’t meant to be walk away, don’t drag it out
I am easy, EASY, to guilt trip. It’s an issue that needs to go away. But in so many cases, at the end of a relationship, I find myself dragging things out because I don’t want to hurt the other person. My desire to avoid hurting others has kept me in situations where I have been miserable for weeks/months longer than I should, and it almost always ends up hurting the other person anyway. I will always give a damaged relationship multiple chances to be restored including working on communication, going to counseling, and making plenty of sacrifices (see above) in an effort to try and rebuild a connection. I believe if people want to invest in each other on that level then you should protect that investment by using all the available resources at your disposal. Granted there are always things that are deal breakers including abuse, addiction or other things that can cause irreparable damage necessitating an immediate exit. It’s hard to know exactly how I’m doing with this issue but I am very mindful of the progression of healing in my heart while letting go of things in my life that are toxic.
I have committed myself to staying single for a while longer in order to focus more on my kids and learn how to balance being a single parent and maintaining a romantic relationship. A big part of that is learning from my mistakes and becoming more emotionally mature, so that when I meet someone that “clicks” with me on a deeper level, I can be the best version of myself for them. I’m not sure I will ever get married again but I am happy to share in a healthy long term relationship. I love to love and it would surprise me if I didn’t find someone that I want to give my heart to, hopefully in a healthier way than I have in the past. I have tried to mend the damage of those that I have hurt in the past but there is only so much that I can do; sometimes your only option is to walk away to minimize the damage. We all make mistakes and I am no exception. I have faith that I will get it someday and be able to share happiness with someone very special.
“Hope walks through the fire and faith leaps over it.” – Jim Carrey