I have been in all sorts of relationships, wonderful, okay, bad, indifferent, and horrific. And sometimes one relationship would go through the whole spectrum.
In retrospect, one thing that struck me during some of the most grueling relationship lessons, is that often my suffering had little or NOTHING to do with the other person’s behavior. At other times, I saw that at some point I was actively choosing to stick next to a person who was obviously beyond help concerning certain addictions – drugs, alcoholism – and I could have left at any time. I could have left before I got punched in the face (not by the guy); or before the guy stole from me, or before my family practically gave up on me … but I LUVVVVVED the guy … blah, blah,blah. After the crack addict – I told myself NEVER again an addict until I became engaged to an alcoholic 10 years later.
Now, it sounds like I am totally blaming these guys, for the relationships being bad. And let me clarify something. If they were really bad guys at their core, I wouldn’t have fallen for them so hard. They actually weren’t bad guys, or terrible relationships most of the time, just too much of the time toward the end. Most of all, I realized that I couldn’t handle a relationship with their addiction. And, unfortunately, they were more dedicated to the addiction than to me, or to the health of the relationship. And I learned the hard way that – NOBODY will be saved unless they want to save themselves.
After having dealt with the drama of alcoholism within a long live-in engagement, I made this 2-part promise to myself that:
- I would never stay in a relationship that inspired me to be WORSE than my normal everyday self.
- I should really aspire to find a relationship that inspired me to be better than my normal everyday self.
But this didn’t mean that everything was happy-happy all the time, in the following relationships, but rather that I would watch MY behavior, rather than the other person’s, and see if over time, I was becoming a better person by having them in my life.
That whole Self-Love Thing – Lordy Help me!
It all comes down to self-love. If I love myself LESS when I am with a person, consistently, and I can’t see a way to change myself to make myself more loveable to me … then I am OUT!
If I love myself more over time, in a particular relationship … then … no matter what is happening in the relationship … it has a good effect on me.
It’s MY Pity-Party and I will Whine if I Want to!
I think the US culture has a tendency to externalize control in relationships – oh, my parents did this to me; I was abused; I was poor; society was/is against me —– so I was compelled to respond in such and so way.
And it isn’t that these things don’t matter. They DO! Suffering is suffering. But if we are going to try to lead a better life, we need to find practical ways to improve things … and blaming things beyond your control isn’t going to help you get anywhere, except Queen or King of your Pity-party. You say – such and so SUCKS, is/was Horrible, but I have a whole life ahead of me that can be different, and the only one who can make it different is ME, because I am not God, I do not have the power to control ANYTHING except how I EXPERIENCE reality. That is IT. Nothing else. So one has to get down to learning how to improve the EXPERIENCE of life, rather than All of Creation itself. A bit less of a responsibility, if you ask me. Shouldn’t we all breathe a sigh of relief?
Now, I have a sob-story, like everyone else, but I realized that I wasn’t getting very far by being a victim of a life I couldn’t control. But it felt a whole lot better, to say – fine, so and so is being an A-hole, or I got a rotten deal as a kid … but what can I DO about this that will empower me? What can I DO ABOUT this information for ME, to Grow, Feel better, Learn, Love better? So then the ball was in my court. No more drowning in tears … time to take control of my life/experience.
In the last few years, I have been involved in challenging relationships, but they taught me SO much about how to be more conscious of my own bad behavior, how to set boundaries, how to love myself better when the other person couldn’t come through, how to be gentler and kinder, and so many other lessons.
Do you have a BAD relationship, or Do you have the Wrong Definition For your Relationship?
But concerning the last long-term relationship (as in sexual/intimate/long-lasting daily connection/friendship)- I realized after a point that I had learned those lessons and that the relationship had to change into something else for it to be sustainable. This particular man is one of my best friends, and we work together on business projects. We have our differences, but because we never left each other’s lives, just morphed into something different, and we were never “defined” in the first place … we are closer than ever.
Because of this, and my other experiences with “un-defined” relationships, I have found that it is often the definitions that are the problem, rather than the relationship itself. If we just accepted the “best” another person had to offer us and make the best of that, then we could allow for a lifelong journey where we play different roles in each other’s lives without ever leaving that person.
Now even though I don’t agree with dragging the corpses of psyche-past around with me, to justify why I am the way I am … I do know that I am still struggling with abandonment issues – and I think this – is just Fucking normal to a certain degree. We ALL hate to lose people we love and have had in our lives for years, and have told our secrets to, and have had amazing and horrible times together —- yet we still love each other after being total fuck-ups in one way or another. People are not a dime-a-dozen, even if you are Madonna, or some NBA/NFL star. There some special people we meet, that we want in our lives ALWAYS … but – they don’t cut it as a husband/wife/lover anymore.
So why can’t we be friends? NO REALLY … Why can’t we?
- Because of all the rules and regulations that we put on “romantic” relationships, for one. And please don’t get me started … that is a whole nother blog or blog-epic
- Because it is HARD to make that transition. We think it is easiest at first to just make a clean break, but that break is an illusion if there is something you still were supposed to learn from that person. I know. There are people in my life that pop back in after decades, and play a pivotal role someway/somehow. People that have haunted my dreams. And others with whom I have had the pleasure to grow and change with over time.
This is actually a more normal way of dealing with human beings in our lives long-term. Think about it – This is how family is … think of the different roles our parents play in our lives. Our Mother is literally our “creator” – then supreme authority, then nagaholic/worryaholic ( our teenage years); then mentor, then friend, then the dependent in old age, and throughout our life may play various combinations of the all of the above.
But for some reason (mostly related to religion/culture) our idea of a romantic partner is INCREDIBLY rigid and inflexible. It is no wonder that certain people are scared of marriage as many people conceive it … which is anti-growth and anti-adventure and exploration … claustrophobia-inducing with extra responsibilities and hardship.
So it begs to question – What IF our Definitions changed? Could we then KEEP the people in our lives longer by allowing them to grow as they need to grow, and by allowing ourselves to grow as we need to grow? I think marriages and any long-term relationship, the successful ones, allow for more growth than not. People change and life changes people. We can’t CONTROL how we change in many cases … so what does that mean for the other person and the relationship as a whole?
This is another blog-epic.
But what I wanted to close with is … Staying or Going in a relationship is not something I feel “in control” over anymore. The relationship either “sticks” or it doesn’t. And it is up to me to make the best of that experience, however, it is, shared with that person. And if it is dragging my spirit down consistently, then I opt-out.
BUT … I don’t always have the last say. Relationships/people last as long as they have crucial life lessons to teach you … or at least that has been my experience.