Relationships / romance
Part of my healing is understanding how trauma bonded I am to abusers and to work towards a new normal. When I first read that a good romantic relationship is an easy relationship, it was foreign to me. When people commented that they argued twice in a year or can count on one hand how many times they have argued versus marriages in the double digits, I was shocked. Every relationship I had was turbulent, save for the one when I was studying in Boston, away from my family's influence. I was a total pushover in every other relationship. I would choose people ranging from emotionally available, to self-centred and yes, narcissistic. It's gut wrenching looking back because I had the illusion of love to comfort me for a while and now I don't. I have also bought into the "be nice" rhetoric so absolutely that it meant me "being nice" and everyone looking to be themselves.
I left every single one of them after they emptied me out and still asked for more. I would go into it fresh and optimistic, come out of it broken and a former shadow of myself. I would silently let things slide, big things, small things, little things, anything. To me, love meant enduring, the more I endured, the more I suffered, the more I was proving to myself and my partners that I did love them. I thought they got it, well yes, they did, they have no interest in reciprocating. Their respect for me declined as my insecurity grew exponentially. I no longer felt safe, I was completely out of sync, like a battered laptop running on an ancient OS. Glitches galore, feeling completely outside of myself. I am still surprised today that I didn't overheat and go up in smoke or drown under the crashing weight of a sudden tsunami. My only explanation is God looking over me.
After I left, they would ask to reconcile. I would look at them mystifyingly and wonder if it took a break up to be together, was there anything worth salvaging? I walked away only after exhausting all avenues, so once I do, I do. One thing was for certain, their chronic problems would always stand in the way of the deep connection I wanted to nurture. Our level of awareness would never level up, as they grow, I will too. Certain exes would look for me repeatedly over a span of years and tell me I was the best they ever had. Then, I felt momentarily comforted that I have done my best, now I know better, I was the best because most people aren't pushovers which means they don't get their way as often. They were tools as much as I was a fool. That love, if you can call it that (insert epic eye roll), meant that I was to sacrifice myself at their altar. Zzzzzz. Not much to celebrate here other that I truly gave it my best, albeit misguided shot.
Recently, I have been questioning myself what could I have done differently? I was ALREADY a pushover, what more did you want from me? The sad truth is that I have inadvertently become an enabler to their persistent power struggles. Case in point was an ex whose default emotion is anger. She was a miniature Hulk in stature but BIG on temper, I could see the rage emerge in shallow breathes, puffing away like a bull on acid. While I was the reluctant Matador who didn't even get a consolatory blinged out costume to go with.
It was so bad, it was almost comical. She would get mad over parking a car, over a dirty toothbrush she assumed was mine, over the fact that I hated driving. She would emotionally hold me hostage in a corner with my back against the wall. To her friends, she came across as understanding and even kind, she left all the "best" for me and took the best of me. The last straw came when she pounced on my moment of weakness to reveal a series of lies.
It happened after an emergency wisdom tooth extraction, urgently required during the holidays. All the clinics I called were closed so my options were severely limited. The ragtag team of dentists were so incompetent, it took them 4 times longer than usual. I know this because I had the other 2 extracted subsequently, with zero pain and in record time. At several intervals, I could feel everything and it was excruciating. I had to repeatedly ask for more local anaesthetic. The equipment was so shady that it stopped repeatedly. It's quite a nightmare. I came out of the office, visually shaking. I told her about it in the car and she threw out some empty words of purported comfort, along the lines of "I'm sorry you had such a bad experience" and remained mostly distracted.
When we got home, even before the bloody gauze was out of my mouth, she told me about how she was in debt and demanded that I help her pay it off. There were no apology about how I asked her about her finances repeatedly because I could always sense her anxiety. Or how is it that she chose to lie over a span of months. Brilliant. She chose a time when my mouth was still numb from anaesthetic and I was still drooling. I asked her what did she spend it on? I was surprised because she didn't come across as extravagant. Drinking, she replied. As we all know, alcohol cost a ton in restaurants and can really add up. I asked her why can't she pay it off herself? The amount wasn't impossible for her, she would be able to pay it off within half a year if she watched her finances. She became angry with me. Typical. Ask me to take responsibility for her problems when it was hers to shoulder.
By the way, this was the alcohol that I purposefully pulled her away from because she had the habit of drinking 4-5 times a week before I met her. It was also the reason for one of our arguments, she asserted that I was trying to control her. WHAT? I didn't restrict who she went out with and when, I just didn't think it was healthy to drink so much. I even talked about choosing non-alcoholic drinks and still meeting up with her colleagues. She was picking a fight as usual, a chronic repetitive problem.
Come on, life is hard enough. To create a problem when there isn't one is just plain ridiculous, to be so unappreciative on top of it is just ??? Who the hell was she? I asked myself. Yes, so now I had another "child" when I was already a parent to a parent. Shit.
I remember I asked her once, what are you so angry about? She was flabbergasted. She threw her anger at me because she could, ironically because she felt safe, she couldn't even articulate this. I do take my fair share of responsibility, I wanted so badly to contribute to their lives, to earn their love, to fill the hole inside of me. I would bend over backwards until I can't anymore and snap like a twig, be harsh with my words as a last resort to an unbearable situation. I was so guilt ridden and so shame driven that I was unable to address my discomfort immediately and negotiate without fear of reprisal. Even then, those moments are few and never quite as hurtful.
I was always much better at punishing myself. I was quick to apologise and make amends, something they all had difficulty doing. In part because I never did hold them accountable, thinking they would know when they have crossed the line, my mistake is overestimating her level of awareness and using self-denial as my shield. Also, my need for love trumped my knowledge about what is healthy love so from the get go, I would choose all the wrong people, it was set up to fail. It was an exquisite form of self-torture, all too familiar.
So now I am slowly rebuilding trust in my choices, overturning everything on its head while grieving the lost of time wasted on incompatible choices. It's mind-blowing how abuse has creeped its gnarly fingers in the pockets of my life and came up with long forgotten lint, leaving no Kleenex for my tears. Still, at the core of me, lays a seed of resilience. A seed that during days I feel too weak, uses my tears to flourish. I know I will get past this, I have to go through the motions of healing. I am a survivor, always have been. The only way is through and I am coming! I am thankful that I never did compromise my morals along the way, not once. I was capable of doing far more damage or at least throw back the same amount. There have been times when I have been tempted, but I never did.
For all those who are rebuilding their lives, take heart that you have all you need inside. You don't feel like it all the time and its OK. It doesn't go away. You are powerful beyond belief, you just might not know it yet.
You are deserving of a mutually loving partner, someone who protects all the fragile bits of you with a gentle hand and a warm heart. Someone who believes in you, listens to you. Someone who stands in the eye of the storm with you and never say die. This is my wish for you.
To love, light and peace,
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Couples often celebrate their relationships in public. They know it's only politically correct to mention all the good stuff or risk looking like an indiscriminate moaner. Look at how well-loved I am! Look how happy we are! I got it all! Wwweeee, let's ride off into the sunset together under a rainbow bridge!
Talking about love can quickly become a field of land mines buried under all kinds of insecurities. Between the societal pressure of women "being nice" and the need to be a superwoman, the bubbly shiny woman is the safest. This is practiced not just in public but between private groups of friends where the same pressures abound. While there is a certain amount of genuine celebration in doing so, it creates an often unachievable narrative for others. The problem comes in when women buy into it and yearn the good stuff without the awareness that it isn't the full story.
Kill The Messenger Syndrome
It's true that most women are looking for comfort when they tell their sisters about a romantic crisis. Our default responses are "You're too good for him", "You deserve better", we jump up to defend our sisters out of loyalty. This serves its purpose of temporary comfort but doesn't provide much in terms of self-awareness or awareness of their partner.
I'm not talking about a casual vent or 2 about minor misunderstandings. I'm talking about the chronic issues that lead to a diminished sense of wellbeing.
We want to escape what I call the Kill The Messenger Syndrome where well-intentional suggestions are taken as lack of kindness and trigger a highly defensive response from an utterly blinded woman. You know what I mean, that girl whose boyfriend treats her like dirt and she is in massive self-denial. Anyone who has been at the end of this, knows it's no fun.
More To Love
There is more to love in a marriage. It's often not so clearly laid out, it's all mixed up in a bundle. You see bits and pieces here and there. There's passion, friendship, attachment, companionship and much more. Deepak Chopra describes it best in The Path To Love. He writes about how attachment is within 2 people when you are tied together in a mutually benecifical way. True love is when you connect on a level above 2 selves and are inspired to share it outside of the inner circle. This is what we commonly call unconditional love where we expect romantic love to reside. Look around you and you will understand that not many move pass the infatuation or attachment phase into constant unconditional love. There are times you can't stand the sight of each other, there are times you feel exhausted and there are times you are present. To expect so much of romantic love is a recipe for disappointment.
Meeting The One is A Luxury
What if you don't meet The One in this lifetime? Anyone who even dare to suggest this will have to deal with narrowed dagger squints, along with screams of being negative. You come dangerously close to Thou Who Should Not Be Named and die by the wand of fake optimism.
The idea of The One is set up to fail anyway. For the sake of discussion, let's say the usual timeline of getting to know each other is 4 months, being in the infatuation phase for 2 years and then 2 more years to really know someone, that is 4.4 years in total. All this is to be done within our optimal childbearing years of 20-35, that is a span of 15 years. So you will have to decide between approximately 3.5 relationships, who is The One.
Come on! Have a relationship that spans across 2 out of the 3 and you are pretty much a goner. This is not factoring in time spent dating casually, healing or couple time in a marriage before kids. Or juggling a career and knowing yourself enough to know what truly matters to you. Even with the most emotionally healthy person, relationship is mostly experiential. You have to take a leap into the unknown to gain experience and decide along the way what is important for you. So if you have had some misses, be gentle with yourself, everyone has been there. We all live and learn.
Settling Isn't An Ugly Word
In the hearts of many, settling is where romance comes to die, the evil twin of compromise. The romantics are adamant that it doesn't happen, the realists are nodding silently in a corner. I don't think there's anything wrong with settling. The women who do settle, do it knowingly. It's not that they chose absolutely unsuitable partners or are unusually desperate. But rather that they understand at some point that holding out for The One stands in the way of a possibly great Mr. Right Now. They understand just how deeply ingrained the romantic fairytale is in them and how different reality is. At some point, settling seems a far better option than exhaustive dating or repeated disappointment.
They know that much of what makes a marriage is a learned skill, such as effective communication, conflict resolution and awareness. They know that someone with integrity and values trumps someone who is attractive and passionate any day. The looks and passion will fade, integrity and values will make life much easier. Even then, many married couples often stay together for many reasons outside of a relationship, it could be the kids, it could be familiarity, it could be fear of moving on. It's not surprising, it's human.
To love, light and peace,
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A recent conversation with a friend left me feeling unsettled. She spoke about how she was judged and subsequently rejected by a guy for coming from a divorced family. He didn't give them a chance to get to know each other better. Said guy comes from a privileged family and is rather sheltered. She's disappointed because she sensed that they had a unique connection. When he heard the word divorce, automatically, he said, "too much baggage."
I told her this.
Good riddance, I would ask you to reconsider even if he did choose you.
To judge her for the choices her parents make, reeks of immaturity. Families fall apart for many reasons, as a child she had no say in it. It was unfortunate that she witnessed their quarrels and had to deal with conflicted emotions as a child. She has since addressed them and have worked through it. Only unaddressed issues continue to affect someone, why is that so hard to understand? She always knew those were negative examples and didn't buy into them for a moment. There are indeed children like her who take the opposite path precisely because she knew how hurtful those moments can be.
The thing is, she has been tried and tested. Just like glass that goes through fire in the hands of the maker, it becomes a work of art. This fire primed to destroy also made her wise beyond her years, this spirit of resilience and strength has seen her through many other fires in other areas of her life. As a result she became the parent she never had. A caring, understanding person with grit.
As for him, I am unsure if he can hold it together when things fall apart. We don't know what the future holds and finding a partner to brave the storm together is an essential. It's easy to enjoy the good times, who doesn't know how?
It's those times when the going gets tough and you will still need to show up that you will know what someone is made of. Those are the times that will seal the bond between 2 people. Those are the times when you can grab her hand, wave them in the air and say we made it! We made it together! Now, we celebrate!
So Sisters, the next time someone judge you for your family, remember this, it is a reflection of someone's inability to show empathy for choices beyond your control. Why would you want someone like that?
You tell that Hairy Porter to carry his own baggage and get out of here ASAP.
I know you don't trust love now. Love has betrayed you. Love has abandoned you. Love has hurt you. Love has left you.
One little step, day after day. One foot after another. You will heal. Sometimes you take 2 step forwards and 1 step back. It's OK. Life isn't meant to be linear, the same goes for healing. We stop and we start again. We fall and we get back up again. The important part is getting back up again.