Ending a cycle of unhealthy relationships starts with learning to love and trust yourself
I have a confession to make, one that doesn’t come easily: Loving someone who can’t love himself has proven to be one of the hardest struggles, but also my greatest lesson.
I know that may seem trivial or even dramatic to some, but for those of you who have personally experienced this type of pain, I bet you’re all shaking your heads in a collective yes as you’re reading this. The thing is, when I first met this person, I fell hard, connected by our shared history, his touch, his promises. All of that had me blinded, blissfully unaware of his wounds. I spent my time happily falling in love with his potential, the crumbs he would leave me, constantly relying on the happy beginnings of our story to keep me hooked. I had no idea that this man’s past, and his own self-loathing, was not only going to teach me something incredible about myself, but also rip my heart wide open in order to finally allow the light to fill me whole.
I have spent my entire life enamored with a great love story, convinced that it was the answer to all my dissatisfaction within. I’ve seen every single romantic movie ever made (this is no exaggeration); I have watched The Notebook countless times, enjoy playing matchmaker to friends, and just love the idea of love. I am a hopeless romantic — but what does that label even mean? Most of my romantic decisions in life have been shaped by the image that boy meets girl, happiness ensues, end of story.
This may sound like a naïve idea, and of course as I’ve gotten older and wiser in many ways, my tight hold on these childlike notions of love have lessened. However, my inability to trust and love myself has not always been so easy. Love is not a simple notion. It’s not always about romance or the pretty pictures we see posted on social media.
My greatest lesson has been learning that love is an inside job, one that no other person can be responsible for except you.
I’m embarrassed to publicly acknowledge that I struggle with self-worth, at times seeking others or accolades to feel good enough. How is it that a successful, attractive, kind and thoughtful woman can’t see her worth? I have my reasons, but I will keep it simple. I gravitate towards these individuals — ‘the projects’ — the ones who will allow me to focus on their deficits as a way to avoid doing my own inside work. When I shift the focus onto the ones I am in relationship with, I get set on this perpetual loop, almost as if I have amnesia, expecting a different result (insanity in its purest form).
The lesson has been to let go of the expectations — the what ifs — and instead acknowledge these embedded patterns and try something different. Recently, this man (the one who knocked me of my axis, not once but twice) got back in contact with me. He said all the right things that are honestly meaningless without any action to back it up. At first, I felt myself starting to get pulled back in by that magnetic intensity, but since I’ve had this awakening and now have a better understanding of my patterns, I was able to say no and put myself first. I no longer was willing to accept the crumbs, the insignificant moments. Instead, I am telling the universe that I come first. Me. Nobody else. I matter and I am good enough.
This has been the turning point for myself and for my love life. My emotional bottom, so to speak. My eyes and heart are open. I am no longer happy to play the victim.
I no longer wish to participate in this cycle of lust, disappointment, anger, sadness, and regret.
I accept what is. I hold this person in light and love, while simultaneously choosing to do something different for myself. The shift has been a long time coming. And as much as I want to blame this man at times, I can’t help but feel an immense amount of gratitude because our relationship served a purpose: He was the catalyst for change within me.
I share all this, my most intimate thoughts, for one simple reason. Change can’t happen alone; it requires honesty and a level of vulnerability that can be frightening. If I don’t say this out loud, I fear I will regress quietly, destined to make the same destructive choices time and time again.
My faith is strong. I am capable beyond measure, having survived at times on resilience alone. As I write this, I am filled with hope. The heart is our most vulnerable vessel. It breaks easily, yet it gives us so much life. My heart — albeit a little bruised and banged up at times — is finally open. I feel this light ignited within, one that is determined to set my world on fire.
You may also enjoy reading Finding My Way To We | How To Retain Your Identity In a Relationship by Nancy Levin