If we judge love by its usual effects. It resembles hatred more than friendship. ~ Francois VI Duc de La Rochefoucauld
Sometimes things happen in life, and it ends up being a huge wake up call. On my fiftieth birthday, I realized I was at least halfway through my life, and I did not want to spend the rest of my years doing the same thing I had been doing. I left what looked like a perfectly wonderful situation – because I no longer recognized myself. Somehow I lost me along the way. Seven years later, I repeated that experience of losing myself in a relationship. This time, he was madly in love with someone else, and I was put to the curb. At that time, I felt rejected, devastated, and pretty sure it was the worst day of my life.
Then I started collecting the pieces of me that was scattered all over the place, and in time, I made an amazing discovery. I was whole again, and what had one time felt like the worst thing possible had been a huge gift in a very smelly wrapping paper. It became my gift of infidelity, and I ended up writing a book about it, Too Much Gold to Flush. There was too much there for me to benefit from to simply walk away and try to mask the pain with my go to addiction of busyness.
In the process of writing the book, I learned some awesome life lessons:
- The answer to finding someone to love me and take care of me is a matter of looking in a mirror.
- What other people think and how they react to my behavior and ideas are not nearly as important as how I think and feel about me.
- I am responsible for my actions and choices, and I chose the situation, no matter how much I want to blame the jerk who dumped me.
- When I am heartsick that I do not matter to anyone, I need to remember that I am the only one I really need to matter to.
- The differences between truly loving myself and narcissism are polar opposites. A narcissist is only interested in self-gratification, which often results in hurting others. Truly loving myself means take care of myself and refusing to allow others to treat me badly.
I bring up the issue of self-love vs. narcissism at this point because those of us who have not learned healthy ways of taking care of ourselves are often drawn to extremely narcissist individuals. For many of us, it was part and parcel of learning to discount ourselves while caring for others. An egocentric parent or some other major figure of childhood may have set us up for adopting this core belief about other people’s needs and desires being more important than our own. Wherever we got it, it does not serve us. Healing from an unhealthy relationship entails identifying how well we took care of ourselves while we were together, and then making a commitment to consciously care for yourself. From the very beginning, I did a miserable job of caring for myself. Here are a few examples:
- Before our first date, when I went to his house for a gathering with others, I decided I would only eat vegetarian from the buffet because I knew from his online profile that he was vegetarian, and I wanted to be “acceptable.”
- On our first date, I ordered fish, thinking that would be acceptable. I got by with that one, but soon learned that a true vegetarian does not eat anything with eyes. Well, okay, I guess – although I really do like my fish. But more important than that, I needed to be who he wanted me to be.
- At my first party with friends, my ex was rude to one particular woman, but I dismissed his behavior, telling myself it was his way of kidding around. Actually, it was how my dad treated women, so it felt perfectly normal to me. It wasn’t until after the relationship ended that I realized how insensitive I had been to my friend by dismissing my date’s behavior.
- It only took a few weeks to go from being charmingly frugal on our first date because I ordered the house wine to being cheap when we jointly shopped for groceries. This one really stung because I overheard him telling his son I was no doubt horrified by the prices in this high end super market.
None of these scenarios sound terribly neurotic on my part, yet they each point to me losing sight of myself one tiny piece at a time. Without even knowing I was doing it, I was going right back into my subservient routine that I had perfected in my previous relationship.
Look back at your behavior and be honest with how often you lost sight of your authentic self in an effort to show up as the ideal girlfriend, the cool partner, and the person that they could not live without. I did that, and, surprise! He wanted a real person, not the fake person that I had manufactured. I’m not saying he was right to do what he did, and I am not taking your ex’s side, but I am advocating that you look long and hard at how well you took care of yourself and how authentically you showed up as you.
As women, we often receive the message that it is our role to take care of others. In the process, we lose ourselves. The average woman that goes into a women’s shelter does so seven times in her lifetime. She is the classic example of someone who has repeatedly returned to the same unhealthy relationship or someone who fits the same MO time and time again. I would make a bet that she is not going into these relationships with a strong conviction to care for herself. To break this cycle of dysfunction, she is the one who has to learn to make a different choice. My book, Too Much Gold to Flush, is an in depth study in how I learned to find my own personal freedom by being perfectly honest with myself and deciding to do it differently, which is the only way we change our behavior and our lives. Otherwise, we are caught in a gerbil wheel of repeating the same dysfunctional patterns over and over again simply because we do not think we can do it any different.
Many women stay in abusive relationships because they are financially dependent on their abuser. When I teach classes in shelters, I donate copies of my book to their library, and women tend to take them when they move on, so clearly they value them. If women in shelters can learn to make different choices and have access to job training or education, they’re more likely to break the cycle of abuse.
Join me in helping women to help themselves by contributing to Empowerment through Education, a crowdfunding campaign to get my book into the hands of women in shelters and to build college funds for these same women. You can donate to the General Donation, which will be split among all the shelters in this campaign. Or, if you are interested in donating to a particular shelter, click here and then scroll down the page and choose a shelter. Once you donate, you will be asked if you want a tax receipt. Click here to see all the shelters in this campaign.
The URL for this crowdfunding project is: https://try.tilt.com/empowerment
If you are a consultant for a direct sales company and would like to host a fundraiser for a shelter on our campaign, please contact me about that. You can email me – firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.
Love creates an us without destroying a me. ~Anonymous