Since I paid a boatload of cash in student fees this semester, I decided to take advantage of seeing my school therapist, Tanya. If you remember, I started seeing her last year to help me deal with my grief when my dad got sick as well as the end of my marriage.
I stopped seeing her near the second half of last semester because I was super-busy and because I was moving forward in a positive direction. I was in a happier place and she had given me some excellent coping skills to use when I felt like I would be consumed by the thought of letting Dad go.
But a few weeks ago, I started to notice that I still had a few unresolved issues that were causing me to look at my relationship with my girlfriend through the dirty lens of my last one.
Although she is nothing like my ex, I was drawing parallels and pushing her away. I tried to list the reasons in my mind why she would not be "the one" that I would end up with.
When she confronted me with this and told me she felt that I was broken by my last relationship, I took it to heart because she is not the first girl that I have dated since my relationship with my ex ended who has said that I pushed them away.
I don't want to go around dating, making connections with people, then rejecting them when there is nothing wrong with them. I do not want to hurt anyone and I know that I have. It hurts me to think about it.
And how lame does it sound to say, "It's not you, it's me"? Ugh!
I had to examined myself and my motives so I returned to Tanya to ask for her help.
As she directed me to consider why I was still so angry at my ex (thus holding her hostage in my mind), I had one of those light bulb moments in life where something just crystallizes in your mind and you actually reach a true understanding that you know will help you be a better person from now on.
I feel slightly embarrassed to admit that although I have always heard the advice "Never sacrifice your own happiness for someone else's", it had a different meaning to me.
I would hear that and think, "Why wouldn't you? Isn't that what love is? Sacrifice?"
Well, I am here to say that HELL NO, it is NOT what love is.
My ex never asked me to do all of those things for her, or to give up what I wanted to do to accommodate her wishes. I did them willingly because I loved her and wanted her to feel special and know that there was nothing I would not do for her.
But I realize now that:
- It didn't do anything positive for the relationship
- I gave up my own happiness for hers - and she still wasn't happy
- It artificially propped up a relationship that should have ended long before
- When I was in that deep and had that much time, energy and money invested, I kept trying to make it work long after we were both unhappy.
I imagine it is how people who followed their dream to open a business and they put their life savings and all of their time and love into the business. It takes off and has an exciting beginning but then tapers off. Month after month, they see a decline. At some point, they have to give up and let it go. It must hurt so badly to admit failure and walk away from something that they loved so much.
I can clearly see now that it was my own damn doings, not hers. It was my choice to put myself in this position and open myself up to this damage. It was me who decided to give trust when trustworthiness was already in question.
I was trading these things for hope.
I had hoped to build an amazing life with her. I had hoped to grow old with her and enjoy our grand kids together and travel the world with her. I had hoped to die together, holding hands in a nursing home in our sleep.
When my sacrifices didn't pay out the trade-off that I was expecting, I felt bitter and angry towards her.
I am happy to report that I let that shit go last week.
And when I did, I started seeing my girlfriend in a totally new way.
I am not afraid that she will bring the same problems into the relationship with my ex that I was never able to solve. I am not afraid that she will become unhappy and want to go. Then return. Then go. Then return...
I know I still have some work to do but what a huge thing for me to realize. I know that as long as I keep my own needs and my own happiness a priority, I will never feel like I am too invested in something that I can't just walk away if it no longer makes us both happy.
If my happiness makes her unhappy, she is free to leave and I am fine with her going.
If my pursuit of my happiness makes her feel jealous or insecure, I will not change to accommodate her problems. I will reassure her of my love, but then she will have to deal with it. After all, it isn't my problem to handle.
This has been so incredibly freeing for me... I can't even begin to express how glad I was to have had that conversation with Tanya and for her forcing me to look at the issue and stop feeling angry at my ex for something that I did to myself.
I happily let it go, divorced myself from that marriage and am ready to move forward with my life with new ideas about what type of relationship I want in the future.
And my girlfriend? She is totally on board.