A long, long time ago, in a faraway galaxy… I had a relationship with a guy who was beautiful (well, very normal looking, but his soul was beautiful). Truly, madly, deeply, this guy was my world. He had so many layers, good and bad, but I could see the playful, clever, affectionate, humorous truth behind it all and focused only on that.
Because he was (mostly) so awesome, and he seemed to (mostly) really like me, I tried hard to create a version of myself he would find acceptable, to hold onto this great man. To be the ‘nice’ invisible-except-when-fun person he wanted.
But at what cost?
When issues arose, which will happen in any relationship, I’d try talking and I’d get eye rolls and condescension. Or, I’d be not spoken to for days until I apologised (which I’d usually do, just to keep the peace). I’d try not talking at all and holding everything in, and I’d just feel unloved and unseen. I tried writing a letter which I stayed up till 2am perfecting, ‘nicely’ explaining how I felt, and got the response, “Thanks for that, I won’t be reading it though.”
I was never going to be what he wanted, I could never be ‘enough’. And of course, I am responsible for my choices – I chose that relationship. It actually wasn’t too bad, the man just didn’t know what he was doing. I didn’t either, since I was so happy to stick around. And embarrassingly, despite there being no foundation of respect (which is far more important than communication), it was far better than the relationship that preceded it.
So why do we attract such energy-zapping relationships into our lives? And why do we work hard to hold onto them?
I believe we choose what we believe we are worthy of, on some subconscious level. When we know this we surely start to do better and take the time to question why we see so little value in ourselves.
I was choosing suppression over freedom, and no matter how ‘in love’ I thought I was, most of that was not love. It was self-denial, it was the opposite to love. It was contraction rather than expansion, again, the opposite to love.
This guy must’ve had something I saw value in – I’m not exactly sure what it was: his sense of humour, charisma or creativity – but what a high price to pay for such superficial things, if I was losing myself in order to get them?
I think it’s a cultural thing, not an inherently female trait, that many of us women tend to work hard to be the ‘nice’ shadowy version of our vibrant selves, walking on eggshells to be whatever we perceive (or have been told) men want us to be.
We do it without even realising, often even pandering to men who are far below our intelligence level and/or emotional maturity, because we think the ‘love’ itself is worth it, or we see a person’s soul and happily forgo our own.
We work hard not be the naggy woman. To not be the shrieky or emotional woman. To not talk too much, ‘cos guys don’t like it when you talk too much (apparently). To laugh at crappy, dumb jokes on cue. To pretend we don’t notice a man’s numerous mistakes but then obligingly laugh when a guy points out mistakes we make. “You’re smart and I’m an idiot – it’s hilarious!”
This sort of thing is absurd; we are humans before we are women. And yes, I know not all women can relate to this – but I also know many can.
Love is not a slow suffocating of yourself, it’s not holding your breath or tying yourself in knots – it’s just being with someone who is willing to provide space for you to figure things out for yourself, to let you grow in the direction you choose (and vice versa).
And while there’s a level of compromise involved in any relationship, I don’t think it should feel like you are denying your own peace in order to fit someone else’s mould.
It was years ago when I got tired of being a watered down, voiceless, shell of myself just to keep other people happy, to hold onto things that were not good for my soul. While I continue to value kindness and respect, I certainly have given up any aspirations to be ‘nice’.