Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more…
Those of you who read my blog (I hope there’s a few) know that I like to overshare and not much is off-limits. This includes throwing myself out there as an expert on the L-word, despite being almost 40 and happily single. It’s only because I’ve gotten it wrong so many times that I can be audacious enough to think I’ve figured a couple of things out.
I’ve also curated an anthology called Letters to My Ex which has given some insight. Thirty women from around the world shared letters to an unnamed ex. As you can imagine, they vary greatly: some are loving and poignant, some are regretful, apologetic, but many tell a story of an incredibly high price paid for love – where the woman has put her own needs, wants, health and happiness a distant second to her partner’s needs, wants and happiness.
It is something I see around me all the time. “I’m so stressed, I would ask <insert partner’s name> for help but it will just make him angry – it’s easier to do it myself.” What is being said here is: my stress matters far less than that of my partner. I matter less than my partner. I am not free to speak.
As a woman who took the long, difficult road to learn that she matters just as much as any partner she accepts into her life, let me share with you an abridged version of my love life history over the last few years (please bear with me).
A few years ago, I met a man a little younger than me who I decided was the most awesome, kind and funny individual on the planet. My heart said, “something isn’t right” but my head said, “don’t be silly, look how nice he is to everyone. Look how nice he is to you!” I had a feeling he wasn’t faithful, but ignored it. I constantly felt uneasy and uncertain but tried to convince myself all was well, that I was the problem – I was being insecure. Naturally, I couldn’t address anything because I didn’t want to risk making him unhappy… (Oh, and by the way – yes, I was right).
Then, I went out with an awfully verbally abusive person who saw my light and decided to destroy it. I’m not sure why. This is a side note because I don’t feel like I learnt much – except that sometimes you can believe yourself to be “stuck” with a person who treats you terribly, when you’re only stuck because you keep telling yourself you are. Sometimes part of you hangs around because you think pain is better than nothingness.
I came to my senses and let go of that person, only to bump into “Mr Right” almost immediately. A little older, initially no attraction – but a great soul and a gregarious, affectionate nature. I decided being older than me he was much wiser than me. He decided the same. It was great – I was treated like a Goddess, but only when I was the person he wanted me to be. Should I be too emotional, ask too many questions, be any form of “too”, all love and communication would cease and be held for ransom until I apologised. I started disliking myself for being anything less than what this “great man” wanted. I started telling him I’d try to change, to box my feelings in, so that he could be happier. Thankfully, that ended (although I wasn’t thankful at the time – utterly destroyed).
Then I made a friend. We became better and better friends until we somehow became a “something”. He provided me the space to be who I am. It felt like I could breathe again and share my “peace” with someone else, rather than give it away for the sake of love. I had a profound moment when I realised it’s OK to be imperfect, that I’m not a steaming pile of shit who needs to be different to make everyone else’s lives better. That said, he made me want to be a better human anyway – because he could “see” me. The more space you’re given, the less space you need.
That relationship was not forever either (timing, different life-stages, kids yada yada), but the mutual respect, friendship and love is. Furthermore, who says a relationship with an end date is “unsuccessful”? What a load of garbage; what a ridiculously high expectation. I know so many people in unhappy unions because they want a “successful relationship”. Time and success do not directly correlate!
Many of you understood all this far sooner than I did – but I think poet Nayyirah Waheed puts it best:
things. that should be asked
often. in every type. of relationship:
how is your heart.
is your breath happy. here.