Why I’m Grateful for Experiencing an Unhealthy Relationship
At the end of last year, I ended my first longterm relationship. Deciding to break up was the hardest choice I’d ever made. I had to force the words out, fighting through as I felt as if my throat was closing up and my heart tearing as I uttered the sentence telling her it was over. I still loved her, I did not want this to be it, I did not want the relationship to end. Nevertheless, end it I did, and though I’ve been through a lot in the ensuing months; with many ups, downs twists and turns on my journey, I remained crystal clear I made the right choice.
In this relationship, I had experienced both some of the most wonderful, exciting, joyful times of my life as well as some of the most painful, distressing and heart-wrenching episodes I’ve ever lived through. You see, there were two sides to this relationship, one which was loving, cuddly, fun and exciting, and the other that was restrictive, domineering, manipulative, and painful. In all honesty, I feel it became frequently abusive. For the sake of clarity, I was never in any way physically or sexually assaulted by my ex. What I mean by abuse in this context is emotional abuse. While I will outline how this went as impartially as I can, I am aware that my experience is subjective and she has her own side of the story. What I tell are the themes of how things went in my experience, which those around me observing from the outside corroborated.
Some examples of how things played out were through emotional manipulation, guilt tripping and mind games. My experience was that “Ex”, as I shall call her, was quite happy to let me run after her, clean up after her, buy her gifts, pay for everything, flatter her, pamper her and do whatever she wanted us to do, but would not take the initiative to put a similar effort in for me, and would fly off the handle if things didn’t quite go how she thought they should. My experience was that she made almost every minor issue into a major problem, sulking and throwing public tantrums if she didn’t get her way and periodically starting of relentless, unreasoned and brutal arguments, very specifically designed to hurt and browbeat me into submission. Everything felt like it was her way or the highway, and everything that went wrong was my fault and my responsibility alone to fix, never hers, or ours. This manner of operating in the relationship simply didn’t work for me.
It seems suitable here to point out that I definitely had my own ways of being which didn’t work for her in our relationship. I also made mistakes; foremost of which I believe was that I did not go to her nearly enough with important issues or worries I had about the relationship. Instead, I either internalised my feelings or shared them with people close to me. At the time I was doing the best I could, and having said that I totally see the negative impact that my reticence to communicate had on our relationship and trust. I’m not saying it would have been easy, but I could have spoken up, I could have stood my ground. I stopped sharing what didn’t work for me and kept my mouth shut to avoid another fight. I did not tell her how I really felt, how much it effected me. I could have been more powerful in sharing myself and what worked and didn’t in the relationship, and how much that behaviour pattern effected me. I could have been self-expressed and authentic, yet I wasn’t, because I was afraid of the consequences. Although she is responsible for her actions in the relationship, actions which certainly impacted me, she is not responsible for my actions of being silent, or ineffective with my communication. That responsibility lies solely with me. Eventually, at the end of the relationship I did get to say these things, but by then it was all too late.
Why I’m sharing all of this is not to smear the name of my ex. That is not and will never be my intent. She’s a good person at heart, a powerful person, with many lovely traits and enormous potential to do great things in the world. I loved her for these positive aspects, we stayed together for so long because we had a strong heartfelt connection, and I still care for her and hope that she lives a very happy life. Why I’m sharing this outline of what did not work for me in that relationship is not to state that Ex was “wrong” nor that I was “right” in our respective points of view, ways of being, or what we wanted from each other in the relationship. We were drawn together by a passionate heart and soul affinity for each other, however that was not enough on it’s own to overcome the fact that we were on completely different paths; paths which clearly did not merge, but simply crossed. It is not that we didn’t give it a good shot, the fact is simply that neither of us was willing to follow the path that the other was taking and were not committed to the same things. Without shared commitments, I assert a healthy relationship cannot survive.
Despite the negatives I have mentioned, I am unbelievably grateful that I have experienced this relationship. I have learned so much about myself and I got to experience many firsts and many of the lovely little things one only experiences when in love. I now know what does work for me and what I want for my next relationship, and will be all the better as a partner because I’m wiser to the workings of a relationship. I’m grateful for all aspects of this relationship because of the lessons it taught me and the skills I have developed as a result. Firstly, thanks to the negatives, I’ve become a lot better at detecting when someone is attempting to walk over me, or over those I care about, and take actions to address this imbalance. I’ve become tougher, less easily hurt by bullying behaviour and better equipped to hold my ground and not be intimidated by it. I no longer stand for blame shifting and irresponsibility, my bullshit detector is certainly more attuned, and while I am still figuring out how to stand up to this kind of behaviour without becoming quick to anger (possibly a sign that I still have some hurt to deal with in this arena), I am able to stand for effective, reasonable communication in the face of disagreement.
I’ve also realised that one of the largest thing missing between us in our relationship was a space of true authenticity and the ability to communicate and find resolution on any subject. I thus have committed to spread authenticity, love and self-expression everywhere I go, hence the existence of this blog. I have learned from my own mistakes in the relationship, and will not allow myself to be non-communicative or inauthentic with a loved one ever again.
Lastly, and this is only a recent realisation, I have also learned to simply grateful to have been loved by such an incredible woman, and to have loved her with all my heart. Creating fond memories is one of the most wonderful parts of life, and thus I consider those from this relationship as blessings in themselves. Thank you Ex for being in my life, despite the fact we didn’t make it work, you have enriched and contributed to me in many ways and I only hope that I have done the same.
Thanks to this relationship, I now know what I want my next relationship to be like; a beautiful partnership between people who are on the same page and work together in balance and harmony, which is peaceful, enriching, and naturally always exciting. It is a relationship where my lover and myself communicate freely, authentically and effectively about all subjects, where we equally put our energy and efforts towards making life delightful for one another, where we both nurture, embrace and understand and cherish each-other, where we work as a team to make the relationship flourish and allow each other to have both the closeness and the space necessary to grow and be our true, authentic selves. Until that relationship comes into my life, I intend to have adventures, take chances, connect, share and experience love in many ways, with many wonderful people.
Amor and More,