There is nothing notably heroic or even virtuous about this story. I say this not to minimize the experience or its value. However, it’s a painfully familiar experience. Millions of people before me, tons after me, and even some of my peers have experienced a similar relationship. While the experience is common, “toxic relationships” deal with massive tropes, making them so entangling. Unpacking why YOU CHOSE to engage, stay and endure is the work.
I have had the wisdom of those who have come before me at my fingertips and even out of the mouths of some. Yet, I made my choices, like the rest of you do too. Wisdom is easily doled out, and perhaps that is why we keep thinking we know better than those who have come before us; that this time will be the exception. I know from various walks and my own experience that we need to walk our path even if that path is difficult. Even if that path leads you to misery. Some, even ourselves, may shake our heads in dismay at the time seemingly wasted in moving towards an apparent defeat, but some plants grow in the dark. I can recall as a child, my dad always telling my brother and me that we “love[d] to learn the hard way.” By his definition, I have learned most everything I seemingly know the hard way; but for me, the hard way is made up of stuff that sticks. Sure, with hindsight, I would’ve preferred to spend my time on this planet more economically, but the growth cost what it costs. So is it a waste? Or is it merely how we cultivate and grow our own inner wisdom?
I have let go of my guilt concerning the choices I made. I feel no anger about my past anymore. I feel no hurt anymore. I have no attachment to my past. I hold peace with what I chose, and honestly, given a chance, I’d be likely to repeat it again. It’s an itch. That itch is what contains my contribution, my responsibility, my choice, and my work.
I’ve learned that I was delusional about our relationship. I still struggle with idealistic romanticism of what was, rather than the reality of what it was. For all these years, I have maintained this illusion because it is how I “survived” our relationship. It is how I coped. To stay with someone who repeatedly reduces you, you have to delude yourself with notions of hope and change. To add to that cocktail, there was someone promising hope and change. I took the bait again and again. To evolve past this, I have had to open my eyes to see the reality of what it was. I have had to face the pain. I have had to remove hope as a word attached to someone that I could not just accept as he was. As much as I wanted and tried to make this relationship the relationship I had envisioned, it could never be that. Everything about it was not meant to last forever. It was meant to teach me.
The saddest thing I ever did was beg him to love me the way I loved him. I wish I would have had the clarity to see he couldn’t. The clarity to know I was wrong to expect it. The clarity to see and realize I didn’t need his love. That love was within me always. I am proud I held out. I find safety in knowing I tried. Honestly, even with delusion, I know it’s a testament to my strength, my capacity to give love, to see the good, and to persevere. At the time, l couldn’t understand why our love was so difficult, so smothered with complications. I had been merely asking something of the wrong person. A person who needed to find true self-love and acceptance within them before they could dole it out. I was pleading as a person who needed love and acceptance from another instead of seeing it within myself.
I am grateful every day I survived that period of my life, as there were many dark self-harming times. I am thankful I chose to continue living, loving, and holding hope and faith instead of cynicism (although there have been bouts). I have love within myself and all around me. I have so many precious relationships which bring me so much joy, depth, and love every day. For a long time, I saw my cup as bottomless, and now it overflows. I got what I wanted. I got what I knew I deserved. I got what I give. My husband is everything I could’ve dreamed and so much more. All my “delusion” with another has become a reality with my husband. All the love I shortchanged myself for all those years is now fully alive within me and all around me.
My past relationships gave me the biggest box of darkness. And I am so grateful for that darkness. It has instilled in me some of the greatest lessons of my life, which I will carry forth and hopefully instill in my child. It has born self-awareness, compassion, empathy, love, self-respect, boundaries, self-forgiveness, personal value, acceptance, and so much more. It has dulled my expectations of others, others’ opinions, the belief that love is hard, that giving up on something which clearly doesn’t work is failing. That love conquers all (realist, not cynicism).
Take from each of your experiences a lesson. Learn what you need to learn however you need to learn. Don’t kill your heart and soul to get love or make someone value you. Or do. That’s just my bit of wisdom.
There is peace and love at the end of this. And if time is a circle, well, then, I’ll see you again.