Basically I’m ‘Just Winging It’ When It Comes to Healthy Relationships

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I have been dwelling on an ex for 7 months. We only dated for 2 months.

I know, I know – such a short time frame we were together and so long ago now. The logical part of me recognizes people have bigger fish to fry, people have worse problems. I should have been over him by now – he’s actually moved on himself. But emotionally, here we are.

In truth, I think I’ve clung to the thought of him and the relationship because we ended things amicably and I thought for once it seemed like a healthy relationship, when compared to some I have had before. Even further, I try to justify my thoughts lingering on the relationship as me truly finding out what I want, whereas with past relationships it had been me primarily finding out what I didn’t want.

However, towards the end of our relationship he began to place me in the fifth or sixth spot on his list of priorities, when I should have been first. I should have pulled a boy, bye and broken up with him, instead of letting it drag on.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I tried to make myself bend and fit around his other priorities, the ones that came before me, in order to be a catering, supportive girlfriend. As a result, I grew miserable and resentful, I lost who I was as a person and I lost self-respect. Most importantly, it further skewed the pre-developed idea in my brain, of the lengths I must go to in order to receive love from someone. Maybe if I fit this way, they’ll bump me up a few notches on their priority list.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize there’s nothing healthy about how it went, though. Logically, I can tell myself it’s not acceptable – why on Earth would I want that? To be someone’s partner but have their hobbies be higher on their priority list than me? We broke up because he recognized this very fact, and didn’t think it was fair to me. But I honestly should have put a stop to things a few weeks before that moment came to pass.

We accept the love we think we deserve, so the saying goes. I seem to think I am deserving of love that is emotionally unavailable.
Our Early Relationships

Our own relationships as adults are often modeled on the relationships of those around us. Friends, but primarily family – what your parents’ relationship looks like, or what your grandparents’ relationship looks like.

During critical years of development as a child, when one is learning how to form relationships, it’s important to have models which we can base ourselves, our growth and our lives around. To an extent, I don’t believe I had these models. I had one wonderful single parent, who tried her best to play the role of both mum and dad. But the underlying dysfunction between my parents, both during and after their relationship, was evident throughout my childhood.

Unhealthy relationships are intergenerational within my family, having been passed down – both my maternal grandparents and parents’ relationships experienced dysfunction, instability and volatility. I didn’t realize the affect they could have on me until I attempted to start forming my own relationships. I would even go so far as to describe my ability to form romantic relationships as stunted.

As humans, we tend to fear the unknown – one of my “unknown fears” happens to be in connection to healthy relationships, because I don’t really know what a healthy relationship looks like. I also fear entering into further relationships because I don’t know how to develop and maintain a healthy relationship.

I think that at some basic level, I am able to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, but a lot of determining healthy relationships in the past for me has been a real trial by error process. As I have demonstrated, even when I find myself in a healthy relationship that’s turning unhealthy, I will stay in it, and be flexible, even when it’s not reciprocated.

We can also use our relationships with our family members as models for future relationships. As I’ve mentioned before on my site, the affects of one type of relationship within our lives can bleed into others. I’ve breached the subject of my dad on my site before, how my abandonment issues have stemmed from him and how the affects of his inconsistency have left imarks on my relationships. As a child, however, he was also the first man whom I loved. That initial parental love has really come to shape not only how I view my own role within relationships as an adult, but also the type of love and the level of love I feel I am worthy of receiving.

My Role in Relationships

In his documentary I Am Not Your Guru, Tony Robbins singles out a young lady in the crowd during his Date With Destiny seminar. While she begins by telling Robbins that she is attending his seminar because of her diet, he eventually draws it out from her that her diet is a cover up for the underlying issues to do with her father. She craved her father’s love more than her mother’s as a child because she didn’t get the love she wished to receive and had to play the role of being ignorant to his behavior in the form of drug abuse. Robbins goes on to question the young woman, hearing how even though she struggles to love him, she still loves him at the end of the day (or as Robbins puts it “she loves him, she just hates that she loves him so much”).

Robbins explains that she craves her father’s love because rejection breeds obsession. Her father didn’t reject her but he didn’t provide her with the level of love she was seeking, so she wants it even more. He then addresses both the woman and her mother who is also in attendance, that it’s possible there’s a little bit of an imbalance that the woman needs to heal or she will never heal completely. For her to do that, she needs to reclaim the vulnerability, as well as the rejection (or the “fuck you” in Robbin’s brash, forthright style of speaking) surrounding her father, otherwise it’s going to show up as pain for her with men in the future. On the flip side, Robbins says that if her father wasn’t the man he was, she wouldn’t have half the drive she has.

This really spoke to me because of my own role I had to play with my father. I think the first of these roles was having to be flexible towards his inconsistent behavior. I also believe that to some level I too had to play the role of being ignorant to his behavior in the form of his drinking problem, which became more apparent in my teenage years. I also played the role of making myself emotionally smaller, and walking on eggshells to an extent, in order to not set him off.

A combination of playing the roles of flexible, ignorant, and emotionally quietened as a child, has led me to unconsciously believe that the love I deserve is something I have to shape myself around. I am ignorant to the behavior of my partner when in a relationship, whether they be emotionally unavailable or not because I’m too flexible and too willing to bend myself to make it work, when it’s not working. I stay quiet and try too hard to make things work with someone who can’t meet my needs, rather than break up with my partner, because I make myself emotionally smaller in order to avoid conflict.

In the case of the young woman above, she was able to reclaim her fuck you with her father. I’m not sure how to do that with my own situation, seeing as my own father passed away in 2016. How can you reclaim these parts and heal, when the person you are seeking to reclaim and heal from, is no longer alive?

So – What’s Next?

We can’t place all blame on our parents. We are responsible as adults for our own responses, reactions and actions.

I’m still figuring out what I need to do and how to proceed – it feels a bit like an uphill battle. Normally, I have some level of resolve at the end of my articles, but this one is only speculation about moving forward.

I’m going to continue going to therapy. I’m going to work on identifying my own boundaries, and setting better boundaries in terms of who I date in the future. My ex from the very beginning didn’t know what he wanted. What he wanted didn’t even align with what I wanted, but I still entered into a relationship with him anyways and likewise him with me. If I had seen the “forest through the trees” earlier, it’s possible I would have saved myself a lot of time and heartbreak. Although, I wouldn’t take it back because the break-up led me to create my site, restart therapy, and focus more on myself, so it wasn’t all for not.

I don’t think COVID has helped either – i’ve been working from home since March 2020, and from the sounds of it will continue to do so until April 2021. That’s a long time of being home and being alone, all of which allows for thoughts to linger in your head. I’ve started getting out of the house more than my usual once a day walk. In the past week i’ve gone swimming, worked out at the gym, and got my hair done. I’ve also scheduled a second session with my therapist, as well as scheduled a bunch of outings with friends. When I have been home, i’ve tried to be productive even when it’s been hard.

I’m also easing myself back into dating. While I still exist with the fear of not wanting to enter another relationship because I don’t know how to develop a healthy one, I’ve started seeing who’s out there and being smarter about it. I believe I can heal while meeting new people, so long as I’m cautious. I also removed all elements of my ex from my life that were holding me back – I deleted him off Bumble – rereading our initial conversations wasn’t helping me. I also put away tokens of him around my apartment, which i’d kept in my sightlines out of some sheer daydream that maybe we’d get together again one day. To take a page out of Mr. Robbin’s brash vocabulary, however, life is generally not a fucking Disney movie, nor is it a romantic drama where the main characters reunite by some serendipitous fate or chance.

I also take comfort in the fact that, while some people may have a healthier outlook on relationships than myself – perhaps their parents had a happy marriage, or they’ve established better boundaries earlier on in their dating life – most of us are sort of winging it in terms of relationships. They teach you safe sex in high school, but they don’t teach you about healthy relationships and what a healthy relationship actually looks like. They don’t teach you about boundaries. They don’t teach you about consent. We’re left to define and determine what a healthy relationship really looks like – it’s kind of like a choose your own adventure book.

You can’t move forward if you still dwell on the past. While for some it might seem a little rich for me of all people to be using that line, I feel like it just took me dwelling on the past a little longer to realize it.

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