Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On Relationships and Reflection

I feel like I've been conversing with a lot of friends about the topic of relationships lately. I've been in my own relationship for nearly 11 years at this point, so I tend to forget how tough things can be when you're still in the process of looking for your person. In particular, I forget how bad a relationship with the wrong person can make you start to feel about yourself.

I have an acquaintance I follow via what's left of my LiveJournal friends list and the situation she's in reminds me so much of how things were with Shawn. Shawn was probably one of the first men I felt really, truly passionately about in my life. He also turned out to be one of the most horrible, abusive human beings I've met to date. When I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that after my relationship with him, I wasn't ever the same open, giving, trusting person I used to be again, even after many years. That's probably for the best considering how many selfish individuals I tend to attract into my life, but still. It's hard not to regret the loss of a part of you that was innocent, and generous, and trusting.

Lots of people can make you feel self-conscious about your hobbies, your goals, or your personal habits. Shawn somehow made me feel self-conscious about who I was on a core level. He hated that I was introverted and thought quality was more important than quantity when it came to friends. He hated that I read and liked to learn. He hated that I wasn't more driven and success-oriented. He hated that I was still trying to figure out what I believed spiritually and socially even though I was only 21 or 22 at the time. He really hated that I was a sensitive person that felt things deeply. Being steeped in that environment for even one of my most impressionable years of my life changed me forever.

This girl reminds me so much of that younger version of me and her boyfriend reminds me so much of Shawn. He's completely succeeded in making her feel like the person she is on a core level is so unlikable that she needs to obliterate every last trace of her natural personality. He has convinced her that she's hard to love and that he deserves some kind of medal for putting up with her. He cheats on her, emotionally abuses her, and mistreats her in a million different ways, but has completely convinced her it's her fault. I've tried to say a few things to her because her situation makes me so sad. She hasn't really taken it much to heart, just like I'm sure I wouldn't have back at the peak of the Shawn era, but hopefully some of the things I've said will plant some seeds and benefit her in the future, if not now. I've been talking with other women I know about their relationships as well and at their request because they trust me and are interested in whatever insight I might have to offer.

Interactions like these make me realize how far I've actually come as a person, especially when it comes to relationships. I never did that thing you hear about. You know... choose to love someone and stick it out no matter what. It just kind of happened by accident and I learned a lot along the way. No, my relationship hasn't always been easy or free of drama, but it came easily regardless, if that makes any sense at all. I'm convinced that's how it should be and I tell people as much. I'm often one of the first people most of my friends think of when they want relationship advice or insight on something to do with dating. I'm proud of that. It feels like a real success when I think of how many people told me that I was hard to love and that I'd never have what it takes to make it in a long-term relationship.

I've known since I was a little girl that I was relationship oriented, so I guess it makes sense that some of the most profound learning experiences I've ever had came about because of relationships. Even that awful, heartbreaking relationship with Shawn taught me a lot about myself and what I can't put up with in a partner. My current relationship has shown me how important and healing self-acceptance really is. It's certainly helped me learn to relate to myself and to others in completely new ways. To date, this is the only area of my life where I feel truly successful, but it's a big and very important area for sure.