I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the following position:
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I am partnered to someone that I want to break up with...
I am single.
I prefer the later over the former. It isn’t really even a fair comparison.
Valentine’s Day has long been somewhat of a catalyst for me. As the day of over indulged, over exposed, over rated and over celebrated love encroaches, it has usually caused me to reflect on my relational status. And when I have been partnered, my analysis usually falls way short.
So I guess I have to be grateful for this ominous “holiday”. It has caused me to take stock and reflect and usually find that I really don’t like who I am dating or married to.
Now before I take a deeper dive on this whole love breakdown, I want to say that this is not a condemnation of the men I have been partnered with or married to...instead, what has happened for me, is a re-evaluation of who I am in relation to them and what usually happens is that I find the whole ordeal lacking.
And guess what? It is almost always my fault.
It is easy to spot the things your partner could have done better, or not done at all. It is so easy to inventory their shortcomings and come with a long list of things they could have done to make you happier, less upset, stressed, tired, overworked, etc. There will always be this list. Even with the best partners, there is no relationship I know of that hits all the markers all the time, no exceptions. We are human beings in relation. There are always going to be issues.
But when I have had the courage to turn my investigative mind around and point my bright light on myself, that is where I find the gold. I find all the ways that I failed to show up, refused to give, or wholesale walked out before they even noticed.
There are a million reasons we list for why love breaks down. And they are all somewhat valid. But in truth, there is always just the one thing...a failure on my part to own who I am, what I want and what I can and will bring to the table.
In the immortal words of Taylor Swift: “Hi, It’s me. I am the problem. It is me.”
All of my love breakdowns have really resulted from a lack of honesty with me about me and him. I have been amazed, stunned really, when sitting in the aftermath of love gone wrong (again) how much effort I made to making him into the person that I wanted him to be. Oh, I’m subtle. And manipulative and so often, I am absolutely the last one to know.
Sometimes, he even figures it out way later. I am that good or bad as the case may be. I am just there controlling, guiding, “helping” neither one of seeing how much I am really doing behind the scenes to create him in my own image.
Ok, that was hard to write. But it is true.
I remember some years ago I wanted to give a boyfriend this book for his birthday because I really wanted him to read it. My spiritual guide spent hours, and I do mean hours, attempting to get me to see that this was not a gift. He didn’t want to read that fucking book. I wanted him to read it so that he could be enlightened and our relationship would improve. Subtext? What I really wanted was for him to read the book and stop fucking up our relationship!
And I couldn’t see it. I didn’t see that me giving him a book to read for HIS birthday so that HE could do better was just about the most selfish and self centered thing EVER! (She is a patient woman, God help her, I know she hangs up the phone with me and bangs her head on her counter...a lot).
In hindsight, that relationship was already irretrievably broken. Love had already broken down. And though I tried and tried to limp it along, it was over years before it actually ended. And I knew it all along. The years it went on were the best (or worst) con job of all, me to me. I conned myself into believing that he was someone he was not. In fact, he didn’t even want to be the person that I so desperately wanted him to be. Like at all.
And I knew that six months in! So all the desperate attempts to rekindle, kindle and re-ignite were just my pathetic attempts to project love onto a person who really wasn’t interested in doing his part. And so we all suffered. Greatly.
I am older now and wiser. And I have done the work to now be in a place where I am not willing to carry the burden of work all by myself. And I have a level of honesty about how I show up, what I expect and who I am that I didn’t have before. And I have my own deal breakers, while also having the courage of my own convictions which is something that came much harder (or not at all) when I was younger.
To me a successful relationship requires me to grow, change and stretch into areas of myself that cause me fear, angst and insecurity. Today I know that any partner I have doesn’t have to challenge me, it is me. I have to be willing to be honest enough with myself to call a shitty relationship, a shitty relationship.
My experience with love and divorce has brought me to the conclusion that you can love someone and not like them at all. And that love acts as some sort of bond, that binds both parties to the misery that is them. Each of them telling themselves (and each other) stories that keep them stuck and committed even though neither one of them is happy.
In my experience, it isn’t love that breaks down. It is our ability to be honest with first ourselves and then our mate that breaks and the love we feel for each other is often the very last thing that breaks.
So returning to my Valentine’s Day theme, I have allowed this ridiculous holiday of over the top love bullshit to become my yearly reminder to check in with myself about how I am showing up in my relationships. When single, what the hell am I doing with myself? How am I showing up for me? Am I compulsively dating in order to wholly abandon myself or entertain myself? Or am I spending time enjoying my relationship with myself? Doing things that provide me a feeling of belonging and meaning?
If I am in relationship, then who am I showing up as? Petty? Confused? Mercurial? Menacing? Loving? Honest? Who am I dating, really?
This year it all seems ok. Love is present. In fact, recently reinvigorated after a rough patch. I know who I am and what I am doing and I am allowing him to show up and be who he is. And more important than the failure or success of us is that we both show up as who we are and take care of the emotional/spiritual nature of our beings. And so far, we are doing that together...and the love abounds.
What I have found is that I have no idea how the love comes. I just know that it does. And I, likewise, have no real knowledge of when it leaves. The love being gone is something that I can only see by looking back. In the moment, I swear to God, it was all totally fine.
So this Valentine’s Day while everyone is running around acting like it is all good, perhaps use this day of love overdone to check in with yourself. About you, about your mate, about whether you love either of you. Then move forward with whatever knowledge comes. If you don’t love you, then try to find out why. If you don’t love them, try to find out why.
And if you need help sorting through any or all of that. Call me. I have been there and know the path through. And while it isn’t easy or the most fun thing I have ever done, the freedom I have come to know on the other side more than makes up for all the shit swimming I had to do to get there.
May Valentine’s Day be your call to arms. And may your efforts yield a better life and love than you have ever known.