It’s hard to believe but this year I will be thirty five. When I was just seventeen I entered into a destructive relationship which taught me that my thoughts, opinions, beliefs and feelings just didn’t count; the relationship had made me forget my inherent worth. When I finally made the break I was petrified of being alone. I didn’t like myself very much and being in my own company with no one or nothing to distract me scared me silly, I could think of nothing worse.
But something deep within me knew that being alone, truly alone, was exactly what I needed. I didn’t really know who I was anymore, my sense of identity lost itself as it was slowly but surely replaced by his. His opinions, his beliefs, his family, his life.
So I embarked on a journey, having no idea where it would lead. All I knew was that it was a journey I needed to go on, a journey comprised of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one on one psychotherapy, Tony Robbins and faith. During this time my friends and family supported me through the inevitable ups and downs. The loneliness, the anger and the confusion. The letting go, the forgiveness, the elation at finding myself again and in the empowerment I experienced.
Once I worked on my self-esteem and liked myself again I crafted a life that brought me joy and happiness, a life that nurtured my creative spirit and celebrated those I loved. It was a six year journey, but it only took two years for me to be happy again. With every year I grew more and more in love with the life I had created. I had male friends again, my creativity flourished, I landed a managerial job and I even decided to start this blog so I could reach out to others that might be facing similar struggles.
Although I was the happiest I had ever been in my life I thought that it might be nice to share my happiness with someone, a partner, maybe even a soul mate. But this time my motivations were completely different, I didn’t need a partner out of fear of being alone, I simply wanted one.
So I joined eHarmony. I have to be honest, most of the guys on the site looked like either geeks, arrogant bankers or play boys looking for one thing. Just as I was about to cancel my subscription I saw a hunk of a guy. He had the most handsome smile I think I’ve ever seen. His eyes were intoxicating and looked so genuine I almost got lost in them. So we started talking, first on the site, then on WhatsApp, then on the phone. Soon after we had our first date; it was nine hours but it felt like three. Being in his company felt so effortless.
We’re now officially a couple and I honestly feel like I have met my dream man. I think back to those six years I spent single and I now realize that I wouldn’t have been even close to being ready to meet him if I hadn’t first worked on myself – I needed to like and respect myself before I could expect anyone else to do the same.
If you are afraid of being alone and are uneasy with your own company I would encourage you to take some time to learn to be at ease with your own company again. Discover what you like, what you dislike, your worldview, your interests and hobbies. Create a life you can fall in love with before looking for love in another.
If you meet someone when you are happy in yourself and living a life you love you are in a more empowered position and it is much less likely you will tolerate poor behavior. The full and happy life you have created will instantly make you more attractive to any potential partner and you will naturally have more to offer them. Not only this but you will have a better sense of self, which your partner will naturally respect.
Having been in both unhealthy and healthy relationships I know the warning signs to look out for all too well. If you recognize your partner in these signs please seek help as it is likely you are caught in a very destructive cycle.
Early warning signs you are in a mentally or physically abusive relationship:
- Your partner is always right and imposes their thoughts, opinions or beliefs upon you
- Your partner never apologizes or forgives
- Jealousy is displayed early on
- Possessiveness is displayed early on
- Constant contact, verging on obsessive
- Wants to know every detail of where you are when you are not with them
- Your partner is easy to anger
- Your partner is controlling (money, your friends and your family – works to isolate you)
- Your partner uses physical intimidation
- These signs are often teamed with your partner being very charismatic or being perceived as ‘nice’ to others
If your relationship is built upon power and control rather than equality, respect and honesty the relationship isn’t healthy, it’s toxic. Consider whether the relationship is enhancing your life or you are staying in it out of fear (fear of further abuse or fear of being alone). If you are staying in the relationship out of fear, seriously consider making a permanent break from the relationship and starting your journey of healing.
For those that are afraid to leave the relationship out of fear of further abuse please click on the links below which offer a wide variety of support for those suffering from abuse:
For UK residents only:
Living without abuse or the lwa website is superb and talks about the various different types of abuse, offering help for those that need it most.
HelpGuide.org is a very informative website and offers advice and a directory of worldwide hotlines which offer support and help for victims of abuse.
Are you in an intimate relationship? Would you like to be? Are you intentionally single, as I was or are you actively seeking a partner? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
‘The relationship skills workbook: A do-it-yourself guide to a thriving relationship’ by Julia B Colwell, Ph. D. An ideal book for you or – even better – both of you!
‘Safe People: How to find relationships that are good for you and avoid those that aren’t’ by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend
Stay tuned – next week we will explore what an unhealthy relationship dynamic looks like and examine some unhealthy behaviors that with just a little effort, we can work to change!