How I Found Myself In A Failing Relationship That Mirrored My Parents'
Leaving someone you care about is difficult, even when you know it's probably for the best. When you love someone, you often place his or her needs before yours. Sometimes, if you're unlucky, you lose yourself in the process.
I grew up in a chaotic household. My mother was an alcoholic, and my father was constantly trying to help her. My father did everything he could to help my mom, including rehabilitation facilities, counseling, breathalyzers on the car door, you name it.
He kept expressing to her how her disease was ripping our family apart. He did everything in his power to give her the gift of sobriety, but she had to be willing to receive it. My dad pushed himself to the brink, giving when he should have given up. He was ignoring his needs for hers.
Naturally, when I got into my first serious relationship, I did the same thing.
I always told myself, "I will never be in a relationship like the one my parents were in." For a long time, I thought I had succeeded.
I had a seemingly great boyfriend, and we were very much in love. It was only in hindsight that I realized the truth: I had fallen into the same trap as my father.
I was bending over backwards to help someone who probably didn't want my help. I allowed myself to be blamed for things that were not my fault for a little more than two years. But, the relationship itself lasted almost four. I was told to change myself and what I was doing. Maybe then, this person's problems would go away.
The problems had nothing to do with me. They never did. But sometimes, it's hard to admit the problem is within. It's the easiest to blame those you love.
I allowed myself to be blamed. I allowed these hurtful things about myself and my appearance to be said, in order to help my partner build his self-esteem. I wasn't the perfect partner, but that doesn't mean I deserved to be the scapegoat for someone else's problems.
I sacrificed myself for someone who, in the end, didn't appear grateful for all I had done, all I had put up with and all I had lost in order to help him. In order to build up his self-confidence, he tore mine down.
When the relationship ended, I was empty. I had no self-confidence or self-worth. I remember speaking with my father once it had ended.
I tried to talk about everything without breaking into deep sobs that shook me to my core. He said, "If you had told me what was happening when it was, I would have told you to leave. I didn't realize it was that bad. But had I known, I would have said something."
If he had said something, I don't know if I would have left. I was convinced I needed to give every inch of myself to this relationship – to this boy – for it to work. I felt if I had given more and changed myself, his problems would have dissipated.
Everything would be fixed. I was in love. I was foolishly in love. I'm sure – at one point – my father had felt the same.
It was only in retrospect that I realized I had done exactly what my father had. I had allowed myself to stay in a relationship that was hurting me and tearing me down. I had defied all logic and reason. I had thought solely with my heart.
Thinking with your heart can be a beautiful thing. But, it can also be very dangerous.
I stayed because I felt I had to break myself to mend someone I cared about. I stayed because I was made to feel it was my fault. I stayed because I was in love.
Looking back on it all, it is hard to not feel ashamed of what I allowed myself to go through. I'm upset I allowed someone to speak to me the way he did. In turn, I shrunk myself.
Never shrink yourself for another person. Don't blame yourself for staying with someone you love.
When you've been broken, it's hard to leave. I truly believe that during our relationship, I felt no one else would love me. It's because of the way he made me feel. I negatively affected him. I was repulsive. I was unworthy of love.
I've since realized that's not the case. He has his own problems, and it isn't my job to fix them. I'm not unworthy of love. Although I allowed myself to be treated in a way I promised myself I'd never allow, I'm still strong. I'm still standing.
I may have made the same mistakes my father did, but I learn from my mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities for growth, no matter how heartbreaking those opportunities may be.
I'm determined to grow in fullness, love and confidence. Without this experience, I wouldn't be so committed to myself now. I am committed to improving myself and learning to love myself, regardless of my circumstances. Though the experience was painful, the lessons I've learned since are beautiful.