Love - We're All Doing It Wrong

She’s In An(other) Unhealthy Relationship: Here’s How You Can Help

She’s attractive. She carries herself well. She knows how to dress. She is funny, smart, and witty. She has a good attitude and she handles life pretty damned well. Anyone who knows her enjoys her. She seems to have her act together. So, why does she waste her time with a guy that you think is a d-bag?

It just doesn’t make sense, right? Her guy is basically a lousy human being. Oh sure, he has talents and skills and may even be successful in his work but when it comes to treating her wll or just respecting her he more than falls short.  And, for the life of you, it is hard to imagine why she stays with him! 

Maybe the information here will help you understand what she is doing or what she is going through. You can’t save her, as much as you would like, but you can learn to understand and help her along her way. In the end, it has to be her decision to separate from Mr. Not Right – and that is a very tough decision for her no matter how simple of a solution it is to you!

First of all, and this is the pink elephant in the room, the girl has self-esteem that works like a roller coaster. Some days she seems full of confidence and ready to conquer anything and other days she wants to crawl under the bed and hide from the world.

WHY?

Because she wants to feel loved. She wants to feel she is special to someone. She wants to know that she is important. She wears this incredible curtain that is super impressive upon first meeting her but as you get to know her you see what’s behind the curtain and she is not as strong as she looks.  It is like the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz where there is a great big presentation at first only to be met with a meek person behind a curtain.  Take her curtain away and you will find a similar meek person who is terrified of what’s behind curtain.

The flying saucer in the room is another serious challenge for the girl. What do I mean about “flyer saucer”? Well, it is a factor you can see and recognize but she denies it.  For the girls who go after the really “bad” guys (aka d-bags) that flyer saucer is attention, which is being mistaken for interest.

What the hell does that mean?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

The “good” guys will show their interest in a girl and turn that into positive attention, which gains the girl’s interest and then attention is reciprocated. This is the potentially healthy making of a balanced relationship.

The “bad” guys will give attention as the girl works her tail off for it in order to get what he wants out of her. This is an unbalanced relationship and you don’t undertand why she sticks it out.

As her friend, you will hear about all the bad attention consistently but very little about the good. When you inquire about anything good in the relationship she will defensively shrug it off as, “Oh, we have good times, too.” You probably wonder if she can hear herself over and over again? Frankly, she can – which is why she eventually stops talking about him prompting you to ask her about him.

Why does a girl put up with a guy she has to work so hard to receive so little from?  

Because it is what she is most comfortable with and is all she knows. She is conditioned for it.  It is a sad and very real statement for the women out there struggling with unhealthy relationships.

Your gal pal holds on to those the chump that disrespecst her will do so because she doesn’t recognize it as an unhealthy relationship. What many of us women don’t understand is that all abusive relationships are unhealthy but not all unhealthy relationships are abusive. There is a fine line that tends to become blurred as the “relationship” develops. This is the territory where one-sided compromising comes into play.  Where rationalizations and explanations start showing up. This is where she makes excuses for him. Once she crosses that line she is hooked and there is little you can do to bring her out of it. Meaning you can’t “save” her and it is important you accept that.

So, what can you do as the loving friend or family member?

1. Be patient. She is smart. When ready she will put two and two together  and realize she is not enjoying a good thing but it is on her timing, not yours.  It will be difficult and frustrating but it is her experience to grow from.

2. Be supportive. You don’t have to like what she does to support her and you don’t have to enable it either. When she wants to talk listen to her. When she isn’t talking ask her. Yes, you are tired of hearing about the D-bag but you need to give her the outlet because she will get tired of sounding like a broken record player.

3. Be respectful. Maybe she is not showing herself respect with her messed up ideas of relationships but that is where you showing her respect is important and most vital. And don’t insult her by putting him down – she only feels the need to defend him unnecessarily prolonging the relationship. Be respectful of her…and (ugh) him. *eyeroll*  Just don’t over do it, okay?

4. Be loving. Remember, her idea of relationships is a bit twisted. She needs examples of what being loved means and you might be one of the few who can help her re-condition herself. This means being a good example to her as a friend AND encouraging your man or mutual male friends to be good examples.  

It is heartbreaking and frustrating to watch as a friend puts herself through such unnecessary heartache while wasting her valuable relationship resources. You could tell her until you are blue in the face that she needs to drop him and she will still turn to him for the attention she craves. Sometimes it is sexual attention that has been falsely translated into a relationship. Sometimes it is constant quarreling twisted into quality time. Whatever it is, it is up to her to wake up and see what is really going on. Until then, be there for her and forgive her as she will have a hard time forgiving herself once is it all said and done.

Love - We're All Doing It Wrong

How I Let Him Go Even Though I Still Loved Him

How did I do it? How was I able to walk away from the man I loved so deeply and profoundly? How was I able to move on from a love I felt and embraced so much?

woman sitting in front of tree

And there is it was – staring me right in the face. I knew it immediately but despite my knowing I still questioned it. My gut was on red alert and my heart was on the verge of sobbing. My ears were ringing. My eyes felt frozen. It was the red flag that couldn’t be denied and I denied it anyway – at least for a few more years. Ugh. (facepalm)

We seemed to have so much in common. We could talk for hours. Our pasts seemed parallel giving us an exclusive understanding of one another. We had genuine interests in each other’s hobbies. We could see through to one another. Being together we both emerged with a side from within that was buried so deep. The connection was unique. It felt rare. It redefined passion.

So, why is it I am not with him today? How could I not eternally embrace something that sounds as though it was delivered from “a land far far away”?

Well, I finally saw what everyone had been telling me – that he was not right for me.

What we had was a very passionate relationship in every romantic sense of the word that you can imagine. And yet with the positive passion came the negative passion. Both were intense at their own distinctive level. Both were scary. Both were invigorating. But also dangerous to my mental health.

I won’t go into the details of the relationship but what I will tell you is that we had little to no support from our friends and family. This is a definite sign that the relationship is not what you think it is. Sometimes, the best measurement of the health of a relationship is the level of support from those around you.

I refused to listen to those people because there was always that one person who stood out and said, “Yes! Yes, you are the one for him!” My desire to hold on to that positive passion was fed by the repetition of that one statement for two years – in my head.

woman in black full zip jacket

So, how did I do it? How was I able to walk away from the man I loved so deeply and profoundly? How was I able to move on from a love I felt and embraced so much?

I had to recognize that what I felt was not equal to what he felt or the negative passion would not have been as strong.

Don’t be mistaken. He liked to keep me around for his pleasure and fun or his needs but when it came to what I needed? Ha. It was not only my fault he was unhappy with our situation but it was my fault if I was experiencing turmoil or trials. It was my stupidity or my bitchiness that created my situation and that wasn’t his problem.

But, he loved me. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. But, wildly enough, I believed that he loved me and I needed to stay. It took me about 25 months to finally pull the trigger and walk out of his life and back into my own.

I don’t know if was time wasted or the most influential learning experience I have ever been through. What I do know is that the experience is mine to share with you.

So, back to how to let go if you still love him. How did I put my love aside to escape my prison?

1. I kept all the text messages for reference. He used to get mad that I would retain our text conversations and refer back to them. He rarely came off looking like a nice guy (and my responses weren’t always pretty, either) and therefore he would demand I delete them or sweet-talk me into deleting them.

Once they were gone I had nothing visual to remind me who he really was. Once those texts were gone he would turn on the loving charm and then cycle back into the emotional deviant I was hooked to. I do have some of the texts to remind me of why I left when I start to miss the good times.

2. I had to push my emotional brain aside for my logical. I had to really think about his actions and how they aligned, or misaligned, with his words. I had to look at his expectations and my expectations and determine how they balanced. I had to stop deceiving me and come to terms with the reality that I was not getting anywhere with him and my life was depleting the more time I devoted to him. Once I realized that it was easier to not respond his last text message.

photography of woman using laptop

3. I needed something to maintain my focus. My attention had to be placed somewhere else so I could go through the process of grieving a relationship I had with a man who was mentally dangerous. I found that focus and protected it with every fiber of my being. That focus remains today as a reminder that being me is a great thing and not a result of someone else’s demands.

4. I prepared myself emotionally for the final walk. I literally stood in front of a mirror and told myself, “You will want to text him so the crying will stop. You will want to run back to him to feel normal again.” I knew the real problem for me was fighting the addiction created throughout the relationship. Maybe the uncomfortable tears of grief would stop by contacting him but they would be replaced with the comfortable tears of name-calling and emotional abuse I had been so accustomed to.

Maybe I would feel normal again by running to him but would hurt myself more by embracing that sense of “normal” versus developing myself by venturing out of my comfort zone. The funny thing about a comfort zone is that it might be comfortable but it doesn’t necessarily feel good nor is it healthy. It is just comfortable.

5. I had to be fair to myself and allow myself the time to heal and try life without him. I had to be permitted to be me again without his permission or approval. I had to give myself enough time to feel the emotions I prepped myself for. I had to give me a chance to heal even if it hurt like hell. Even if I cried myself to sleep. Even if it meant I would never be loved again. In the end, it meant I would love me and not have someone attempt to make me feel guilty for it. There is no guilt in loving me but there is guilt in knowingly hurting me via an unhealthy relationship.

woman holding a smiley balloon

So, the time has passed and here I am. I didn’t die without him like I thought I would. I didn’t spiral down into depression like he had predicted. I continued to breathe and live my life. I am free to be me and am happy being me. I have grown and continue to do so every day. Why? Because I didn’t give up on me.

Love - We're All Doing It Wrong

3 Rules To Remind You Relationships Are Tougher Than They Appear On TV

Relationships are a part of our identity.  It could be the relationship with our friends or family, our children, our significant other or any other relationship you can point out in your life. Relationships are important in developing who we are and how we interact with others on various levels.

We learn about relationships immediately in our lives starting with those that provide our care and fulfill our needs starting with infancy.  The first lesson in life is that we have needs that must be met in order to survive.  As our needs change, based on growth and development, the relationships multiply and may become complex.  Ideally, the needs between those within a relationship develop into a two-way street.  One side of the street gives while the other takes and theoretically each party takes turns on either side of the road.  This is how relationships become mutual agreements.

Think of relationships as an investment…and a return.

Healthy relationships require two people to balance the giving and taking. There is really no other way about it and it does not matter the relationship. Platonic. Romantic. Familial. Friendship. You name it they all require traffic to flow in two directions. The type of relationship will determine the role each person will fulfill – or in other words the needs that need to be met.

I would not venture to say that any single relationship is necessarily easier than another or that one is of lesser value. That is for you to decide as it makes sense in your life.  The relationship centered on romantic love is likely the one that makes the most impact on your life and therefore can easily be seen as the most challenging of all relationships.  But, it is fair to keep in mind sometimes we make things more difficult than they are due to where we position our focus.  (Let the sink in…)

The problem with romantic love is the vision we all have of what it is supposed to be. Growing up we get this fantastical vision of what love is going to be based on what we see on the television or in the movies:  “True love”.  “Love of a lifetime”.  “Soulmate”. “Happily ever after”.  “Extreme acts of love”.  There is this repetitive idea that love is riddled with exciting emotional climaxes completed with “happy ever after endings” and anything less is not considered “love.”

In the no-nonsense words of Sherman T. Potter from the sitcom M*A*S*H…

”HORSE HOCKEY!!!”

horse laughing laughing horse

While no one really likes rules here are 3 pieces of insight to remind you why relationships are tougher than they appear on the boob-tube or the silver screen:

First rule of relationships: Don’t compare your life to what you see on television (or anyone else, really).

By using comparisons you will remain forever single or accumulate wasteful relationships due to unrealistic expectations of others.  Besides, that one relationship in your life that you get to choose and is meant to last a lifetime is not going to be comparable to what you see on tv. It should be better because it will be real.  It will be yours. It will be incredibly joyous. It will be incredibly painful.  It will be based on the choices you and your partner make rather than a room of writers trying to score a paycheck or franchise opportunity.

Second rule of relationships: If you don’t know who you are don’t be surprised if you find someone that tells you who you are.

This is the making of an unhealthy relationship, one of abusive co-dependency. Knowing who you are, being able to identify yourself will help in keeping the bad ones away and attract the good ones. If you don’t know who you are you won’t know what you can offer another.  Rest assured that there are PLENTY out there who are thrilled to tell you who you are; its called control and can create a cycle of abuse that is difficult to break free from.

Third rule of relationships: Don’t confuse being alone with loneliness.

One is a status and the other is a feeling. Being alone doesn’t mean anything other than you are single. You aren’t a loser nor are you aren’t incomplete. You are just flying solo and that is a good thing until you find the person that aligns with you, not defines you.  Loneliness, on the other hand, is a side effect of a breakup.  At some point, that lonely feeling hits you and it is uncomfortable.  It is that uncomfy feeling that can be a driving force influencing decisions that are not in your best interests. This is the reason so many tell you to WAIT between relationships allowing you to avoid doing yourself a romantic disservice.

blonde haired woman in orange knitted long sleeved top

Relationships, specifically the romantic ones, are tough. They are tougher if you are not ready to embrace you for you and therefore have it embraced by others.   Because of what we have seen over and over again, there is this misconception that our love life should be based on being “saved” by that fictional “white knight in shining armor”.  Relationships are not about being saved by another.  They are not about completing each other. They are about alignment between two people and how that works to compliment one another.   It is not a matter of forcing it or learning how to do it. It is a matter of when you are ready to do it.

You can do it.

Love - We're All Doing It Wrong

Love Signs You Don’t Typically Look For

Whitney Houston once sang, “How Will I Know If He Really Loves Me?” And its a pretty legit question.  How DO you know if he really loves you?

Some might tell you that you feel butterflies or a sense of excitement when he walks into the room. Others tell you he isn’t afraid to brag about you, while others may believe that subtle gestures such as kissing you on the forehead or a caressing touch are signs of love.

All could be true of love but not necessarily that of a healthy romantic love.

Any woman who has lived with a narcissist or a manipulative man will tell you that these things are not necessarily the things that make up a loving relationship.  Love is more than just a kiss here or a loving caress there.  Love is a genuine appreciation for an individual.

So, how do you know you’re in a healthy relationship?

woman wearing blue jacket
Photo by João Jesus on Pexels.com

Glad you asked!  It took me a long time to figure this one out.  I had to have several intentionally sought after relationships that wound up unhealthy before I fell into the healthy one and figured out the major differences.  It is easy to fall into a sequence of foul relationships because they become what you know.  It is the unknown of the healthy relationship that can catch you off guard!  The healthy relationship is uncomfy at first but it does grow on you once you realize that you being you is vital to the relationship, not you being who Mr. Unhealthy wants you to be!   So, what should you keep your eyes peeled for?

He encourages you to be you.

Anyone who has actual love and admiration for you will not try to change you to meet their narrative.  When you are with the right person, the person who aligns with you, they are not worried about changing you, rather they are interested in the person you will continually evolve into. They want to be a part of that and they know they are not the only influence when it comes to you being you. There are friends, family, and other people that have a hand in your development and the right guy values that.

 He listens to you when you speak. 

Any guy that is consistent about interrupting you, talking over you or cutting you off versus listening to you is not interested in you. Those types of guys are more likely threatened by you and look to exert their false sense of superiority over you. Even if you are a “chatty-Kathy” there is no need to shut you down because he is bored. If he can handle your rambling then he is worth your investment; just try to ramble to a point.

 He cares about your interests. 

The guy who loves you will show support for your interest and passion. He will offer you praise when you get involved and make a difference in the lives of others because he understands your interests are factors in who you are. He also gets that your interests will change and he is fine with that. If it gives you a reason to be happy he will support it. Don’t be fooled, though!  Just because your loving man supports you doesn’t mean he follows you, watches you or is even your biggest fan. The man with a genuine love for you will be perfectly okay not leading the parade in your honor though will be your biggest supporter and he will find a way to show you that support.

 He gives you space.

We all need space whether in a relationship or not.  If space is not something you are familiar with or you don’t recognize it as being part of a healthy loving relationship you might reconsider your readiness for commitment. Spending every moment of every day with the same person day in and day out is asking for a “blah” kind of relationship and is a key component to stalling your sense of self. Personal space is necessary to be alone with our thoughts and reflect on how our lives are proceeding. We need to be able to have those moments to get in touch with our inner selves.  The same is true for time with friends, family and anyone else that brings out the genuine pure side of our individuality.   If he consistently impedes upon that space he likely has motives that don’t include you being you.

 He provides for you.

He is a gentleman and understands what it means to take care of a lady without insinuating you are incapable. He won’t ask to order your dinner without your permission. He will extend an arm to open the door or pull out a chair. He will offer to drop you off and walk you to your door. He will offer to get you a cup of coffee, pour you a glass of wine or even make you dinner and he does so with the right attitude. It is not about controlling you and making decisions for you. It is about asking you what you would like and delivering to you because this is how he pampers you, particularly if you are the independent or self-sufficient type.  He also understands that when you reject those chivalry-esque gestures you are exerting your independence and he won’t take it personally.

 He doesn’t rush things.

The man who loves you and understands healthy love, will not rush you into any decision, pressure you into his desires or steam roll you to get his way. He will show patience for you and your timeline even if it is an inconvenience to him. In his mind, you are worth it and he honestly believes you would do it for him, though its unlikely he would ask you.

LOVE is more than just an emotion. It is a healthy attachment to someone who is eager to provide you with an opportunity to be you. They embrace you both physically and emotionally. Love is about boundaries.  Love is about respect for those boundaries. Love is about tolerance when things get annoying or ugly.  Love is about patience when tolerance is necessary.  Love is more than simply telling someone you love them or hearing it from another. It is a connection that is natural and peaceful.

It is easy to believe those butterflies are indicative that you’ve hit the love jackpot but what happens to those butterflies when the “honeymoon phase” ends? Are you at peace or do you feel lost and need to know what happened?  Does the person you met initially stand before you or are they someone else entirely?

photo of woman looking at the mirrorThe biggest key to a healthy relationship is to know you deserve to be loved for you and that love should start with you first.  If you don’t love you for you finding a healthy relationship will be that much more difficult.  It is also important to understand that you deserve the kind of person that will give you the healthy love and attention that encourages you to be you.

What are your experiences with healthy and unhealthy love?