Relationships During Recovery

How My Recovery From Emotional Abuse, Helped Me Love then Leave the Biggest Yes of My Life

When I first met M, I could barely see him. I was weeks’ shy of being exposed to numerous red flags I had ignored in a previous dynamic. A dynamic with a male who loved me enough for the both of us. A male who was everything every other man I had been involved with, wasn’t. He was kind, attentive, consistent, and easy. And if you know anything about my childhood, you would know that he was the father figure that the broken little girl inside of me was forever looking for. Though he was loving, he was a complete fucking liar. Two children and 3 made up deaths later – I was humiliated, disconnected and lost beyond comprehension. So safe to say, when I met M – and I remember the exact moment, I could barely see him but oh my god, did things change.

That was 2013 – we met at work. We both worked at a restaurant together and saw each other at least once a week. We tried being friends but I was in therapy at this point, connecting dots with that previous dynamic and my childhood, and he was in his 2 year, committed recovery from substance abuse and also on his way to being in a relationship.

We spent two years doing that song and dance. He in his relationship with God and his girlfriend, and me in my shit; learning how to love myself while trying to maintain all of my repressed memories and current emotions. (I didn’t know anything about narcissism at this time.)

In our beginning, we had a lot of energy, I had energy for him. And though, I could feel he was drawn to me, I didn’t know how he truly felt about me. But I knew it got better every time I saw him.
He was familiar, patient and he remained actively interested in the why of me, in all of me and before I knew it, I found myself always looking forward to him. Sometimes we would talk for only a few minutes but other times, he would walk me to my car and we would talk for 3 hours.

I don’t think either one of us knew what was happening. He’s the sexiest man I’ve ever met but I’m telling you, it didn’t matter to me. I loved his language, his taste in music and how he opened doors for me. I started to admire how well he listened and he taught me to own the space I was taking up and that I didn’t have to talk so quickly. He loved his parents and his siblings, and FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFETIME, I told someone the entire truth about mine. We had a lot of similarities but we were so different. I started to think about him all the time. I started to believe people could change. We had a couple huge missteps but I understood him and he the same for me.

During those years, I was in the process of re-connecting my mind and body and didn’t recognize the feelings I was having. I kept them safe to myself and he the same, for he had no idea what he was feeling either. We eventually understood that, telling your truth and someone not being over-consumed or afraid of it, breaks you open into a completely new version of living that neither one of us knew about and were too afraid to address.
We stopped communicating a few times then; mainly out of respect for his relationship, and we honestly did our best to stay apart.
I’ll skip the remaining details on how we got to fully choosing each other but 2016 was our first year together.

If you grew up among people where love made them feel uncomfortable, who didn’t look you right in the eye and tell you that they loved you out loud, who never told you that you were fucking important or only had the balls to say anything true after a few drinks — then discovering someone who isn’t afraid to look directly at you on a daily basis and tell you that you’re a fucking homerun and he’s all in, can feel like you’re living on a different planet.

I’d say we were fiercely supportive of each other’s dreams and goals, M and I. I think that was key.
I became so comfortable with my truth, that he was able to show up the same. We spent time understanding each other’s triggers and areas of growth and were committed to them. I loved how he made every moment, his greatest memory. I loved how he valued my opinion but never needed me to solve problems for him. It was an entirely new freedom in relationships that I hadn’t met yet. I loved how every obstacle was just a learning opportunity for him. He was my bonus, not my answer.

And we shared a vision of what was fair.
Because without that, someone will always be doing more work and feel less loved than the other one.
That moment you go anywhere and there’s front row parking and you just know you’re meant to be there, that was this. 

He became unstoppable.
My growth was tremendous.
I became a woman in her element, not a girl playing house.

We worked really hard for our joint happiness. We never wanted to ever just be ok. We wanted each other to be super psyched to be in this relationship. I’ve never felt more energized or more seen. I learned how to love from a place of fulfillment and most importantly I learned how to receive love and not be afraid of it.

For me, this was my everything and I know what I’m choosing to put down on paper may advertise only the pretty side, but what made us different was our willingness to have those tough conversations. I was so impressed by him. He trusted me with his emotions, thoughts, dreams, insecurities and he opened me up to the same exercise. We were so good at telling the truth. It was a miracle. I spent my days happily overwhelmed at what we were building. It was work but it was worth it. I would run to him at every greeting and he made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. But we did have disagreements. Mostly small things as we learned to understand what each other was good at and what was important to them. But our biggest issue was when he individually was going through a muddy period and how he sometimes chose to get through it. Sometimes is a key word because I did witness him make the best of situations and remain clear, steady and focused.

Specifically, the only thing we really fought about was marijuana. I didn’t like it — he doesn’t mind it. It tears his life apart when he uses it. He always said it was temporary. It was a huge conflict.

I grew up with a ton of substance abuse and being around it, is brutal for me.
During this time with M, I was developing from being an anxious girl taking notes of everyone all the time to being a more secure, peaceful woman and the drug use can trigger me so many steps backward. I become stressed, irritated, excessively tolerant, unfocused and co-dependent. This happened two times before the final time. The first two times were shorter periods of disconnection but they still were damaging. Without our foundation of emotional connection, it was rough. We spent years understanding and learning from each other and I put a lot of trust in him to know my story and to be mindful of it. He pleaded with me to be patient. I’m very strict on those boundaries but I worked my ass off to stay loving.

I kept thinking, ‘this guy is pretty much perfect for me, Nobody else — just me. But we have this major conflict. When we have this conflict, I become almost a crazy person. He stops being responsible and emotionally available. I think I turn into a different person. How can I see this differently? Can I bend here?’ The answer was no.

I wrote letters and had multiple conversations with him and we spent four months right before the third episode, being great. He took care of those feelings and learned how to move through relationship conflict by understanding and connecting. I learned how to be available and there for someone without learning their lessons for them. I felt relieved and we were stronger than ever. Than the third episode hit, around the same time one of my brothers almost overdosed on heroin. A battle with drugs he has been fighting for almost 20 years.
I worked tirelessly at being compassionate with M. He had just gone through a surgery that prevented him from being active (he’s a personal trainer) and he also lost his current job and wasn’t bringing in any income. He began tipping poorly, changing sentences in the middle of conversations and second guessing himself. He grew increasingly dysfunctional. His constant fear and need for control and outrage over tiny things left me jumpy, angry and incredibly needy. I was at war with his childhood trauma. The injured little boy inside of him was running our adult love life. This kind of loving was excruciating on me. I had to again face my own sadness and empty places as I wished for his sadness and emptiness to be lifted.

I knew he was in pain and felt embarrassed and that it wasn’t about me. He tried to stay clear and positive but the self-sabotage behavior began and just completely took over. And it wouldn’t stop. I was devastated. I needed him to be stronger. I needed him to be more mature and figure out what was happening for him. I needed him to be who I knew him to be. I relied on him. I trusted him. We worked so hard to get here. I started to become afraid because I was losing energy. I was losing myself, I was becoming numb. I had successfully turned off my feelings so that his unfair reactions couldn’t touch me. I stopped taking my own medicine. I tried to stay strategic. I worked so hard to become human. I was now back in my head and out of my heart. A behavior i’ve had a lot of practice with.

I grew fucking tired of having the same conversation. I tried to have another one and another one in hopes to find some ground. The same behavior I inhibited with own my family. Desperate to believe that there was something I could do.
But we have had that conflict for awhile and I decided a few weekends before our final, that I’m just opting out of it. He wanted things to improve. But I think my body knew before my heart could accept what was happening. At this point, I was coming undone and from all the work I had already put into myself, I knew I recognized how I felt and I knew that I knew better.
He stopped knowing what to say or how to fix it. He stopped being able to be who he was, for himself, for us, for his family. He got off course because he started prioritizing something else – he let that happen.
One day, I just lost it. So he left.
He continued with this massive toxic masculinity to remove me. It was terrible. He completely shut me out. I tried often to communicate with his family but I think they were so afraid of him and his previous choices and that prevented them from holding him truly accountable. I got messages from his sisters telling me that I was doing the right thing, and that he needs this and that we will figure it out eventually.

I felt defeated.

I was surprised by my own response. For the first time, it had been too much — too much pain, too close to home. And maybe, on my part, too much empathy.

I was also very angry. Did I really find myself in the same situation? It couldn’t be. I stretched for answers.
Is this me proving my devotion to the universe…
I wanted to be right. I needed to be right. The stakes were too high. I couldn’t imagine leaving him behind.
Four months went by before we ever communicated again. It was the worst pain I had ever felt. The thing they never tell you about healing and learning how to love in such a big way; is that the loss doesn’t get easier because you’re more educated. You actually feel it way more. Yes, you can process it more thoroughly and see situations objectively because you have developed the tools but it still can take everything out of you. I felt like I went back to my childhood of never being heard, not feeling valued or understood. That my feelings didn’t matter and to just leave it alone.

I rationalized that I have had my share of sadness and coping — sad things were not to happen again. It was mathematical for me. I believed so much in my own determination and willpower. Mostly, I believed this could not happen because it would not be fair. The fear of fully losing him was paralyzing until I couldn’t resist the reality any longer. My boyfriend wasn’t there anymore. It felt like processing a death. It was a different kind of lonely for me. It was rushed, impatient and all consuming. Who would give a shit about my physical imbalance that I have now, after my accident? Who would care that he gets allergies in the spring?
But he wouldn’t see me although I knew he was there. I became paranoid and anxious. I stopped reaching out.

Then right after, I had this random, deep, extremely deep, desire to get married, immediately.
I think I equated marriage with stability, loyalty and trust in that moment. Equated it with everything that was taken from me. Everything that I didn’t have anymore. I thought about it extensively. I told myself, ‘eventually.’

I spent those initial four months deep cleaning everything. I took an extended period off of social media. I couldn’t bear witness to anything other than me.
Everyday that went by, he was that much farther. I was angry, but I chose love anyway.
I stayed in my heart.
I made healthy choices.
I learned that cooking is the best occupational therapy for me.

It took so much goddamn work every day. I had to commit to exercise, sleep, eating well, writing a lot, spending time with a few people who could actually understand me. I wouldn’t say that I felt relief, but I wasn’t destroyed by this like I would be normally. Not to say I wasn’t torn up because I was, but what I had now that I hadn’t had before was; me. I built such an amazing relationship with myself. I implemented systems and was apart of a dynamic that supported those systems and they flourished.

Still, I thought so much about the space between us. I had to accept it was necessary.
And honestly, maybe it saved him, maybe it saved me. I don’t know if I would have attracted someone of his caliber had I not done the work prior to saying yes to him but what I do know is that the education and dedication to my healing, helped me realize that either way, if I would have stayed, it would have gotten way worse for me. And I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get back. I owed myself the opportunity to do things differently. I had to learn that we weren’t a unit anymore and that I had to choose. Him or me.

I found out those 4 months later, it stayed horrible for him. I sat and I listened. He was different. He was in pain and it almost became all consuming for me. I watched him explain what his experience has been like and how he had been trying to make me feel how he was feeling. I immediately recognized that he wasn’t healing and I was disappointed. I realized how much faster I matured than him. I think I naively hoped he had done his work and woken up to his choices and wanted to see if I was open to re-developing our relationship that we had spent years building. Instead, he was mad at me. I noticed his dry skin and that his clothes fit differently. I wondered if his allergies were still bothering him and how his stomach was recovering from the surgery. I was surprised at my lack of rage in those moments.
What we were experiencing, makes sense for us though. You can still be in love with someone while you’re angry. You can forgive without making excuses. We talked for hours. I can honestly tell you that it felt just like him and I, again. We were engaging, laughing and catching up. I watched myself get lost in the moment.
I thought seeing the person I loved so hard, just being around him, the chance of us understanding one another, was worth all the pain I could feel for days after. Instead, I wanted to scream at him, cry out loud that I love him, that it was you and me and what the hell happened.
I missed him so much.
We hugged each other before we left and my body felt warm for the first time in months.
Nothing is more intoxicating than possibility, I guess.
We spoke for a few days after. I was terrified of how I felt. We were energetic again but I knew we had to stay honest and more work had to be done. It took all of my maturity to admit that it wasn’t our time. He misunderstood me, referenced future tense and we haven’t spoken since.

I wrestled with guilt and relief all that night, I was frustrated I had upset him but I couldn’t believe I chose long term happiness over short term relief. That was a start. And I knew that’s how much I believed in who we were to each other but most importantly how much I believed in my own worth.
Though, for a clarity obsessive like myself, the continued unknown tore me to shreds.
Separation was like having my body completely break and bend into a million little pieces, over and over again. It was brutal. It didn’t matter that I was the one walking away.
During this, I had to go to a darker place than I’ve ever been in my life. . I didn’t know if I’d be able to come out the same.
I finally had to decide I will get informed.
I knew I needed to take more control.
I had to stop thinking that this “won’t happen to me.”

I unpacked everything. I tried (and left) therapy, went hiking, drank red wine and read a ton. I worked endlessly at owning my way through every inch of the journey. I had to go back and do some of it over again, just to make sure it was out of my system.
I was not going to take the past into my future.
It took me hours in the morning to become functional. I cried every single day.
I had to forgive myself and him and feel my way forward.
I didn’t want to lose my purity. Graceful patience became a motto for me. I had to stay moment to moment or the anxiety became too debilitating.
I spent the year putting as much effort as I put into the relationship, into separating from it.
I still prayed for his return. I hoped he was cleansing and healing and that I would get to finally see him again.
I was angry but I still loved him. I think what happens when you are loved well, – is that no matter what happens for you, you can still believe in the idea of it.
Sometimes I would drive to CVS, just to smell his deodorant because I needed to know he was real, that he existed.
I learned that power is being told you are not loved anymore and not being destroyed by it.
I learned that the things that make the bad boys sexy, does not make them good husbands.
Months passed and he never showed.
No matter what, I kept deciding, with total confusion, that I am going to educate and transform this experience. I was relentless. I thanked my old vogue boss for my efficiency and my birth chart for my productivity.
I kept researching, I kept exfoliating, I kept moving.
I cannot articulate how humbling it was.
This whole experience broke open a lot of stitches for me and I was in it.
Everyday, I had to tell my self that this is the best I am capable of today.
That hopefully I’ll get better. Hopefully my output and my taste level in men will join at some point. I had to learn to trust again.
I learned that people can always find their way back to you. You never need to drag yourself through the pain while they figure it out.
That we can only love as deeply as we’re willing to be hurt.
I had to be very aware of how my mind wanted to change my developed loving perspective on the world.
I couldn’t let myself go back there.
I had to keep my heart open, simply because it helps.
I had to breathe in the devastation.
I had to feel instead of think. The fear, rage, sadness.
I sweat it out. I felt hungry again.
I also made mistakes, I’ve caved to advice that didn’t match my conscience.
I had to speak up and say that I know what break ups are. I understand how this is usually done. But I didn’t want to do it that way.
I gave myself permission to do this my way. Which was huge for me.
When I tried to bring it up with friends, I felt I was trespassing on other people’s privacy. I started to search for confirmation that my feelings were not inappropriate. What I found instead was a culture of silence.
Coincidentally, I lost a few of those best friends that same year.

Over all, I was unprepared for the shock and depth of this loss. This felt far more essential than things like working out and watching playoff games, which were things we did together.
This was about who we were together.
The really difficult truth in those moments in my life was that I couldn’t fix this deep loss that easily. I couldn’t even move away from this feeling, without some cost to my sanity.

I had to give myself credit for when I wanted to cave and find distractions, that I didn’t.
I changed my patterns. I changed the truths I have been told.

And I made the break up work for me.
I’ve learned that people will do anything to erase the memory of you.

And as someone who newly started to believe in love, and then finally found what I was looking for, I have to tell you that the dream is real. Life is exciting and sleeping with someone who you love like crazy does not get worse and worse, it gets better and better. Knowing that someone is on your side, sees you clearly, dances with you and forgives you on your bad days, – There’s nothing else like it.

Now a year later and three days later, the “What would I have done differently?” question isn’t productive for me. It can shed some light, but I’m more present and future-focused.

The truth stays simple: You are either willing to put everything you have into the chance of a universe-expanding love affair, or you aren’t.

I learned that not matter what, I have to feel where I am without judgement, to care for myself and give myself plenty of room. I am so good at being good. But I realized how good I am to myself now. I still have off days but I’m better than I’ve ever been in my life.

Right now, I’m still angry but I do miss him. I don’t know if this is natural when you truly love someone or if it’s me holding onto possibility. Either way, I remain open to it. There are days where I just can’t imagine and look forward to my next superman. And then some days, he’s all I ever think about and I look forward to connecting again. Not knowing and being okay with that, is an everyday practice for me.

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Want healthy relationship after emotional abuse? In this post, i share my journey to identify the difference between loyalty and toxic. This is perfect if you have experienced narcissistic abuse as child and have developed co-dependent tendencies. Head to breakupwithyourmother.com to read more.Eventually, I want to thank him for loving me so well. For helping me get closer to my youthful spirit. I learned how to dance, forgive and be fun again while being with him. I want to thank him for letting me love him, too. I never knew how powerful I was until then. I never would have known how I wanted to feel, if he didn’t show up so fully and so open to me.

I wonder if he misses me the same. If he misses my loud laugh or the random dance moves I have.
Sometimes when I go to take a photo on my phone, I’ll see a folder where I put all of our shared images and videos.
And as I look back at those videos, I have some big feelings about how it used to be.
The excitement I felt then, how fun he was to be with – and sometimes I even cry.
But I make room for the feelings,
The making room for them is an important step to not be missed.

I feel the sadness, the warmth, the awareness of my privilege to be loved that way.
And then I thought

Whatever is happening now, I can handle this
I am here here for this
This is why I practice
This is why I get up early, drink my coffee and stay grateful
This is why I am here. For you and for me.
xo

 

PS – Ready to learn more and figure out how you can finally create a happy life full of peace and true independence? Click here to book a free call with me and we’ll work together to figure out a next step for you. Talk so soon xxo

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