Every relationship is a stepping stone to the one where you’re truly meant to be. Relationships expose our wounds and show us where we need to heal, grow and learn. Fear, pain, guilt, stowed away baggage that you’ve forgotten that you buried or have tried to keep a lid on, emerges in our relationships. What we don’t sort out in one relationship, we will sort out in another. What we learn from our relationships gets put to good use in another. We can only know what we’re carrying around through our relationships.
I recently came across this article published by @baggagereclaim on Twitter, and it definitely chimed with some of my recent thoughts and reflections on where I am in my life right now. The title intrigued me; ‘How do I stop shaming myself over my past relationships?’, because I had been giving myself a pretty hard time over my last relationship in particular. Of course we’ve all had relationships that have been wildly wrong or inappropriate for us, with people we’ve been totally incompatible with, but these usually happen early on – by our mid 30s, even if things don’t work out, we are supposed to be getting at least nearer the mark. But I have spent the last three years trying to make something work which was not even close to being right for me – something which had been clear to most people close to me but I hadn’t seen until the very end. Or maybe I’d seen it but refused to acknowledge it. One of my great strengths – tenacity – can also be a great weakness when it works against me in this way. I find it very hard to give up on things, whether or not it’s in my best interests.
Reading back through old emails over the last year, it became clear to me how miserable I was, and what a bad state the relationship was in. How had I not seen this? Why was I still trying to forge ahead, doing my usual steamroller thing, regardless of what eventually tuned out to be insurmountable obstacles? I told myself for a long time that it was because it would all be worth it in the end. But there comes a point when the ‘end’ is still so far out of reach it’s no closer than it was in the beginning.
This was a realisation that had been pushing it’s way to the forefront of my consciousness for quite a long time, so was no great surprise when I finally decided to call time on things. But the secondary realisation – quite how wrong this relationship had been all along – was something I only realised a while afterwards, when I looked back and saw how it had been making me into someone I’m not, someone I didn’t like very much either.
I’ve spent the last few months beating myself up over how this had happened; why hadn’t I listened to people? Why hadn’t I listened to my own better judgement, time and time again, when my internal compass had been pointing towards the exit? But perhaps, as the article states, it was because there were issues I needed to work through, which hadn’t come to light in my previous relationships, and I wouldn’t be able to move forward until I had dealt with them. It’s true that I’ve certainly learnt a lot about myself through this experience; I think I know myself now far better than I ever have. I know much more about my flaws; that makes it a lot easier to accept when they are picked up on by others, and I can respond with less hostility because the well of bitterness and resentment simply isn’t there anymore. I know what my limits and boundaries are, and that they are unfortunately more elastic than I had once thought. I’ve also learnt that you can’t build on shaky foundations. Relationship pillars like friendship, respect or trust will all simply crumble without solid ground beneath them.
Ultimately, I have a clear idea of where I need to heal, grow and learn and I’m glad and grateful to be starting along a path that I know will take me to a far happier place.