I’m writing a series of “Red Flags” in relationships over on my Instagram page – check it out! My latest post addresses the very simple concept of if a relationship is creating lots of drama and angst in your life (rather than happiness and joy), then why are you in it?
I have kept journals since I was a kid, so I have well chronicled examples of how I have used spiritual bypassing and some other self-gaslighting techniques to stay in relationships for months (and sometimes years!) that I should have left much sooner – or even never started! If only I’d known then what I know now!
As I look through these journals and bear witness to the ways in which I allowed myself to be mistreated and to stay in harmful relationships, I don’t know how I could have let myself put up with that! It’s almost like someone else took over my body and mind and I was held captive and powerless until the relationship/s ended! I think part of it, to be honest, is that sex hooks me. If I have good sex with someone, it has an addictive quality for me that can be problematic when it comes to having good boundaries and staying centered. For that reason, it’s imperative for me to know someone really well and be in a serious relationship before having sex – which is absolutely not how I used to handle my relationships.
It’s not just sex, however – there has also been the influence of the combination of my conceptions of love, unconditional love, spirituality, and loyalty – and my terrible habit of romanticizing relationships. These factors have created an unhealthy, unrealistic, and problematic approach to relationships for me for most of my life. I may explore those aspects of my demise in relationships in more detail at another time, but the bottom line is that I was giving other people the sort of love, understanding, and support that I needed to be giving to myself. I was putting their needs – and my need to be “in love” with them – ahead of my own best interests.
In one journal, I read about how I was trying to figure out how my lover felt about me – if he truly cared about me. His words and actions did not match. He said he loved me, but he kept not showing up and was often very inconsiderate of me. I was trying to keep myself in a space of love regardless of how he was acting – even when I was really disappointed, hurt, even betrayed. I was asking, can’t I just be love and allow him to “love” however he does and not be in judgment or “should-ing” him? I was trying to make it all okay so that I could stay in love with him even though there were countless reasons not to be. One thing I learned from this: if the words and actions don’t match, trust the actions.
All I really needed to know (and acknowledge) was this: I didn’t like how I was being treated. Period. End of story. (Should have been end of story!) I was trying to “let go of my expectations and just go with the flow and be love.” I was trying to tell myself that having expectations was setting us both up for upset – that I shouldn’t have expectations – not even that he’d keep his word, that he’d call when he said he would, that he’d show up when we’d planned a date, that he’d keep any agreements we made. Rational me looks at that and says, uh, what?!? Hard no. Desperate-to-be-in-love me was over-riding any common sense that was trying to sneak in. I know that expectations and boundaries are NOT the bad guy! They are good and necessary for a healthy relationship! My talking myself out of them was a giant red flag!
I needed to acknowledge my own feelings – and to be okay with saying, “I don’t like how this is going. I don’t like how I’m being treated. This isn’t working out for me. Best wishes for the rest of your life. This is where our journey ends.” Or maybe, if I wanted to give him a chance, “If this doesn’t change, then our journey is over.” Because while I can certainly hold space for people to be however they want to be, that does NOT mean that I need to accept treatment that doesn’t feel good to me. I don’t need to keep trying to hold on or to make any relationship work.
I have said and written over and over again that I want people in my life who add to the joy, pleasure, happiness, fun and meaning in my life. Well, if I’m in a relationship where the person is not doing that – if on the contrary, they are adding to the pain, stress, worry, frustration and negativity in my life, why would I keep trying to have a relationship with that person? It doesn’t make sense! I need to be really committed to honoring my Self in my relationships – and only being in relationships that do bring good to me and that honor me.
I am no longer willing to ignore or bypass my own feelings. I’m no longer willing to use spiritual principles as a weapon against my own self interests – or to dismiss my feelings, needs, and concerns – in any relationship. There is a choice that I’m now able to recognize – when I feel something and there is a temptation to talk myself out of that feeling in order to keep things “comfortable”, “friendly”, “nice”, or “happy” – to instead acknowledge my true feelings to myself and to stay with them, then to decide how I will express them to the other person. No drama necessary – just honesty. If someone can’t handle my honesty, then clearly that isn’t a relationship that I want to continue. My first relationship is with my Self – and I will honor that commitment to me.