I am a member of several divorce support groups and forums and - without judgement - I have to say that there is a pretty common theme running through most of them, particularly amongst those of us who were ‘dumped’ or ‘left’.
That theme? Bitterness. Resentment. Hatred. All blame for the failed relationship on the ‘dumper’.
Now, I understand this – I do. I too felt very bitter, resentful and hateful towards the man I had been married to for seventeen years after he left me for a nineteen year old girl – particularly in the very early days of the breakup. I felt wronged and humiliated, and sincerely wondered if I would ever not feel this way. It was a pretty horrendous way of being; a horrible and heavy burden to carry with me each and every day.
But as time passed, those feelings started to lift. I started to see the positive side of my new – single – situation and felt less encumbered with the negative side. I knew, in my heart, that I didn’t want to die ‘old and bitter’. So I gradually forced myself to let go of the resentment.
I knew too that at some stage I would probably try my hand at a new relationship. And this is when I (a little unwillingly) started to look at my role in the breakdown of my marriage. Up until this point I had believed myself to be pretty much faultless – I was dumped with little warning or notice, after all.
But I also knew that I wanted to do all that I could to make the next relationship (god forbid) a little more successful than the last. So I forced myself to look at my role, and what I could have done a little better.
Whilst I will always believe that the way my husband left me was pretty damned atrocious (no warning; much younger woman), I do have to accept that it takes two to tango. That I may have been blind to what was really happening in my marriage. That I was not completely faultless in the whole situation.
Relationships are HARD. Most of us don’t know what the hell we’re doing. Most of us get so caught up in what it is that we don’t like or find acceptable about the situation and/or our partner, that we neglect to take a long hard look at ourselves and what we’re doing (or not doing) to make both ourselves and the relationship the best they can be.
We become consumed with the idea of changing our partner. We tell ourselves that if he or she was just a little bit more of this, or a little bit less of that, our relationship would be better. Our lives would be easier.
Then in desperation we may try to adjust ourselves for the SOLE purpose of fitting in with our partner’s moods and behaviour. The result? We aren’t being true to ourselves. We may LOSE ourselves in trying to be someone or something that we just can’t be. Resentment starts to kick in.
Here is a radical idea:
What if we took the focus OFF our partner – OFF their needs AND their faults?
What if we instead put the focus back on ourselves? On who we are, what we need, and what we can do to improve ourselves? And what if our partner learned to do the same for him or herself? What if we all did this?
Too often we enter relationships not knowing who we really are and what we want from life. After a time the relationship becomes our identity. It is who we are. We begin to know ourselves mostly – or only - in terms of our partner and what they are doing. This may be fine in the early to mid-stages of a relationship. But what happens when our needs and wants change – as they inevitably and naturally will with the passage of time?
If we know ourselves only in terms of our partner and our relationship, we will start to feel resentment. How could we not? We will feel stifled, and some of us will look outside of the relationship for the love we feel we are not getting within it. It may take five years, it may take fifty - but if we forget who we are, we will one day realise it. And that is when the trouble begins.
I understand now that in my marriage, I was somewhat of a control freak. If my husband expressed a desire to do something without me, I wanted to know why. If he was in a bad mood, I did my very best to ‘fix’ that mood – even though in all probability the mood had nothing to do with me.
I didn’t know how to just let things be. To let people be. I wanted to be involved in and to fix everything. When I again found myself single, I was forced to focus on me. To take a long hard look at myself and what I wanted from life.
Then I met my current partner. At first, he appeared to me to have a strange way about him. The strange thing? He was unashamedly and breathtakingly independent. To a girl who was used to devoting her life to everybody but herself (and oftentimes attempting to control everybody but herself) it was utterly refreshing to see somebody living this way.
This independence is not to be confused with selfishness. He is far from selfish. He is expert at keeping to his side of the fence. At taking responsibility for his own moods and needs and desires. At letting me be who I want to be. And somehow, this thing between us is working.
I believe that if we allow them to, our relationships can be our greatest teachers. And I believe that this relationship of mine has taught me that it really doesn’t matter what the other person is doing or thinking or saying (as long as they are not downright hurting or abusing us). What matters is what we are doing and thinking and saying in relation to this.
The crux of it? We only have control over ourselves and our own happiness. If we all spent a little time exploring and knowing ourselves before committing to a relationship, we may find things go a little – or a lot – smoother.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!
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