Hello, this is Laura from For Those About To Shop!
About a year ago, I had what I’ll call an epiphany not unlike the scene in Eat, Pray, Love in which Elizabeth winds up sobbing in despair on her bathroom floor. The kind of life-changing moment when your soul finally cries out that it can’t take anymore and rebels in a way that you can no longer ignore. At this point, every aspect of my life needed re-hauling, most of all my approach to relationships. I had come out of a ten-year marriage a year before, when my partner and I finally admitted we were never in love to begin with.
Reeling from my separation but being out of touch with my feelings led me to indulge in many casual affairs where I sought solace in men that I didn’t really care for and who didn’t care for me. I thought I was just “having fun”. My soul thought otherwise and finally rebelled. I began to listen to friends who said they don’t have sex unless they were in committed relationships, or who had taken years off from sex because they were tired of the way the casual approach made them feel.
With much trepidation, I decided to take a celibate year and stay away from men completely. At first, it was unbelievably hard to be good. I remember a moment in my first couple of months when I was sitting on the streetcar and had this feeling that if a man would just put his hands on my shoulders I would feel so much better. It was all physical at that point.
Gradually, feelings began to surface that I had smothered by using sex to numb myself. I began to see how I never asked for what I wanted or needed in relationships and never allowed myself to be vulnerable with a man. I expected him to read my mind and when he didn’t I said “what a jerk!” I began to realize that a partner can only give you what you ask for and will only treat you the way you demand and expect to be treated. And you have to be clear by vocalizing what you want.
Here’s an example. My husband was a hockey player and when he went to play hockey on a Friday night I would feel very abandoned. Rather than expressing that vulnerability, I lied and said I didn’t think it was fair that I had to watch the baby while he went and played hockey. So, he listened to me and changed the ice time to 10 pm after the baby was in bed! That only made me feel more lonely because now he was gone even later, but I had created the situation myself by not being honest.
A couple called Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks have published a book Conscious Loving which says the key to a successful relationship is to tell the truth about how you feel. Sounds simple but for me it was impossible. Telling the truth is different than accusing your partner of making you feel bad or intellectualizing the experience, but simply saying, “I feel sad,” or “my stomach hurts when you go play hockey on Friday night and I don’t know why.” Whatever it is, just tell the truth as you feel it at the time.
Over the past year, I’ve also learned the importance of setting boundaries with men so they know how to treat you. Some boundaries I’ve set recently are:
1) not having a man over to my place if there’s no one else here
2) not having text conversations
3) saving sex for a committed relationship, possibly even marriage.
I’ve learned that, ironically, it’s best to get into a relationship with a man when you don’t really need him. Hear me out. Even though it goes against movie wisdom, I don’t believe we should pressure men with being responsible for our happiness. Make yourself happy first and then you will attract a partner as healthy as you are. You need to be complete already, Jerry Maguire.
In spite, or perhaps because of my past failed relationships, I still see marriage as the ultimate symbol of hope and love! And I have faith that I will experience it again one day with someone I truly cherish and who cherishes me. When people get married for the right reasons there is nothing more beautiful and I’m so pleased to congratulate Franca as she embarks on the ultimate journey with the love of her life. May you grow together, be tender with each other’s hearts and always bless one another with the truth about how you feel.