The title of this post almost sounds like the opening line of a joke, but it isn’t. It’s my story. As the child of a mentally-ill father, I was at the receiving end of his unchecked illness. I was also at the receiving end of a man’s untreated bipolar mood swings and anger, and a narcissist’s “blame and shame game.” I don’t say these things to portray myself as an innocent victim (apart from my childhood experience). I left recovery from childhood sexual/ritual abuse, and left the country in order to pursue a relationship with someone dealing with untreated mental illness, and I was too blinded by the heady rush of a new relationship to see the warning signs clearly.
On some level I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I was too wrapped up in “saving” mode to care. So imagine an empath with unhealed P.T.S.D., trying to ‘save’ someone else. And instead of going back to therapy after my divorce and move back to my hometown, I went right into another relationship, with the man who would become my second ex-husband. I was still in a lot of pain after the breakdown of my first marriage, with the man I loved, who I believed to be my soulmate, and I did what I thought I had to do at the time to ‘get over’ him. So, I jumped into another relationship, just a few short months after my first husband and I separated. I’m sure you can imagine how well that turned out.
For many years, I’ve had this fantasy that I could find a ‘broken’ or ‘wounded’ man, and save him. It’s something I’ve always known on some level, but have only faced up to recently, and decided to tackle, head on. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where this fantasy came from. I clearly wanted to reenact the father-daughter dynamic, but with a different outcome. As a born empath, with a gift I believe I inherited from my mother, being a healer comes naturally to me. Growing up in a dysfunctional environment primed me for codependency. For years I believed that if I loved someone enough, they could change, and become the person that I needed them to be. I’ve seen this pattern play out, time and time again, in all of my romantic relationships. I have almost always attracted people who are either mentally and emotionally draining, OR emotionally unavailable.
They either zap my time, love and energy, or I zap my own, trying to make a meaningful relationship out of a one-sided connection.
It’s taken me almost 41 years to realize that you can’t either ‘fix’ or ‘save’ someone- all you can do is love them, or walk away if the relationship is too draining or abusive. I have also learned the plethora of ways in which a relationship CAN be abusive, and it isn’t pretty. Even those little put-downs, disguised as “jokes,” dig tiny holes into this fortress of self-love, that I’ve had to learn how to build from the ground up. I’ve also had to learn how to trust my own intuition, above all other advice, however well-meaning, and to walk away whenever it feels “icky.”
As much as I still fantasize about finding true love in this lifetime, I’ve gotten much better at following my intuition, and using the heartbreaks and lessons learned from the past to guide me as I navigate my way through the wilderness of modern dating. I’m taking a hiatus from dating for now, but I’ve realized that I have had to learn from scratch what real love actually is, by learning what it most definitely is NOT. I was bound to make a few mistakes along the way, considering that I didn’t really have a consistent blueprint to learn from, growing up. Practicing kindness and self-care is a form of self-love. Taking care of myself in situations with others, including men, is another form of self-love. Embracing the fact that I don’t have to explain myself to anyone when it comes to following my inner guidance is a step forward for me- I’ve finally moved past the point where I immediately run the other way (as advised in the past) the minute I find myself attracted to someone – for fear of the same dysfunctional patterns repeating. I now know how to SEE the pattern for myself, before putting the blinders on, which is something I’d always done before. This is progress- this feels good. Maybe one day I will find true love! But in the meantime, I’m learning to find true love with this impossibly complex, fascinating woman I see in the mirror…me!