“Call me when you have a chance, I need to talk to you!”
I picked up the phone immediately and called and she started pouring out all of the pain that she had been trying to keep tucked in neatly inside her usual composed self.
She had the threat of divorce hanging over her and all of it seeming to stem from an ongoing conflict over parenting in a blended family. Boy, you have no idea how close to home it hit, and still hits, when I think about future relationships.
But when she asked through her sobs, “Will I ever find someone to love me? Will I ever be happy?”, that felt like someone punched me in the stomach. It took me a minute to respond and reassure her, listen to her, be there for her.
But it makes me so sad when I hear this coming from women. Why is it that so many of us (I’ve been guilty of it in the past) stake our happiness in love and relationships?
And why are those questions filled with so much pain, with such an intensity and hope latched on to them?
I am by no means qualified to philosophize on theories of problems rooted in childhood that continue to affect us if we don’t deal with them but it is certainly something I am familiar with.
I can’t help but see myself in other women when I see them struggling; it is partly what has given me the strength to leave relationships in the past. I looked at the women that I grew up around and saw that nothing had changed in their life and perspective (except for more pain, helplessness, and bitterness) in the years that I knew and heard of their troubles. I did not want to be standing in that same unhealthy situation 10, 20, 40 years down the line still hoping in vain that it they would change but the only difference being an aging face in the mirror.
This week marks what would have been 9 years of marriage. It has me feeling like I am visiting a plot at the cemetery but the coffin is filled with broken promises of forever, hope, a teenager’s idea of a family, and memories so dim that they feel like those of another.
When I walked away from that, I felt at my worse. I felt like an utter failure and it encompassed my daily worries, it lived in my dreams, in my dress, and self-awareness. I wondered how I could have failed at loving, I questioned if I loved enough, if I had the capacity to love the right way. And my self-criticism was a daily self-torture routine: was I not pretty enough, smart enough, entertaining/strong/woman enough to make my marriage work?
And most of all I wondered over and over – Would Anyone Ever Love Me? Would I even allow myself to be hurt again?, to be vulnerable once more? Was I even able to feel again?
And the thoughts were only compounded by harassment and hateful statements. Who would love a single mom with two young children? What man in their right mind would even look at me?
And sadly, my self-esteem was so nonexistent that I believed it, I wholeheartedly agreed with him.
And I struggle with forgiving myself for feeling that way; for believing those hurtful words, and for living my life measured by non-existing standards: by the idea that I was and could achieve nothing.
Words of endearment that came my way created an anxiety in me: both a source of disbelief and the idea that I had to conserve this new possibility of someone loving me. And that’s a terrible way to start a new relationship. That is completely unfair to all involved.