I’d heard him talk about how he had some big expenses coming up in 2020. When we finally got the chance to take a weekend away without our baby since she was born over a year ago and he was adamant about a walk in the park, I knew what was coming. Although I was wholeheartedly expecting it, that moment when he pulled me close and said, “I have something to ask you,” wasn’t anything short of magical.
The ring was not at all what I would have imagined (although, I’m not exactly sure what I would have imagined) but it was perfect, just like the man who held it out to me, while kneeling down on one knee.
So, the proposal wasn’t a surprise but you know what was? The emotions and thoughts that consumed me prior to that weekend away. Let me explain.
As the weekend approached, I continuously thought about it. What would I wear? Should I get my nails done? Nah. Does he actually have a ring? Where would he be hiding it?
Okay, okay, I didn’t look for it. I considered checking his coat pockets but I didn’t. And had I found it I wouldn’t have dared to look. Anyways, regardless of whether I wanted them to or not, thoughts about the proposal filled my mind. But then, thoughts about something else started to pop up, at moments when I was least expecting them.
Examining Past Relationships
I was out for a walk with my daughter that week when out of nowhere I thought to myself, “I wasted 4 years of my life on a shitty relationship.” I know, it’s harsh and the word “wasted” isn’t exactly warranted here because this time wasn’t actually wasted. Mistakes bring us to lessons learned, so although I wouldn’t wish 4 years of discontent on anyone, I wouldn’t personally do it any differently if I could. Every little moment has led me right here and this is exactly where I want to be.
Anyways, this thought was more about me wrapping my head around that four year figure than anything. That’s a large chunk of my time that I’ll never get back, during which I was unhappy. This was also right at the start of young adulthood for me, a typically transformative time in our lives. I spent this valuable time with blinders on and being held down. I was unable to reach my full potential and unable to be the person I wanted to be. I could have been this happy all along had I made better decisions.
But I refuse to let myself fall down the rabbit hole of “what if”. Because hypotheticals don’t mean a damn thing when they’re in reference to the past.
Also to note here is that I’m not trying to point the finger and if I was, “the finger” can easily be mine pointing at myself in the mirror. I’m not trying to play a victim. I chose to be in this relationship, no one made me. But I had fallen into it when in a young, immature, and vulnerable place, leading to some poor decision-making.
This realization of valuable time lost was a painful one, that I previously thought I’d made peace with. It was tied to multiple emotions and additional thoughts.
“What do I teach my daughter? How do I prevent her from making these types of decisions?”
“How do I help other people who are still making poor relationship decisions?”
I already have the answer to that last one: I don’t. People almost always have to learn these things on their own (I know I did) but the right environment can definitely help jumpstart some realizations.
For example, when I was in this toxic relationship, I worked with a lot of people who were 5-10 years older than me. A few of them were engaged or married. I witnessed some healthy adult relationships. I witnessed people who were really in love and happy together. I could tell that my relationship at the time wasn’t the same. I could tell that that was the type of relationship I wanted to have when it was time to get married and have kids.
It just took me time to realize that if the guy I’m with right now isn’t someone who I can imagine myself marrying then I might as well be alone. Seriously, it 100% isn’t worth anyones time to be in a committed relationship with someone that you know you wouldn’t want to settle down with.
Okay, maybe you don’t want kids or believe in marriage, that’s fine, you don’t have to. But if you know that the person you’re “committed to” isn’t someone you imagine a future with or want to grow old with. Why are they worth your time now? If they won’t be worth it later?
Unhealthy relationships can cloud your vision, distract you from accomplishing goals, and take your valuable time away from taking care of yourself. The most important thing to do during your young adulthood prior to settling down is to focus on yourself. That way you can figure out exactly what you want in life and know how to put yourself first when you do meet someone.
Later that day I was in the kitchen while my daughter was eating lunch in her high chair when another thought came to mind. It was a simple thought about a different ex entirely. “I wonder how he’s doing”. We hadn’t spoken in years and I was just genuinely curious to know.
This thought kind of took me aback and concerned me at first. Why am I thinking about him? Why am I worried about his life? I sat with it for a while.
I think about old friends in this context all the time. The only difference in this circumstance? This friend happened to be of the opposite sex and someone whom I had a bit of a “past” with.
I later realized that this desire to reach out was entirely healthy. I also knew that my current boyfriend (soon to be fiance) wouldn’t have a problem with my reaching out because he trusts me, he feels confidence between us and we both know that we are in this.
It felt empowering to know that I could make this decision without feeling guilty because I was naturally inclined to after having dated jealous guys in the past. I had totally thought it was normal back then to let the person I was dating have an influence over the decisions I made independently as a person.
So anyways, I messaged the guy and it was a super reassuring conversation. We discussed the fact that although we had a past relationship, we were also close friends for a while and our friendship had ended abruptly. This left me feeling a lack of closure. Letting each other know that we’re cool seemed to be pretty restorative and helpful on both ends. I’m so glad I did it.
There are healthy (and unhealthy) ways to give up parts of yourself in a relationships.
When a woman gets married, she may choose to give up her last name and take that of her husband. She may also choose to have a baby with the man in question, leading her to use her body and time to meet the needs of that child. Once you’re in a committed relationship with someone, both parties will probably run into times when they need to make sacrifices for the needs of their partner.
When you reach the point in your life when marriage or any type of serious commitment (having kids, living together) is happening, you might end up giving up some parts of yourself, for the sake of your relationship. I think it’s about realizing that the person you’re with is worth those sacrifices.
If you’re like me though, you might have already started this process of giving up parts of yourself, only much earlier on in life and in a much less healthy way. In my specific circumstance, I let myself be totally absorbed in unhealthy relationships with boys throughout transformative times in my life such as my teen years and young adulthood. I also let the pain that came along with these relationships become a part of who I am.
So this was my next realization that stemmed from marriage being on the horizon, I had now reached a point in my life when it would be normal, acceptable and okay for me to give up parts of myself for my relationship. But, since I had already allowed past relationships to shape me in an unhealthy way, I was feeling fear.
I realized I had already given up parts of myself in the past, to people who didn’t at all deserve me. Have these relationships shaped me forever? Had parts of myself been taken that I’d now never get back? How much damage has been done by past relationships and in what ways am I changed forever?
This one was a hard pill to swallow.
Here I was, in love and ready to marry the father of my beautiful child. Yet, there was potential that issues could come up in the future of our relationship because of my own biases, issues, and scars from the past. Also, who am I had I not had these relationships? Are they a permanent part of me? That totally freaks me out.
That’s when I realized something else…
Messaging that ex actually had to do with an entirely different relationship.
So to offer a bit of a back story: regarding the ex that I messaged, we were friends up until the point of me starting to date someone else. When I started dating that guy, he was extremely jealous and a little controlling. He caused me to cut off friendships with a couple of different guys whom I was friends with at the time.
That other ex just happened to be one of a number of guys friends who I’d lost in this process. But he also happened to be the only one that I had been friends with for years. Messaging him wasn’t entirely about him, it was more about me getting back something that had been taken from me a long time ago, that I still hadn’t gotten back. It was about gaining back more of my independence. More of my identity.
So let me get this straight, there were parts of myself that a guy I had dated had essentially taken from me (whether he meant to or not, whether i realized it or not) that I to this day, as a grown woman with a child and fiance had still not gotten back!? And I hadn’t even realized it until now!
That blew my mind. And motivates me to share this message for everyone:
NO level of jealousy is healthy in a relationship.
There ya go, I said it. I’m sorry, but I’m also not sorry at all. If your significant other is jealous to the point of having control over your decisions, that isn’t healthy or normal. If you have a hard time enjoying outings away from your significant other, that isn’t healthy or normal. If you’re consistently spending time with a person, doing more than just hooking up and you don’t see yourself settling down with them, they are not worth your time.
Think about it this way: you could be doing damage to yourself right now without even realizing it. You could be damaging or holding yourself back from a future healthy relationship with the right person. As soon as I decided to put my foot down in relationships, I met the man who I’m going to marry and I really don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Take a minute and ask yourself what you want in life, relationships, your future, everything. Evaluate if you’re taking steps right now to get there. What better time than now to start advocating for yourself and get the most out of life?