I’m fortunate enough to be with a man I consider a real partner. Over the past two and a half years, my boyfriend Matt, has shown me love and respect and mounds of support. And it hasn’t always been easy.
Let me give you some back story: my boyfriend Matt and I moved back here to Houston, our hometown, about six months ago. Prior to that, we had lived in Tucson, AZ for 10 months. It was a magical time in a new and exciting environment and though we had our problems there, it almost felt like an extended vacation: a time of pure bliss.
And then… we came back to Texas. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got its perks-namely the fact that we’re close to some family and close friends again- but it has its drawbacks too. For a variety of reasons, my relationship with my hometown has been a tortured one. I’ve never quite felt like I fit in, longing instead to be somewhere else…
In high school, without ever having visited NYC, I decided I would go to college there, specifically NYU. It was a bold move, but also a misguided one. It was during this time that a lot of my addictive tendencies surfaced and looking back, I remember little more than pot smoke-filled dorm rooms and an ongoing attempt to fit in. It was a vulnerable time in my life and unwilling to face the pains of uncertainty, I clung to who and whatever would provide me temporary relief- a way to ease the inferno within.
It was during college that I had my first serious relationship. Jake and I dated for nearly 3 years and as time wore on, I came to depend on my boyfriend more and more. Whether it was drugs, a real apartment to reside in or my ongoing need for emotional reassurance- I expected him to provide all these things for me. At the time, of course, I didn’t see it this way.
It wasn’t until December of my senior year that things reached a head and I ended it. Truth be told, I completely exhausted Jake and the break-up, though incredibly painful for both of us, was something of a welcome relief as well.
I had, unknowingly and without ever having heard the term ‘co-dependent’ completely absorbed this other person’s being into my own. And in case you’re thinking ‘how sweet,’ let me assure you– there was nothing sweet about it.
I was needy and demanding and riddled with insecurity. But I guess I thought if I could get this person I loved and respected greatly, particularly for his intelligence and creativity, to love and respect me in return; I would be complete.. happy.. whole.
What I’ve come to see is, I put WAY too much stock in this one person and this one relationship. And thus, when it ended, I was literally lost. It was as if I didn’t know who I was outside of this relationship because at a time when most people were coming into their own and establishing a personal adult identity, I was too busy trying to earn the undying affection of this one person.
Sadly, it’s a pattern that commenced in another serious relationship three years later. At this point I was back in Houston and newly sober. I was just beginning to figure out who this new me was when Mike walked into my life. He was charming and well-spoken and had something I didn’t- long-term sobriety and spiritual awareness. At a time when I was still very insecure and looking for answers amongst my new like-minded peers, I gravitated toward a man I thought would, once again, fill me up.
Keep in mind, none of this was carried out on a conscious level. I was simply seeking to fill a gap that wouldn’t go away.
Over the course of the next year and a half, the relationship became increasingly strained and my insecurity festered. There was one incident in particular that became a sticking point- something I returned to again and again, hoping he would finally offer the solace (and the validation) I so desperately needed.
That day never came.
And in late June of 2011, we broke up. It was a mutual decision, and as much as I wanted to undo it, my sub-conscious knew better. What started as a quiet whisper of doubt had grown into a wild web of neurosis and nagging insecurity. And that’s not to say I didn’t have reason to feel this way.
Ultimately though, I’m responsible for my own emotional hangups, particularly when I allow them to long out-serve their function. I also knew my needs weren’t being met and yet again, it’s up to me to communicate this fact instead of staying and blindly hoping this fact would change.
Today, I’m tremendously grateful for both these relationships. I no longer view them as failures but awesome lessons in learning to love and care for myself. They’ve also shed a lot of light (and at times, some shadows) on my current relationship.
I’ll be honest– the timing with Matt wasn’t great. I say that because we started seeing each other in late July of 2011- yes, less than a month after my last serious relationship ended. We both acknowledged this fact and yet could not resist pursuing the undeniable chemistry and connection that existed between us.
The first two evenings we spent together was the stuff of fairytales- hours after hour dissolving into oblivion as we shared tales of our childhood, travels, and passions.
There was shared pain too. We had both known the awfulness of alcoholism and were now pursuing a path of recovery. I felt excited about life and the future for the first time in a long while after those initial conversations.
I think I knew, even then, that this man would change my world.
Through his compassion, loyalty, and unwavering commitment- Matt has given me the space to step into my true self- evolving and uncertain as that ‘self’ can sometimes be. He’s let me be me, neurosis and unresolved issues and all.
I no longer feel one fight or insult away from complete collapse and I don’t have to leech his love and approval either.
This has allowed me to not only get more in touch with my own desires, goals, and dreams; it has allowed me to begin healing from past hurts and the patterns that still plague me.
I believe that whatever type of “work” we involve ourselves in; it’s vital that we have the right team– the right support– around us. Not only for encouragement and guidance but because without that safe space around us, it’s nearly impossible to delve into the really deep, painful stuff.
In the last couple years, I’ve grown tremendously and had the courage to look at some wounds, both past and present, that I simply wasn’t capable of looking at before. And yes, time alone does help. But it’s the people around us- our mentors and friends, family and lovers- that reflect back our own trouble spots and help us truly transform.
I guess what I’m saying is, I couldn’t be happier to have had my heart broken– it’s helped me get in touch with that tender pit of pain I’ve long held inside– the pain that’s told me I need men and drugs and money and all that superfluous stuff to be okay.
And the truth is, all I really need to be okay is a loving relationship with myself and my GOD.
So these days, I try to remember that all pain has something to teach me and that if I can stay with it, even just a little bit, I’m bound to find something pretty sweet on the other side.