Ideally, I would love to say that over the course of the last 10 years as I traversed the wild and unmapped terrain from divorce to dating to disastrous short-lived relationships that I went from boundary-less, anxious, heart on her sleeve optimist to shrewd, steely-eyed, sovereign Queen. That wouldn’t be the whole story though and it would gloss over many of the harder experiences that have made me the person I am today.
You see despite all my training, qualifications and personal development courses, I felt like I would never have a lasting relationship without compromising who I was. I thought that I must be wanting something that didn’t really exist, or even worse, perhaps there was actually something wrong with me that made me impossible to love.
I felt ashamed and embarrassed, and instead of giving myself the one thing that I actually needed, which was time, I rushed to mask my feelings and move onto the next thing. A tactic I don’t recommend. Recently I have found myself through seemingly no effort of my own, (although this, of course, is not true) in a loving stable drama free and secure relationship. Because I can’t just let this happy accident be, I went looking for the mechanics behind it. You could say I’m a big fan of reverse engineering.
My story is not so dissimilar to many women in the health and wellness industry, a history of health issues, a dash of unresolved trauma, a soul memory that hungers for the open horizon and with a splash of magic thrown in, you have my life up until my mid 30’s. Degrees, marriage, world travel with a soul mate, a home in a backpack across a couple of continents. It looked perfect.
But that hunger remained. That hunger that women nod in agreement with when I mention it. Hunger for connection, with themselves with their lover with the spark of their life. So I spent my 30’s painfully and publicly unraveling, leaving my marriage, making a million bad decisions and eventually, broke, bruised but in one piece, embracing my single beautiful life.
If I could go back and gift myself anything it would be compassion. Compassion and understanding that I was giving myself the experiences I needed, to know how to make strong sovereign decisions. Experiences that would cultivate future discernment and self-love however hard-won they were.
At some point, it became very apparent that I was addicted to a kind of chaos. And no, not in the way that some very unhelpful people may have mentioned this to me over time. But at a cellular biochemical level; that the push-pull, the abandonment, and abuse had been hard-wired into my very chemistry.
With all the aforementioned study I intellectually understood that this was what was happening. I needed to step away once I felt that all too familiar rush that I associated with love, that was actually the precursor to pain and drama. The one thing I didn’t realize though was that I didn’t have a reference point. A physical, internal reference point for what the opposite of this felt like. What a safe loving secure relationship felt like. This needed to be an inside job and I wasn’t sure where to begin.
So for a little, while I gave up, it was too unknown and felt like it would take too much work. It was the best thing I could have done. Finally, I had given myself the gift of time. I focused on my health; my poor adrenals had been smashed and I poured myself, heart and soul, into my business. I was a single woman living on her own, running her own business and I got to decide that, that in fact, was an enormous privilege.
I was enjoying a lifestyle that women for centuries had fought for. I came home to my dog, I watched the sunrise every morning on the beach.
I mean, success gets to look like whatever I damn well want it to and I was pretty happy with this version of it.
So how did this all conspire to create the right conditions for a healthy relationship? The benefit of time and self-care seems obvious in hindsight. I gave myself permission to focus on nourishing myself in a way that supported running the life I was leading. I cultivated a solid internal reference point for how much energy I had left to share with friends and colleagues alike.
There is nothing like burning out to make you work on your boundaries! I was no longer prepared to compromise myself or my values. I had a deep respect for myself and a new found level of discernment that worked like a superpower. All in all I gave myself the foundation for a healthy successful life regardless of whether I found myself in a relationship ever again.
And yet with ALL of this, I still didn’t recognize it when he walked into my life. There was no spark I said, but I really love how we communicate and spend time together, can we keep doing that? It’s like I was used to being showered in cheap high-intensity chili sauce and now my palate was being required to savor a more subtle flavor while still glancing around for the tabasco!
The clever man said “Yes, sure I’m enjoying our friendship” So it began. The slow burner they always talk about. It took time (so much time) for my nervous system to deregulate and for me to recognize who he really was (and is) to me. A process that honestly is still on going. It’s been a lifetime of adrenaline, cortisol, fear, and shame. It might take a little while for that pattern to wane and the new healthy one to take solid formation and that’s ok.
What I would love is if more women knew this. That it’s ok to stop rushing, to stop pleasing. To stop glancing at others in relationships and assuming that they have it all sorted. What if we took time to discover in ourselves what we need and then share that with those in our lives. As non-negotiable.
How much more straightforward could it be? How much less shame and berating of ourselves there might be. This is my prayer for all of us.
Love in all its forms is an inside job,
I’m so glad I eventually focused on me.