3 Ways to Move Past or Protect Yourself from Rejection in Relationships and Dating — Must Be This Tall To Ride

“Your mind deserves to be stimulated. It deserves peace.

Your body deserves to be wanted. It deserves satisfaction.

Your spirit deserves to be nurtured. It deserves whatever support you require on your life journey.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

When I wasn’t crying over my divorce and broken family, I was mostly getting dating wrong. Must Be This Tall To Ride wasn’t about helping anyone. It wasn’t about strengthening relationships, preventing divorce, or improving ourselves. It was simply about me being a trainwreck and amusing myself by sharing stories about it. I had just […]

via 3 Ways to Move Past or Protect Yourself from Rejection in Relationships and Dating — Must Be This Tall To Ride

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Living in the moment

Overthinking. Perhaps it is my nature, or perhaps it is a consequence of history. Either way, my mind is constantly evaluating threads of actions and ideas and words and seeking to interpret the future. Yet while our past informs our future, it cannot always predict it.

Vulnerability terrifies me. Relationships terrify me. Yet I long for the right companionship, someone to laugh with. Someone who doesn’t expect me to shatter with a wrong move. The safety inherent in trusting someone not to go too far.

I have to keep reminding myself to treasure the immediacy of my every moment, to learn and grow and find my peace where I am at now. If I try too hard to examine every little detail I steal tomorrow’s joy too readily.

Dating a friend is certainly different. Our 6 years of history instill a certain level of trust and respect that was missing from my last relationship. I always assumed my edginess regarding physicality was due to my emotionally abusive marriage and the lack of experience with tender, loving touches.

This is the first time I’ve been with someone who both desires me, follows my lead, doesn’t push me past my boundaries… I fell asleep in his arms as we simply cuddled in my living room. No panic aftershocks. A little tenseness that faded into… relaxation. He teased me, mid-way through the night, that I was an aggressive cuddler (having pushed him off a pillow) then rolled over and curled around me, sweet and protective.

Normally I struggle with physical intimacy. Normally I hate being held in such vulnerable positions. When I was still married, my last week before leaving, I had to lay in the arms of someone I thought might kill me if he knew I was planning on leaving. I had to pretend everything was okay.

I wasn’t pretending this week. The danger of catching genuine feelings for this man is suddenly very real and suddenly very intimidating.

Without ignoring anything worth noting, I keep reminding myself one day at a time. Whether this relationship is a season or a lifetime, I know already I will be better for having it.

 

Trusting Myself

Ending a relationship is difficult, and I wish I had listened to my gut and doubts sooner. Guy is a wonderful man, but in the end, he just wasn’t right for me. He helped me heal my most broken places and gave me the gift of being genuinely loved for being myself. I learned a lot about what I am and am not looking for, and learned the dangers of sharing too much history too soon. It put our relationship, I think, into a bit of a rebound category; while he cared so sweetly for me when my self-confidence was low, as I came into myself that care began to feel suffocating.

Healing, for me, sometimes means risking the pain of difficult things. When someone coddles me, or walks on eggshells to avoid distressing me, they take away my opportunities to heal and grow as a person.

So.

New plan. To avoid dealing with getting to know someone as I date, I am only going to date someone who I get to know as a friend first.

So.

Life has a sense of humor.

A long-time friend of five or six years asked me out on a date, and once I got over the surprise (and clarified that he did actually intend this as a date) I accepted. He’s someone I have always found attractive and fun, but as he was a few years younger than me and we had always been involved with other people, nothing ever went anywhere but friendship. He knows some of my past, is one of the people who kept an eye on my ex for me, and has been a good friend without knowing all the details.

Saturday is our second date, and already I know there is something special about this sudden chemistry between us. I’m not sure if this is a relationship that is destined for a season or more, but I know I am going to enjoy the experience and allow myself to have a little fun. As one of my best friends said, maybe this will just be an opportunity to deepen an already good friendship.

My gut? Feels good about this one.

Life After Leaving, Part 3: It’s okay to be happy

What’s wrong with being happy?

A lot of websites, well-meaning people, and marriage ‘fixers’ (especially of the religious variety) will often say that being happy shouldn’t be your end-goal. That marriage is hard, and when you get married you should be in it for the long haul. I don’t entirely disagree, but those comments applied to all marriage relationships (particularly abusive ones) can be extremely problematic.

I should know, that’s one of the reasons I stayed so long, regardless of how miserable I became. It’s also one of the reasons I left and stayed gone, because when I was in… I was ALL in. And when I was out… I was ALL out. One benefit of working so hard at that relationship, I suppose, was I didn’t have any regrets.

In conversations, the same exact words may have different connotations to different people. Sometimes people mistake ‘Happy’ as people wanting to ‘live the high life’. But for me, and I suspect many others in abusive relationships, being happy means I have the freedom to be responsible for myself, own my mistakes without fear, and have what should be ordinary and everyday respect from the people in my life. I suppose what makes me happiest, is feeling fulfilled by my choices, my relationship, and my work.

Being born into a religious family, I think sometimes there is this idea in the Christian faith that anything worth having should be difficult. That to be valued, we must sacrifice. That we shouldn’t care so much about what we have in this world, but what we have in the next. These were all beliefs that led me to stay in an abusive and difficult relationship. If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably a part of the reason I ended up in that relationship to begin with, along with a lack of healthy boundaries.

Although I do still have faith in God and consider myself a Christian, I think some of the church culture nowadays romanticizes service and puts on expectations where our worth and standing is dependant on how much we sacrifice.

This is what I meant, when I said “I want to be happy”.

Before I left, I knew something was missing, a big black hole in our relationship that I struggled to fill. Everything I put into it seemed to be absorbed with nothing to show for the trouble. I didn’t know exactly what I meant when I thought, “I just want to be happy” and I never really felt I could verbalize that thought without people misunderstanding. So when I was finally ready to leave, I told my mom I “didn’t care if I was happy, I just want to be able to sleep.” For me, happiness seemed like a selfish goal, while sleep seemed like a practical and acceptable one.

Now I’ve learned that life can be fulfilling and full of joyous moments as well as difficult ones. If you’re never happy, struggle to find contentment, I think that is a sign of something needing some consideration. Just like physical pain helps us key into problematic physical issues in our body that may need to be addressed, a life absent of pleasure probably means we could use an emotional check-up. For me, that meant rooting my abuser out of my life, and doing the necessary work on myself to heal from that experience. My beliefs and expectations and views on boundaries needed some heavy consideration before I truly found contentment and ‘happiness’ again. It took me about 9 months before I smiled again, after leaving my ex. A genuine smile, not a strained one.

In my abusive relationship, the bar for being ‘happy’ was pretty low. Especially towards the end, to get a ‘happy’ moment was more along the lines of a sense of relief of not getting yelled at or feeling frightened or dealing with a suicidal spouse.

I can clean up just after myself, without being put-down and called lazy.

I can look at my bank account (regardless of positive or negative balance), and know what is going to be in there without any surprises.

I don’t have anyone angry at me, because they bought something expensive and now we don’t have money to pay the electric bill.

No one threatens to kill themselves or slit their wrists if I disagree with them.

My happiness-metric

Being happy doesn’t mean I am always comfortable,  but it does have a lot to do with my feeling content. Happiness for me, is safety in my relationships. The freedom to be my authentic self. To recognize I can’t make everyone happy, and to let go of that expectation. I can be considerate, without making myself responsible for other people’s reactions and feelings. Honesty isn’t always easy, when it leads to difficult discussions, but having the freedom to be honest is part of what makes me happy now.

How do you see happiness? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve shared? Would love to hear from some of you. 🙂

Life after Leaving, Part 1: Retrospective

While I prepare to file a renewal for a protection order (mine is about to expire) there has been a lot to contemplate and ponder. Mostly the soul-searching of, ‘Do I really think he could still come after me?’ (Yes) and ‘Am I overreacting by requesting a renewal?’ (No).

Now that I’ve wrestled with those two questions, I started to reflect on the past two years. No matter how many blogs I read, nothing really prepared me for what life would be like. I know not everyone’s experience is the same, but this is what it was like for me, leaving an abusive relationship of 10+ years. This will be my first ‘series’ of posts – I anticipate, and I hope to get out roughly one a week.

Mine isn’t the only experience – I welcome comments and am happy to share blog posts if folks write (or have written) their own experiences summing up their experiences after leaving an abusive relationship. Questions welcome. Gritty, funny, practical. 🙂

Life after leaving… really started before I left.

I hesitated to speak up for so long, because a part of me knew that once I did, everyone’s feelings about my husband would change.  Even outside of our relationship, he was not the easiest person to get along with, although very few suspected what was really going on. About three years or so before I left, he threatened my life, and I resolved at that time that if things didn’t get better I may have to make a choice I didn’t like.

The last six months of my marriage I struggled with extreme anxiety and depression. I had decided years prior, that I had to be responsible for my own happiness, and I tried for a long time to make that happen within the context of our marriage. So when my health began to go downhill, I began tracking my panic attacks and anxiety, trying to figure out what my triggers were, so I could deal with or remove them, or seek help from a counselor.

All instances led directly to my husband. It took me a few more months, and two or three extreme incidents to finally start reaching out to people I trusted. When my mother asked me, “Honey, do you want to leave?” there was only a moment of silence before I agreed. “Yes.” And broke down. But having made the decision, I felt a temporary lightness and hope. I can be free.

If you haven’t decided to leave your situation yet, my post ‘How Do I Leave?‘ summarizes most of what I felt was helpful, or you can go to the ‘Leaving your Abuser’ tab on my home page and look at the blog posts there.

My original plan was to wait a month, get things together slowly, sneak things out here and there. It was simplified by the fact we had no children. But that night when I first went home, I realized I couldn’t maintain the facade for long. Apparently everyone on my very small team was relieved when I reduced that time frame to a week.

I had help, however. Having allies in this case makes an impossible seeming situation surmountable. 

Life in the Fast Lane

Sometimes everything in my life blurs just beyond my immediate view, like staring out the passenger window during a road trip. Moving so quickly, distinct features fade into hazy generalities. Flash of orange. Rising and falling gray. Fuzzy depths of ambiguous green.

I can guess what those things are… a road sign. A concrete barrier. Trees. But all the details fade with the rush of travelling at 60 mph. Right now my world feels a little like that, emotionally, and I have to consciously ‘pull over’ to stop and examine what is going on.

Continue reading “Life in the Fast Lane”

Rest Stop

Sometimes I forget it is not possible to be in control of everything, all the time. Or that, even if I am in control, my choices do not always lead to the best results. Or, even if my choices don’t lead to ‘the best’ results, who determines what is best and worst? Me. And sometimes those determinations are a little arbitrary, or based on other peoples’ expectations.

The last few weeks have brought with them an overflow of information, a few realizations, an incident with the ex, the Flu, a heart to heart with myself, time with friends, preparation for a long-planned minor surgery, and some heavy considerations regarding my priorities, relationships… pretty much the whole nine yards and then some.

Continue reading “Rest Stop”

Trigger-feelings

He lifted his hand from the wheel, shaking it, sunshine and shadows filtering through the driver’s side window as his knuckles popped. A rueful smile popped across his lips, and he grinned at me during the course of a conversation I no longer remember.

Then his right hand, the one nearest me… he lifted and shook it too. Nothing happened.

Then, he punched it on his thigh, abruptly, suddenly.

He punched his thigh.

Even as he relaxed and sighed in relief as his knuckles cracked, I found myself taut as a guitar string. Staring straight out the window, I breathed carefully as he continued driving, oblivious.

I am safe.

He’s not angry.

He won’t hurt me.

But these are things I said of my ex, too. So there is some discord in my body, trying to decide to believe the things I am telling it. Or not.

Logically – Guy has never done anything to intentionally make me feel unsafe. Quite the opposite, he tries so hard to make things work and make me comfortable.

I don’t want him to walk on eggshells, like I once had to. I say nothing, but I felt the quiet paralyzing my mind and limiting my words as a part of me shut down.

Continue reading “Trigger-feelings”

Insecurity, lurking around every corner

Nothing brings your emotions to light quite like the enforced seclusion of keeping germs to myself. Each night this week I’ve lurched home, dropped my things on the nearest flat surface, and found a corner to coil up in. It’s left me surprisingly little human contact, and allowed my mind far too much space for rampant play.

My rapid forward progress in the healing process was bound to hit a few little roadblocks on the way.

Continue reading “Insecurity, lurking around every corner”

Safety lines

“How would you feel about going away for a weekend?”

I froze, sitting in the car, suddenly aware of the thrum of the wheels against the pavement, the fragility of the windows, Guy – relaxed and easy, driving, and unaware of my fight or flight reaction.

“No rush on deciding,” he continued, voice easy and nonchalant, throwing a smile my direction before focusing back on the road. “but I was just thinking it might be something fun for us.” His own uncertainty slipped out then, as he hurried to add, to reassure, “I want you to feel comfortable, though, so don’t let me pressure you if you’re not ready.” He offered two location options, and then a third with more of a ‘surprise’ potential.

As quickly as my anxiety reared it’s protective head, it settled back down, coiling up like a wary, sleeping dragon with tendrils of smoke and steam still sidling from its nostrils. It wouldn’t take much to stir it up again, but for now, it lay somnolent. Continue reading “Safety lines”

Scar tissue

One of the things we don’t realize, with a surgery, is how difficult and painful scar tissue can be. It binds up the places beneath your skin, thick and difficult and invisible until you make a movement that places tension on it. Which brings pain. And if you do not listen, more pain.

Having excised my ex and his abusive behaviors from my life is a really great start. My protection order is good for another year, the divorce is finalized, and life is regaining some sense of normalcy. From all outward appearances, someone might think me hale and healthy.

Yet for the first time, as I share more time with Guy, I am realizing how much emotional scar tissue remains, however normal I appear on the surface.
Continue reading “Scar tissue”

Relationship Equality

I want to be able to have healthy relationships; to be an equal partner in any romantic relationship I encounter. But what does that mean? What does that look like?

Those questions led me to other questions, like ‘How does individual power within a relationship impact that relationship?’ All those questions led me to this article:

Love and Power

Lots of food for thought here, a lot of it rooted in things my counselor is encouraging me to do to be a healthy individual on my own: shedding co-dependence; finding my own, authentic self; speaking up and having confidence in my own abilities.

We talk about our past as survivors of domestic violence. It’s a natural response, as we try and figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. But sometimes, I think instead of focusing on what went wrong and trying to avoid those things, maybe it is healthier to look at what works,  and what is good for me to grow towards as an individual.

One way, I am essentially walking backwards. The other, I face the proper direction for where I want to go. Which, when it comes down to it, is kind of our goal as we strive to heal from the damage of our past.