The past 15 months of my relationship have been tough. Attacked on all fronts; finances, children, parents, illness, and an ex have been a toxic potion that manifested into a beast under our bed and continually fed the ominous voices in my head. The monster devoured happiness and cast an ominous shadow over the hopeful light that represented “forever.” This is the point where many relationship writers like to tell you that they knew they would make it and never lost the belief that their love would conquer all. However, my truth is different. I didn’t know whether the love we share would be enough and, at times, found comfort in the thought of walking away, not from the man I loved but from the constant pain of depression, doubt, and worry. When you haven’t seen the light on the road you’re on for so long you begin to wonder if you’ve stumbled onto the wrong path. I am not ashamed to admit my truth nor will my husband be surprised when he reads this; he knew. Though his commitment remained steadfast, mine wavered and I told him so. The garbage can filled with broken ornaments and empty wine bottles served as a cauldron that bubbled over with a witches brew of resentment, anger, and hopelessness. The garbage collector was the only one who bore witness to the severity of the storm that swirled in our home nearly a year ago. Once again, I am not ashamed as this is my truth. I am human. For nearly a year we hobbled along, tears weighed down our arguments and brutal honesty strangled our hopes for a better tomorrow. My truths to surviving long periods of tough times in a relationship have forced me to reevaluate idealistic notions of long-term commitment.
Truth #1 “Fuck it, I love you anyway”
Surviving in a long term relationship requires that both people make the CHOICE to love each other despite the laundry list of imperfections and transgressions. The beast of burden can only be brought to its knees by the conscious decision to go on. When rainbows have given way to cloudy skies and the hurricane force winds make it impossible for butterflies to take flight, the “fuck its” offer solace. A stubborn peace blanketed our relationship the moment I resolved to continue to love him. The high level of stress carried our emotions away and fanned our tempers but the simple act of choosing to “let go and let love” was like pressing the mute button on the voices of doubt that once shrieked around us. Let’s be clear, loving him didn’t sacrifice my own self. I wasn’t a doormat nor was he a predator. I suddenly realized that we were playing the role of adversaries in a war we didn’t start but had mutual vested interest. We had become expendable pawns on someone else’s chessboard and fought as though it were every man for himself. I love him, he is worthy of love…and that was that.
Truth #2 The Gambler was Right
“Know when to hold them.
Know when to fold them.
Know when to walk away.
Know when to run.”
A relationship is not a game and shouldn’t be treated like one but the stakes are high. When your partner knows you are all in, the rules of engagement drastically change. Only when you show your hand, will your partner’s genuine character and commitment be revealed. Their response to your ditching the poker face will chart the direction of your voyage together or apart. My partner’s response is why we are together a year later. I held too long, folded just in time, and chose to walk away. Not from him, but from the ugly external and illusive internal forces that pulled me to run.
Truth #3 Resentment Hurts You Most
I was angry; balls to the wall, hell in heels, fire breathing ire. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t my fault. It just was. My resentment was all consuming. I became the driver of an emotional cRaZy train; lashing out then crying out. Problem was he was experiencing the same. However justified our feelings may have been we were only hurting ourselves. I was hurting myself. The heaviness in my heart hindered my ability to move on and ravaged my health. Rational choices gave way to emotional instability. The earth beneath me felt less stable and faith dwindled. Unmotivated, insecure, and dejected, I understood my new low would never rise by dragging him into my abyss. Especially when he was descending into his own. I had to let it all go. I had to free him. I had to free me. My pain was not for him to bear and I could no longer resent him for not assuming mine. I knew what I had to do; stop taking the bait, let go of the hook and swim free.
Truth #4 Size Matters
When down and looking up perspective gets skewed. Minor snags become insurmountable hurdles and minuscule mistakes become unforgivable offenses. The monster that lived for nearly a year under our bed had massacred my confidence and contaminated our sex life. I drank the purple kool-aid and felt small. It became nearly impossible to keep things in proportion. Molehills became mountains and streams turned into white water rapids. A glance, comment or ill-timed sigh from either of us lit firestorms and choked the life out of entire weekends. Our home was firmly planted on scorched earth. I had to stop the devastation and force my eyes to see things as they were, not as my own monster tried to convince me they are. It’s hard to look into the mirror when you hate what you see, but in order to gain perspective I had to rise up, glance ahead and gain clarity. Amid devastation came renewal over time. I had to trust that a sigh was just a sigh, a glance was just a glance, and stop lapping up the caustic punch. We deserved a break…especially from each other.
These truths about tough times may be simple but they are not easy; as cliché’ as it may sound. Although we have finally wandered into the light after over a year of darkness and our relationship is much stronger today; I am not going to sit here and preach how thankful I am for the experience. That’s a bullshit tagline that goes on a meme. Honestly, I am not thankful for the experience and certainly not proud of how I handled many moments. This is my reality, my experience, my truths. The beauty of the world today is that we are all connected; where each of us has a voice and story unique to our lives but not unique to the human experience. I am a survivor. I am a fighter. I am a badass. I am also human; loaded with imperfections and weaknesses, like everyone else. Struggling, fighting, crying, and pain are not definitive signs that your relationship is futile. Nor does surviving the experience guarantee its future. My truths lay exposed for the world to see, not to make me appear better or gain sympathy but to hopefully bring comfort to those in tough times; a reminder that you are not alone. Bad times happen to good people and badassery is not always about fighting, sometimes it is knowing when to drop your weapon.
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