A friend of mine recently shared a very inspiring post about the power of self-love, she had spent years battling with who she was and changing this to please the people she was spending time with; she wrote that it was only when she made friends with herself and started to put herself first that she was able to make space for a genuine relationship. I absolutely agree with everything she wrote but I wanted to share my experience because in hindsight whilst I always thought I was a strong single women, I realised that it was my relationship that taught me how to make friends with myself, how to forgive and how to enjoy life more.
I met my boyfriend of 5-years when I was a very lively, ‘happy go lucky’ 23 year old, I loved socialising and spending my weekends drinking and dancing with my girlfriends. I hadn’t been in a relationship for 6-years, whilst I had enjoyed a few short-term flings, I struggled to develop emotional connections and quickly got bored. I had expected the same would happen with my current partner. On reflection, I had spent the first few months of our relationship up to my usual tricks; distancing myself and then showing interest; finding buttons to push and making a drama out of tiny mishaps, of course I didn’t realise I was doing this at the time. Each time my partner would brush them off and love me all the same, I remember saying to my sister “I think I might be with this one for a while”. As I started to feel more secure in this relationship, I started to fear that someone would take my partner from me. I had never been a jealous person, I believed I had so much self-love that I didn’t need to worry about anyone else, but the first two-years of our relationship brought a real ugly and vocal green eyed monster. Whilst this was infrequent compared to the majorly happy memories we were making, it was enough for me to worry that my partner or even myself may get fed up and leave. I remember once saying to my partner “what if I’m like this forever” (a jealous girlfriend) and he replied with absolute certainty “you won’t be”. His faith in me encouraged me to figure out where these insecure emotions were coming from.
Whilst I wanted to find the root cause of my insecurity because I wanted to stop harming my relationship, I found that I couldn’t really take this seriously until I wanted to do it for myself;
Lesson number 1
I had to accept that I wasn’t this confident, empowering, radiating with self-love woman that I had believed myself to be for so long. If this was true I would have no reason to fear losing the man I loved. So whilst my relationship forced me to recognise that I didn’t have so much self-love, it also forced me to find out why this was; this helped me to know myself better and to show myself compassion. Consequently I began to love myself enough to not want to hurt myself and this meant releasing any negative emotions that were causing me pain; in this case that was jealousy or fear of losing my relationship.
Lesson number 2
I remember I once said to my partner that the reason I would get jealous and fearful of losing him was because I had suffered bereavement of my Grandad and my dad when I was a child; he told me this was not an excuse. I remember at the time I thought this a heartless thing to say but on reflection he was right and in turn this taught me that I had a habit of blaming; I wasn’t taking responsibility for my actions and whilst I was doing this I could never get better.. because you can’t fix it when it’s not yours to fix.
Lesson number 3
I didn’t realise how much of a control freak I was. One of the reasons I enjoyed being single so much was because I had my weeks planned like a rota; I knew exactly what I was doing at exactly what time and I could get quite upset when someone messed that up. My partner is fun, spontaneous and is always late. My relationship has taught me to live in the moment; it has taught me that being 10-minutes late is not the end of the world and spontaneity can be more fun than it is scary. I am a lot more adventurous and carefree since the beginning of my relationship.
Lesson number 4
I had no idea how selfish I was!! My partner never told me I was selfish or insecure or blameful, in fact I can’t remember a negative thing he has ever said to me about my personality or appearance. My partner gave me time, patience and a lot of love, when he tried to give that to anyone else I got fearful and demanded that he give it all back to me. It’s not fair to expect your partner not to be kind, not to laugh with or not to give attention to another person. I think a lot of people, particularly those who have been betrayed in a relationship struggle with this; but know that your relationship will fail if you continue to put a barrier between your partner and the outside world, it is not natural.
Lesson number 5
Forgiveness is the key to a happy life; my partner never brings up the past, when I am angry I can say some pretty hurtful things but he has never used them against me. I used to live by the motto ‘forgive but never forget’; if someone hurt me I could quite easily accept their apology but I would hold a grudge for a while. My partners ability to forgive and forget has taught me that if you choose to forgive a person you must also choose to forget because otherwise it will eat you up, you will bring up the past and you will destroy relationships; so essentially you are not forgiving at all.
I cannot give my partner full credit for my personal development since the beginning of our relationship, I could not have learnt any of this had I not chosen to be aware of my actions and their impact. I made the choice to grow and to learn; nobody has the power to change us, but anybody can set an example that can nudge us in the right or wrong direction, without them even realising they are doing it. The right relationship offers a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, it can be and should be empowering. So while I agree that we need to focus on loving ourselves before we go searching for someone else to love us for us, don’t let the journey put you off a blossoming romance, it just might help you reach the destination.