I knew what I was risking. I knew what I was walking away from in that moment.
I was afraid. I was afraid I would walk away and the second chance I prayed for may never come again.
And yet, I knew it was the best choice for me. I had spent too many nights falling in love with the potential of this relationship to give up any more of my sovereignty to it.
It was time.
From the very first date, I knew that I wasn’t the only person they were dating. I had a feeling deep inside my gut that made me create stories around their behavior. And still, I made excuses for their actions.
I dug myself a huge hole that I couldn’t escape from when I thought to myself, “Oh, they’re just busy.” or “They will eventually choose me if I hold on a little longer and am the nice guy that doesn’t rock the boat or attack their behavior.”
I had convinced myself that this was my bullshit coming up. That these were my insecurities rising to the surface in our new relationship. If you could even call it that because there was never a container created for a relationship to grow.
And that is what I can take ownership over. I can accept that I abandoned myself to get someone else to like me, as a classic Nice Guy would. The thing is that I had done the work to destroy that Nice Guy behavior long ago, when I had become single in 2017.
I had walked away from a manipulative and controlling partnership full of lies and deceit. I thought that was the turning point for me by setting boundaries and non negotiable in that relationship.
And that was the hang up for me. I was thinking that I was entitled to an easy life with a future partner because I had set boundaries and left a substandard relationship with low accountability behavior. I took ownership over my part of the dissolution of that relationship and I applaud myself for that even to this day.
What I didn’t realize was that the Nice Guy still lived deep inside me and was waiting for another chance to sabotage a future relationship.
As the saying goes, “The universe will send you tests in different partners until you learn the lesson you are meant to learn.”
And that’s exactly what happened in the fall of 2019. I met someone that surprised the hell out of me. Who showed up and confused the hell out of me. Who challenged all the work that I had done in two years of being single.
And I wasn’t ready to move beyond repeating the same patterns of self-abandonment to earn someone’s love. The lesson I learned was a simple AND hard one to learn.
Don’t do that.
Easier said than done, right?
Especially when you have an activated anxious attachment style. Or past trauma. Or depression. Or limiting beliefs ingrained in you since childhood.
I didn’t heal these wounds so they kept showing up in relationships over and over again. That’s what this relationship was meant to teach me.
It entered my life when I was taking a “break” from dating. That was the first boundary I violated on my own that started the pattern all over. Can you relate?
We are led to believe that love finds us when we aren’t looking for it. Have you heard this myth or fairy tale before?
The expression is true in some respects and what it leaves out is that love will find you when you are busy doing the work to heal the wounds and shame you’ve hidden from yourself and others.
That’s where I thought I was at that time around. I was in counseling and two men’s groups. I was building my in-home and remote personal training business while I focused on daily journaling, consistent workouts, and my purpose in life.
That’s when the universe decided to send me a test to rival all tests. In the disguise of an online dating app match that resurfaced after three weeks of no contact. I’m sure that “submarine” type behavior sounds familiar to you if you’ve spent any time online dating.
Remember when I said I was doing “the work”? Yep, weekly counseling and bi-weekly men’s groups were helping me grow and thank god I began that work when I did because I wouldn’t be where I am today without each of those experiences.
However, I look back on the work I was doing, trending in the right direction, and the timing of this relationship in my life with a clearer picture now than when I was going though it. Hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it?
In counseling sessions and men’s group meetings alike, I had voiced my concern that dating at that time was distracting me from reaching my highest priority goals. I had also voiced my commitment to take a break.
Hence the test from the universe to see how strong I really was. As it turns out, I wasn’t strong enough to set the boundaries necessary to remain my sovereign self. Sovereignty to me means that I pursue my life’s passions whether I have a partner or am single. I attend all the same events whether I have a partner or am single.
The difference is who I invite into that world. When I’m single, I would invite my friends, family, and clients to step into my world. When I’m dating, I invite potential partners into that world, one step at a time.
Sovereignty to me, means, I still keep my jiu-jitsu schedule, my work remains a priority, and church is a big part of my life. To me, building a partnership with someone means inviting them into those worlds and letting them choose to join me or support me while I still pursue them with all my heart and energy.
There’s plenty of time for passions, pursuits, and a partnership when you’re aligned with you most authentic self.
When you begin to abandon yourself and your needs… that’s when the energy for life fades and your partner becomes your focus. That’s where I ended up by not setting boundaries in the fall of 2019.
My experience didn’t include opportunities to stand up for myself, I just didn’t take the chance to risk the relationship. That’s a huge part of dating, taking risks and getting shot down. That’s how we learn.
Opportunities started to pop up right after the first date. A delay of a text back by 48 hours led to making excuses for that behavior. “Oh, that’s just how they communicate” or “They are allowed to have a life outside of our one date!”
Have you found yourself saying any of these to yourself to make excuses for other people’s behavior? For sure, I have too.
The chance I had to step up and stand up for myself came time and time again and with each test, I failed bigger and bigger. At least in that person’s subconscious. For in the beginning, we live in two different truths; theirs and mine.
That’s where the excuses begin. In my story and not theirs. From that storyline, comes the excuses and justifications for their actions. So what if they don’t text me back for two days?
I have a busy life too! I’m familiar with my attachment styles and understand that texting back too quickly can come across as needy.
I say fuck that. I have learned since that setting boundaries would have drastically changed my perception of my worth and how much value my emotions, time, and mental health have to me.
Simple saying, “Hey! I’ve noticed it takes you a couple days to get back to me via text when I asked what your week looked like. That makes me feel like you aren’t interested. Is there any truth to that?”
I’ve got it all right there. I’ve labeled a behavior without judgement. I’ve set a boundary with someone I hardly know. AND I’ve shown someone that my time is as valuable as anyone else.
That question comes from a secure place within the first couple dates and if the behavior continues, you can exit before you continue to make excuses or they can step up and treat the container of the new relationship with respect.
The major mistake I continued to make, reflecting back on my Nice Guy behavior was to believe that if I was a good boy, I’d have a nice and smooth life. Not the case for anyone, let alone in modern dating with options available 24/7 online.
Life ain’t fair. It will throw you to the wolves and remind you that you will grow more through pain than you will through the good times. That’s what prompts me to write this blog post today.
After two months of self-abandonment and allowing someone to treat me in a substandard way, I walked away while still being in love with another. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever made…
To walk away from so much potential in a relationship and I’ve learned since, “Don’t fall in love with someone’s potential.”
You fall in love with their reality.
Since that day (and four months later when they followed me on social media), I have learned to set healthy boundaries for myself that empower me to say yes or no when I want to. When it serves me and my space to do so.
There were hard times during that four months and when someone reaches out to you on social media after a long break, whatever their intentions, they must make an effort to reenter your life. You cannot allow them back with low accountability behavior or the pattern will repeat. Again and again.
I feel as if I’ve learned my lesson the universe wished me to discover through this journey. I feel as if I healed a codependent wound that was lying under the surface for years, lurking, and waiting for another chance to sabotage my relationships.
Never again will that part of my shadow show up to hold me back from what I want and deserve. What is the shadow?
The shadow is the parts of us we wish no one would ever see. The parts of our psyche that stays hidden until it leaks out as anger, rage, anxiety, depression, self-suppression, or addiction.
How do we address the shadow? We look into the literal and proverbial mirror to see what we haven’t wanted to see for years or decades. We peel back the layers of the onion and remove the masks that are only protecting us from the love we desire and deserve.
Ask yourself- “What do you let yourself get away with over and over again?” “What do you not want to be held accountable for?”
Those are the shadows we live in every day until they show up to stop us short of our ideal relationships, careers, or reaching our goals.
Since walking away from that potential relationship, I have chosen to look inward deeply to uncover those parts of the shadow that hold me back.
I have looked through the lens of the Enneagram and have found my anger that masks fear, shame, and pain. As a result, I have found my voice through clean anger that lets me and others know when a boundary has been crossed for the last time. My voice has the power to say NO once again.
I have reached deep into my past through the lens of attachment theory to discover a fearful avoidant attachment style rooted in assault and abuse. Many many years have gone by since those events occurred and my attachment style had been in charge for too long; attracting avoidant and anxious partners alike to teach me lessons that have taken me 40 years to face.
Those lenses have brought me to a place of consciousness that have my highest values rising to the surface in my current relationship. A relationship that I have risked losing everyday for the past five months by setting boundaries that show my partner how to love me that has created a safe place for me to show my authentic self while viewing them through childlike eyes.
The lens I view my partnership today is so much clearer than my cloudy vision 18 months ago. It’s not all doom and gloom out there in the dating scene in 2021.
I promise you that if I can make major changes in my life in the past year, anyone can.
I reflect back on that time in my life with gratitude for what it taught me. It taught me what to be conscious to in a relationship. It taught me to remember my worth and not to lose sight of that for even a moment.
I have gratitude for the understanding of what healthy masculinity looks like for me and how when I remain grounded, centered, and aligned, all that I wish for in this life is on it’s way to me.
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