I think we all go through phases of life where we feel…stuck.
I have been stuck many times in relationships and situations that are ruled by uncertainty and anxiety, knowing full well that I needed to grow up and move on, but feeling unable to do so. What changed? Switching my perspective to one where I chose to love myself first.
I have friends who are stuck right now in every sense of the word – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. I watch and listen to them, trying to sort out their relationships and knowing exactly how frustrating that feeling is. It’s a cycle of rationalizing, justifying, and making excuses only to see the same situation repeat again and again.
My heart literally feels like it’s breaking open as I listen to my friend thousands of miles away sob into the phone over the previous day’s account of a relationship gone wrong. She immediately begins to blame herself, “what did I do wrong?” and “why won’t he just love me?” This all-too-familiar pattern is one I know very well, the one I too had to learn from and escape.
Eleven years of drama, pain, and chaos. Eleven years of the nagging sense of doubt over the relationship. Uncertainty pervaded from the very beginning, but I didn’t listen. Making a decision to put my big girl panties on and walk away was devastating. The support of an army of strong women gave me strength to hold my head high through the dismantling of my life. Fierce determination and a ‘fake it until you make it’ attitude allowed me to slowly break the cycle and start to heal. It hurt. Processing the pain of my new reality consumed all of my physical, emotional, and mental energy, leaving scraps for anyone else in my life. Awareness that my life turned to complete darkness was stark, but a glimmer of hope flickered that it would get better. In a sense, it was ‘easy’ to leave because the unhealthiness of the relationship became crystal clear. It was undeniable. A tiny voice deep within my soul provided daily assurance I was making a new, beautiful start. For the first time in my life, I was finally being true to me. To my soul, to my desires, dreams, and needs. That’s the stuff you can’t see, touch, or hold.
A devoted friend encouraged me to write a list of what I desired in a life partner. Reminiscent of self-help books and relationship guides, I felt nauseated at the idea. I did it anyway. I wrote a list and looked at it longingly. A journey of finding out who I am, what I like, what feels good to me began. What kind of music do I like? What movies do I want to watch? Yoga. Meditation. Reading. Netflix binging. Eating the foods I liked. It all sounds like no big deal, but to me it was. For the first time, I truly explored those simple daily choices outside of a relationship.
I was choosing me. I built self-esteem, confidence, and a newfound sense of self that made me feel STRONG. I began to like myself. Slowly, loving who I am and honoring myself in all decisions became easier. Learning to draw healthy boundaries in all types of relationships gave me a strong sense of connection to those in my life. Believing and knowing that I am good enough for the things I desire and need in a relationship gave me a different kind of confidence I didn’t know existed.
I recently spoke with my sweet friend who is struggling to make the wrong relationship right. She is going to be moving into her own place and I hope she finds peace in this opportunity to choose something new. I will continue to listen and provide suggestions when asked, as so many have done for me. I will be honest with her and I will love her with all my heart. She can’t FEEL it yet, because she has not learned to love herself. But she will.
Relationships are hard. Boundaries are hard. And getting yourself out of a season of feeling STUCK is really hard. As a mom, this is something I want to model for my daughters, so that when they find themselves in a relationship that isn’t turning out the way they hoped, they can remember to love themselves well first so that they can be confident in who they are, what they want, and be bold enough to not fall into the cycle of stuck.