Being alone doesn’t mean you’re weak, it simply means you’re strong enough to wait for the right relationship.
“It’s been exactly ten years since my controlling, abusive ex-fiancé sold my favorite guitar which cost almost $1,000 and took me ages to save for. He sold it on the day I broke up with him. When I went to pick up my belongings, he was proud that he had sold it to a local pawnshop. Luckily, I managed to track down the guy that bought it from the pawnshop. The guy was really sweet and gave it back to me for free, on the condition that I join him on his front porch for an hour and play guitar with him. He grabbed a second guitar and we ended up sitting there on his porch for the rest of the afternoon playing music, talking, and laughing. He’s been my husband for almost nine years now, and we are happier now than ever.”
That’s a paraphrased version of a story one of our coaching clients, Megan, lived through a while back. It’s one of those life stories that really stuck with me – one that I still think about on a regular basis. And it immediately came to mind this morning when a new reader of ours, Jay, emailed me a long story about his present, broken relationship. Specifically this one line jumped out at me: “I feel like I’ve given up my love, my passions, my friendships, and my life for her, but it’s never enough.”
Using Megan’s story as a frame of reference, we are reminded that unhealthy relationships restrict and impair, while healthy relationships bring freedom and life to our existence. It’s important to remember the difference. It’s important to remember what you should NEVER have to give up for a relationship. And that’s what this article is about – some good reminders for Jay, and for all of us…
1. Your imperfect magnificence.
It’s not hard to find someone who tells you they love you; it’s hard to find someone who actually means it. But you will find them eventually, so don’t rush love, and don’t settle. Find someone who isn’t afraid to admit they miss you. Someone who knows you’re not perfect, but appreciates you as you are. One who gives their heart completely. Someone who says, “I love you” and then proves it day in and day out. Find someone who wouldn’t mind waking up with you in the morning, seeing your wrinkles and grey hair, and then falls in love with you all over again.
Remember, to the people who truly love you, you are magnificent already. This is not because they’re blind to your shortcomings, but because they so vividly see the beauty of your soul. Your shortcomings then dim by comparison. The people who care about you are willing to let you be imperfect and magnificent, at the same time.
2. The right to decide for yourself.
Don’t put the only keys to your growth and happiness in someone else’s pocket. Relationships are not about authority and obedience; they’re agreements of love and respect. You simply can’t live your entire life through someone else’s fantasies. There must be compromise and the space to do what’s right for you, even if someone you care about disagrees. Give, but don’t allow yourself to be used. Listen to loved ones, but don’t lose track of your inner voice in the process.
Never apologize for what you feel and what you don’t feel; that’s a betrayal of your truth. No matter how much advice people give you, sometimes you have to feel things out for yourself, make decisions on your own, experience things firsthand, and build your own conclusions from the ground up the old fashion way. (Read Choose Yourself.)
3. Your innate human need to be understood.
There’s honestly nothing more intimate than simply being understood and understanding someone else in return. Even when there are disagreements, every healthy relationship contains this mutual understanding – a loving space filled with listening and compromise.
So remember to listen without defending, and speak without offending. Communication isn’t just an important part of a relationship, it is the relationship. And really, there’s only one rule for being a good communicator: the willingness to hear others. Because we do not always need a busy mind that speaks, just a patient heart that listens.
4. The freedom to love.
Love is the creative force of the universe. It is as important to life as oxygen is to breathing. When it is present in our lives we feel happier, more optimistic and fulfilled. Without it, we become angry, cynical, resentful people, critical of ourselves and others, effectively squashing the greatness that exists in us, and diminishing our own light.
Open your heart and let love out. Love people. Love experiences. Love yourself. And let go of those who try to stop you.
5. The courage and willingness to experiment with life.
To live a great life, you must lose your fear of being wrong. Remember that doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Even when things don’t work out, they do. Because in the end, experience is what you get when you didn’t get exactly what you wanted, and experience is often the most valuable thing you have to give.
So don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. Don’t let someone scare you out of failing forward. All of life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. Either you will succeed or you will learn the next best step. Win-win. (Read Start.)
6. Your joy.
Never let anyone or anything get in the way of your joy. Live a life that makes you smile. Because you don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that your life is a collection of meetings and “someday’s” and errands and receipts and empty promises.
So go ahead and sing out loud in the car with the windows down, and dance in your living room, and stay up all night laughing, and paint your walls any color you want, and enjoy some port wine and chocolate cake. Yes, and go ahead and sleep in on clean white sheets, and throw parties, and paint, and write poetry, and read books so good they make you lose track of time. And just keep living and laughing and making God glad that he gave life to someone who loves and cherishes the gift.
7. Other important relationships, including the one you have with yourself.
If a relationship is closing you off from the world, it’s time to break free. It’s time to choose love over deception. After all, that’s what love is all about – freedom.
So don’t blame love if a broken relationship is interfering with your other important relationships, or robbing you of your self-esteem and personal freedoms. No, don’t blame love. For it isn’t love that’s stealing from you. It’s possession. It’s obsession. It’s manipulation. It’s confusion. Love has nothing to do with your situation. For love doesn’t close the door on happiness and liberty. It opens it wide to let more in.
Likewise, if someone expects you to be someone you’re not, take a step back. It’s wiser to lose relationships over being who you are, than to keep them intact by pretending to be someone else. It’s easier to nurse a little heartache and meet someone new, than it is to piece together your own shattered identity. It’s easier to fill an empty space within your life where someone else used to be, than it is to fill the empty space within yourself where YOU used to be. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
8. Your inner peace and composure.
No matter what you do or how amazing you are, throughout your lifetime some people will still upset you, disrespect you, and treat you poorly. Let them be; let karma deal with the cruel things they have done. Hatred and negativity filling your heart and mind will only consume you and your potential. You will begin to heal and grow emotionally when you let go of these past hurts, excuse the people who have wronged you, and forgive yourself for your misjudgments.
Bottom line: Learning to ignore certain people and situations is one of the great paths to inner peace. So let GO when you must. Let them be, so you can be at peace.
The floor is yours…
What else would you add to the list? What should you NEVER have to give up for a relationship? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Photo by: Vega
What’s crazy is you seem to always post about the exact thing in dealing with at the moment of darkness. Thank you again. As always
It far easier to take nastiness from people when you realize it’s about them, not you. Positive/happy people produce positive behavior. Negative/unhappy people spew their nastiness whenever they have the opportunity. Just following fb is a good example. If it’s any consolation, you may get a ‘reaction’ of it, but they live with their nastiness 24/7. Sad.
So very true. I recognize that is where my relationship is and now I just need to act on it without the fear of reprisal.
Shawn Lowe says
I lost myself in a relationship recently. I’d been single for a very long time. I didn’t see him coming and I certainly didn’t expect to fall so hard for him. It was as messy a situation as it can get. I feel so humiliated. I did end it, but I know he wanted to and didn’t have the courage. Months later I sob and grieve and hurt so bad I can hardly breathe. It was the right thing to do for a million reasons and I learned a lot about myself that will propel me forward in a positive way, but I’ve never loved anyone like I love him. I just pray that someday I will understand it all.
Dear Shawn, your story and mine are exactly the same and I suppose I could feel ‘humiliated’…however, instead I feel empowered….I had the courage to take the chance so will never spend my time with “what if’ regrets because I didn’t; I fell down and skinned my knees but guess what? It didn’t kill me to fall off my trike…so I’m going to get back on and keep on trucking and go toward love. It’s taught me plenty, I’ve started my own blog Diamond Chips and Seafoam, which is helping me stay honest with myself.
Don’t feel humiliated because you took a chance or because it didn’t work ……just look at how courageous you were! And as much as it hurts not wise enough to walk away from what served neither you nor him. You may have lost him, but something tells me, you’ve found yourself.
Much love & peace!
Thank you. I’ve enjoyed reading this post and all the interesting comments.
As a woman of 50, I have met quite a lot of people with so much ‘baggage’ – hurt, idiosyncrasies, mistrust, etc., they’ve carried around from past relationships. I can attest to having these things also, but I’ve learned that before I can truly be a part of someone else’s life, I must deal with the negatives of my past.
That involves acknowledging, understanding and forgiving those who’ve hurt you as well as accepting the role you played in each particular relationship that left you heartbroken. Only then can you change to be a more loving person to yourself and others.
But the most important point, for me at least, is to never compromise your own personal integrity in order to accommodate someone else.
Good luck and love to all!
Shawn Lowe says
Linda – thank you for your words of encouragement. It is difficult to keep perspective at times. I have learned that keeping my heart open is the answer. One day there may be someone who touches my heart and treats it gently. And you are right, I have found myself.
My take away from relationships that end…
Do the work, figure out where you need or want to grow. For me, I lose “my voice” in relationships with men.
I am currently taking a “time out” or dating sabbatical. This time is all about learning about myself, personal relationship boundaries. And most importantly, it is about figuring out who I am, and loving myself. I have spent a lifetime taking care of everyone else, now it is time to “love myself”. I pray that as I grow and stretch in life and love, I will attract more positive, and loving people into my life.
My best advice, do the work, figure out where you want to grow!
@laura grolla: my husband is so hard to love! and I have grown so much in opening my heart to let him be who he is. The practical result is that we don’t live in the same space. This is bizarre, but seems to be the journey we’re walking together. What would it take for us to open our hearts all the way open to embrace the humanity of others with compassion?
Thank you. Beautiful words that I needed to hear. I’ve had a strange and sorrowful last 5 years and I really connected with this. Just, thank you.
When it comes to relationships, you should never give up your hope. I know so many people who no longer believe in love so they don’t give their heart out, or they treat the opposite sex like objects and sleep around to avoid commitment.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been broken hearted, and even now it takes a lot for me to give my trust to someone. But I haven’t given up hope. I still believe in love, I still believe in monogamy, and I would rather wait for a guy who’s crazy about me, as I am, than settle for a guy who doesn’t really believe in love or who is always looking for the next best thing.
This may seem obvious (and not as existential as the list that you made) but NEVER give up your:
Financial well being
Physical well being
Social (i.e. family, friends and/or coworkers etc.) well being
These things, though more concrete, are essential to maintaining a sense of dignity and self-respect in any relationship; romantic or otherwise. Often, the items I have listed above are the first things that an abuser will try to take from you in order to gain control.
This was wonderful and right on time. I’m a newlywed. I’m having problems with trusting my husband. Times I do and times I don’t. To me it seems like he has a thing at becoming too friendly with females. I just seen a text a female text him ‘killa’ as name in his phone. Then a couple minutes later I seen he deleted the text. I had a hunch and I reacted and don’t regret it. I really think I need to let this relationship go but we have two young ones which one have to have surgery and can’t leave until that is done. He comes home every night and treat me good but we barely talk. I feel like there is someone else he lusts after and has conversations with… that is why we barely talk. He shows no interest unless I talk. I’m thinking it is just his personality and it’s something I can’t deal with. So lost and confused, but this post helps me to feel better.
This is an amazing article and it comes on the heals of the last of our children graduating high school. I said that i would hold out any irrational (funny that was my thought at the time) decisions until all our children were grown. I have lived this craziness for the last 18 years and I am exhausted from it. The losing of friendships and isolation from people is crazy, the negative attitude and the hate is hurtful. I just want to be me. Not have to conform to the expectations of a man with the “shallow hal” syndrome as I have called it for years. It is so hurtful to be mentally abused and to feel the need to defend my choices. Thanks for writing this so I can once again remember what I am worth and that love is not a life sentence when the other person has quit loving years ago. Sometimes you have to step outside the box and realize your true value.
Ditto! The last five years have meant the same to me as the last of our five children graduated and left home. For years, I just adapted, making self compromises on one hand in order to have other things I dearly wanted. Unfortunately, in the process, I often hid my own truths. It has been a tough transition period for our marriage but we are making progress…or at least I am. I’ve learned it isn’t my responsibility to save or heal him. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how often this happens in marriages that endure as long as ours has. Doesn’t make it right but it is a fact.
This summer will mark 2 years that I split from my boyfriend of 11 years.
I have been through the setbacks, moments of isolation, feeling of entrapment, and ultimately changed myself so much to please and keep this person that I simply forgot who I was. I am not going to go further into my experience. Instead I am going to emphasize on my comeback.
For the past 2 years I have been trying (painfully but with much success) to find myself once more. This takes time. Despite moving from the home we shared, and altering the routine here and there it was hard to take off at first. I spent a lot of time alone. I was smothered for so long I felt I needed to breath. This was tough because I was not letting anyone in. Friends would call but I would turn them down. I wasn’t ready to interact. I became an introvert.
The things I used to enjoy no longer brought me joy. They brought memories that I didn’t wish to think about. So I stopped doing them. Taking pictures. Going for walks. It no longer sparked an interest.
What did do the trick was working out. It was the only thing I could stick to. Little by little I would accept invitations from friends. Friends who truly wanted to see me bounce back. They were understanding when I wasn’t in the mood. Sometimes you just don’t wanna. I went on a few road trips with friends. And then I challenged myself into taking a trip by myself and a funny thing happened. I found my stride. I was wandering around the streets of Atlanta with my camera. I was talking to people. Taking pictures. I had fun.
That was my 1 year anniversary flying solo. I have also met a bunch of new people along the way. Even took a chance on one particular guy which turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life (so far). Even though we were both very compatible and attracted to each other turns out that neither he or I were ready to commit or work towards a relationship: Great guy. Bad timing.
I left that experience content because I realized at that moment what it was that I was looking for in a partner. And what my partner should bring out in me. So many of the qualities represented in this article I felt with this person. And although it was short lived I still gave it a chance. I could have easily turned down that invite.
Almost 2 years later I can read this and reflect back on the difficult times I had post break-up. I am in a relationship with myself and it’s the best one yet. It takes a while to figure out sometimes but when you do it’s like a breathe of fresh air.
Keep your chin up and don’t settle. Don’t get into a relationship because you are bored or scared or for some other wrong reason. Be ready to let someone in, don’t just do it out of necessity because honestly, sometimes it’s better to be alone. Do things on your own terms with no one to answer to.
Number 7 is especially true. I fell head over heels in love, but forgot to take my brain with me. We were in bed and I missed ME. I missed my life and at that point I realized I was not in a healthy relationship. I was willing to stay connected and do what it took to have a loving relationship, but a relationship that is based on staying silent and still is not a relationship. I walked away, as painful as it was and even though I didn’t want to, because I am the only me I’ve got. I’m choosing to trust the unfolding of my life and that love will come my way again.
How many people eventually give up the very things that got their partner’s attention in the first place? What masquerades as attraction is often a desire to own or control the innocent, joyful parts of you that endear you to others. They want that for themselves. Soon the first signs of jealousy and possessiveness appear and we continue to mistake it for love and affection. Jealousy turns to insults and humiliation, possessiveness turns to threats and isolation, and as has been stated several times above, we have surrendered a part of our soul. We have lost that joy, and you both wonder what happened to the person you “fell in love with.”
You can get the joy back, though. It’s hard work. It requires some difficult self-reflection and admissions. It requires a different kind of being alone for a while. But it can be done.
Nancy Rowe says
Bruno A.M.A. De Clerck says
Dear Angel & Marc, here Brussels calling
I discovered your fb-page through a friend. I’m a quite demanding person, and have tried other pages like yours, often with disappointment.
For the record, my mothertongue is Dutch, but French goes as well; Brussels is my beloved dialect, interbreeding both French & Dutch in a succulent and seducing, disarming mix. Good to know is that English became the most spoken language in my capital city, and that I love German & Spanish too, even if I miss practice.
In this article of yours I agree on all points, except 1: the number 5: The courage and willingness to experiment with life. I agree on the global approach, but am convinced that sometimes not acting is many times better than acting, i.e. knowing you’re not experienced enough to act well enough. Some actions, you see, really need exellence. Also, in the name of well meant, a great deal of harm has been done and still is!
Last, I doubted to subscribe to your newsletter, because you seem to sent several feeds a day. In my eyes one or two feeds a day would just do the job: less is more, is an important rule in writing.
But, being, before and over many other things, The Poet of The Sensual Life, just notice that one of the most important things a poet does … is playing with rules and not accept such clichés as ‘less is more’ without reflecting and experimenting (here we are back to your point 5!). Sometimes less is just less, and more just more. So please continue as you please and feel you should, certainly since you invite readers and followers to give you feedback … a healthy attitude.
Kroko l’Eclair Joyeux, dit le Troane Bard
PS: Poetry is just the evidence of life; if your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash (Leonard Cohen)
I’m dealing with the possibility of divorcing my husband of 8 years. I feel he is trying to isolate me from the people I care about such as family because of his jealousy. He is controlling with money and puts me down for being a stay at home mom. I feel I never can do anything right in his eyes. He has held me back from finishing a degree and having another child. I feel like nothing lately all my strength and belief in myself has been sucked out of me. We are trying therapy but really it’s just a continual cycle and I can’t do this.
But we have a 5 year old son who loves his family time with mom and dad. How do you know when it’s better for the children to split or make it work? I fear if I stay to make it work then I will give up myself.
Terri Lynn says
Along with loving yourself, you need to keep your individual identity. If you don’t like who you are when you are with someone, it’s time to change something.
Bonnie Cameron says
Wow thank you so much for uplifting my spirits. I just left a safe and secure relationship that was more of a friendship. I’ve been struggling emotionally and financially ever since. I thought maybe karma is getting back at me. The truth is we both were not happy. it wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. Life is too short to settle and I know I made the right choice for both of us it just feels not so good right now. I thought once I had the courage to leave then that special someone would appear and we ride off into the sunse and everything would be perfect. Still waiting! But I’m taking your advice and I’m going to make the most of what I have now. Because life is a gift and I am super grateful that I am alive and healthy and capable of doing whatever the heck I want!
For every post, I take away certain lines that are so beautiful and true. Today I’m taking:
1. Fail forward.
2. Keep living and laughing and making God glad that he gave life to someone who loves and cherishes the gift.
I wouldn’t let anyone who tries to talk me out of my dreams and goals to take up space in my life. Because I need people that are willing to build me up and help me grow, not discourage and manipulate me.
I recently ended a horrible relationship that for some reason I still hang onto hope for. He was controlling, emotionally abusive and struggling with his own personal battles which he liked to drown out by drinking vodka. I quickly found myself separated from my family and friends because they tried to warn me about him before they even met him. Understandably, that never sat well with him. He even picked fights with my 14 year old son who became defiant and decided he wasn’t going to put up with it. The police came twice. I almost lost custody of my 3 kids because of him. I defended him every step of the way. I used to be a naturally positive, optimistic and happy person. That’s one reason he said he liked me so much when I first met him. But, he sucked the life right out of me. I cried and yelled multiple times every single day. Because of this, I also almost lost my job. Communication was always a battle. He always interrupted and never listened to me. He always wanted to present his side and point of view and mine never seemed to matter. Since I split from him I am back to doing the things I used to that he never allowed me to do because they were wrong in his eyes. I have my freedom back and the light and laughter has come back in the eyes of my children. I started running every day and that has helped, but that’s what he does too. For some reason I can’t seem to completely let him go. A million reasons why I should. Why do I hold on to the one or 2 good things we had thinking we can fix all of this? Maybe it’s because I gave up everything that I had and know of myself when I was with him. Being with him turned my life completely upside down and I know that I am better off. I keep appreciating one day at a time with him behind me reminding myself of everything that happened and watching the laughter seep back into the faces of my kids.
I’ve done this to save my marriage. Hoping my husband will continue to love me and stop cheating but it won’t work he loves that woman.
In anything I read on your blog, it seems as though you’re talking directly to me. Thank you for all that you do. It has helped me learn about myself and realize things I kind of ignored. Thank you again.