Ghost Stories of Relationships Past
No one wants to take a cruise on a haunted ship.
Ghosts of Relationships Past will haunt future relationships, unless you decide to stop running from the things you are afraid to face.
There wasn’t a large amount of trust in my marriage, and going through the process of a separation and divorce didn’t exactly help. We would agree on one thing and then another would happen with alarming frequency. As a result, I struggle with worrying that I’m not always dealing with accurate information.
I also have a long history of losing people–sometimes by their choice and sometimes not–but the voided space where someone filled a part of my life feels kind of empty and like something precious is missing. I’ve lost friends, family members, my favorite pet… Loss is hard, and when my marriage ended, I lost the person who had truly been my best friend for a third of my life. For years, I didn’t let anyone get close enough to leave a hole when they took off. Also not a healthy approach.
When I finally started to stick my toe in the dating pool, I did so with a large amount of reluctance and a tiny smidgeon of hope. I believed my wounds had healed with time, and I’d built new relationships with people that looked like my vision of Healthy Adult Relationships. I reconnected with friends from childhood and college. While I was pretty clear about my intentions–having just recovered from a large mistake, I was not looking to jump into a larger one–some people just don’t listen. Or maybe they listen but think they can change my mind. Regardless, I ran into this pattern of men thinking that my agreeing to meet them for lunch to catch up somehow equated with this idea that I somehow immediately belonged to them. Like I was the Oreo and they licked it, so done deal. Seriously, this concept of “I found her first, she agreed to eat a salad across a table from me, so I’m calling dibs.” What?
This did not resemble my vision of an Adult Relationship, healthy aside.
This happened a few times, and my response really puzzled me. It was a no-brainer that this mindset was absurd, but if this was what getting out there was like, no thanks, I’m good. I didn’t like the pushiness, the complete disrespect for my boundaries, or the bulldozing plan of my life. You know, the one I had painstakingly built to protect myself and my kids and provide stability and consistency. This breed of single men was one I wanted no part of at all. Call me too independent, but this just felt slimy.
And it sent me back to a place where fear and hopelessness felt more comfortable than moving on.
I found myself jumping at what might be around the corner, just waiting for something to go “bump.” This isn’t who I had worked to become. It wasn’t the example of resilience I wanted to model for my son and my daughter. And it wasn’t really fun at all. I had work to do with the goal of figuring out why I let the actions and beliefs of other people define who I am.
I went back to many of the islands we talk about in this book. I looked for things I’d missed the first time (or the fourth time). I found that taking a look from my current perspective in time allowed me to look at things differently, with less emotion and more rationality. My first trip to look at my part equated with taking in a large-scale disaster. I was so overwhelmed by the effect of the whole that I didn’t really notice the smaller aspects of the scene. I saw a painful, sad mess of destruction initially. This time, I saw the smaller, more specific instances where the little things I ignored or dismissed turned out to be the kindling that made the raging fire possible. So many little clues that things really were not what they had seemed in my life, and I either chose not to address them or I did but believed the excuses I received in response.
That was my part.
In owning that part, I gave myself the opportunity to grieve those things, to be mad at myself for being so stupid, to be mad at him for not being someone different (which isn’t fair either). I looked those scary things in the face and realized the spectres creating so much dread and fear of repetition in my present and future were just lies I let myself believe about days I hadn’t lived yet. Remember spectres are really just a lot of smoke and mirrors. The time had come to ask myself if there was really anything to be scared of.
Had I been hurt?
Had I been taken advantage of?
What was I so afraid of?
The answer was myself.
In realizing this, I understood something powerful about my choices. I can choose to spend my time anywhere. I can also choose not to spend my time just anywhere. If other people show me they are not trustworthy, that’s information I need to make choices that are best for me and lead me in a direction I want my life to go. In the end I am the one who is responsible for my choices, and I have complete power to make basically any choice I want to make. When I take hold of that truth, the ghosts are quiet wisps of the past that has not bearing on my future unless I allow it.
You’ve done the work on yourself. Arm wrestled the demons of the past and grown into a better you. Things are looking up! Maybe you’re ready to get back out there?
Proceeding with caution advised when entering new relationship territory.
I’m not a fan of the term falling in love. I don’t think love is something one falls into. We grow to love someone in time with experiences of getting to know them in different situations and in discovering who they are. Relationships aren’t about finding the perfect person then getting pelted with a cupid arrow. The real deal takes time and investment. Love is a verb. Love is a choice. Love is bigger than fear of things that aren’t even real except in our imaginations.
Don’t let the ghosts keep you chained in the past, missing the present and stealing the future.
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