I would imagine that relationships are complicated and sometimes challenging for everyone. But for me, they have always been pretty much impossible.
I would imagine that relationships are complicated and sometimes challenging for everyone. But for me, they have always been pretty much impossible. Growing up with my “ism”, having healthy relationships was never something that I understood how to do. My relationships with my family and my relationships with my friends were all touched by my issues: my insecurities, my codependency, my inability to express my feelings. All of these things kept me from ever feeling truly close to other people.
This was only amplified when I started participating in romantic relationships. From my first boyfriend in high school all the way through fairly recently, not many of my relations with the opposite sex could be considered healthy. I have always wanted to be in a happy, loving and fulfilling relationship with another person, but for a long time, I stubbornly stood in my own way.
It has been a bumpy road, and I have made a lot of mistakes. For many steps forward, I took 3 steps back. But applying the lessons that I have learned in recovery to my romantic relationships has made a big impact.
Letting Go of Control
For a long time, I dated people that were wrong for me and then spent the days, weeks or months of our relationship trying to make them into something that they were not. While there were multiple character traits in men whom I dated that weren’t in alignment with what I was looking for in a partner, the one that came up over and over again was a lack of interest in being in an exclusive, committed relationship.
Some of these guys were very up front about who they were from the get go. With others it became apparent as the relationship progressed. But over the years, I often found myself in a “relationship” with someone who simply didn’t want to be in one. And rather than walk away (as I very clearly should have), I stayed far too long trying to force them to change. I tried to manipulate and control the situation so that it would turn out in my favor.
Spoiler alert: that worked zero times. You can’t force someone to be something that they are not, no matter how hard you try or how hard you want it. I realized that I had to let go of trying to control other people and situations and focus on the one thing that I DID have control over: myself.
I realized that while I couldn’t control other people, I could control whom I chose to date. I could choose to walk away from people that didn’t want similar things that I did.
Being Open, Honest and Vulnerable
When most people meet me, they would assume I am an open person. And in many ways, I am. I am talkative, friendly and I like to learn about other people.
But it has been very hard for me to be open with other people about myself. For a long time, being open and honest about who I am, what I want and what I need from the people in my life was absolutely terrifying. Opening up to others made me feel vulnerable, and that was too uncomfortable for me to handle.
While I eventually got over the fear and started being able to be open and honest with my close friends, for a long time it was still too frightening a prospect to introduce into my romantic relationships. I was convinced that if I opened myself up and showed the flawed person that I really was, any guy in his right mind would run in the opposite direction.
What this did was effectively build a wall around my heart. All of my romantic relationships were incredibly superficial because I was unable to connect on an authentic level. I wasn’t able to fully participate in my relationships because I wasn’t able to fully be myself, and as such I wasn’t able to develop any deep or meaningful relationships.
I finally came to the realization that I would never be able to have the kind of relationship that I wanted if I wasn’t willing to be open, honest and vulnerable.
And honestly? Sometimes, it’s still terrifying. But I know that it’s the only way to truly develop an authentic connection with another person. So it’s worth pushing through the fear.
Living in the Present
If I could quantify it, I would say a solid 75% of the fights I have had in relationships had absolutely nothing to do with what was going on in the present moment. It was always about something that had already happened (typically a past relationship) or something that hadn’t happened yet (usually where the relationship was headed).
All this fighting about the past and the future made it impossible to enjoy the relationship in the present, which was definitely a contributing factor to none of my relationships working out.
Once I was able to let go of the past (both mine and my partner’s) and stop stressing about the future, I was able to actually be present for my relationship and enjoy it as it was happening.
Let me be clear; I am by no means an expert on relationships. But recovery has taught me so much about the kind of relationship that I want and the steps that I needed to take to get there.
Today, I am in what I can honestly call the best relationship I’ve ever been in. There is no trying to control or change him because I love and accept him exactly as he is. I am able to be open and honest about ALL sides of myself, including the ones that I feel are imperfect, and not only not be judged for it, but be loved because of it. I am able to live each day of our relationship without worrying about the past or the future, because I finally learned that the present (with all its ups and downs) is perfect exactly as it is.
It was a long road to get here, but I couldn’t be more grateful to have arrived.