They warned me about him. They told me not to get too close. He had a reputation of drinking too much and there was even a rumor going around that he had been violent towards his ex-wife a few years back when they were getting divorced. They tried to talk sense into me, but some love lessons are hard learned.
Have you ever met someone that you felt an instant connection to that wasn’t just an interest or crush, but that the connection actually felt like a 12 story magnet and you are wearing a full metal jacket? Yep, it was like that.
My head told me it wasn’t my best idea, but my heart was so much louder. I was getting up the courage to leave an 8 year relationship where the last four years were painfully lonely. I had thought that the numbness I felt in my heart was because I had lost my ability to feel. I had been disregarded for so long that I started to believe that I wasn’t smart, interesting or special anymore. I thought I was emotionally and sexually dead. I had pretty much come to accept the fact that my “love” life would no longer include passion, appreciation or fun, because clearly it was a problem with me (that is what he told me). I knew I was going to leave the relationship only because I knew it was better to be alone and lonely than to be with someone else and lonely. I was prepared to be alone and lonely. This would free him up to be with the other people that he found so much more interesting. That is when life smacked me in the face with a hard lesson to learn. It started out innocent enough, it was a business meeting with a co-worker that I had never met in person. He walked into the conference room and the air seemed to be immediately sucked out of the room. My hard learned life lesson had arrived.
He was tall, dark, crazily handsome. He flashed a big, bright, authentic smile. Big muscles, perfect hair. His laugh filled the room and the devilish twinkle in his eyes reawakened the spark that I thought had gone out in my own. He had a way of looking at me and making the rest of the room disappear. He was confident, charismatic, sexy and single. One look at him and my brain screamed, “TROUBLE!” My heart couldn’t hear it though…it was too busy flip flopping around in my stomach and blabbering something nonsensical that sounded something like “aaaaiiiieeeeee” or the like. My heart had been living in a drought for so long and this was the tallest, coolest drink of water it had ever seen. Clearly I was neither emotionally or sexually dead (what a terribly complicated relief to figure that out!).
By the way, in most human beings, especially those who have been lonely and ignored for a long time, the heart is the likeliest winner in this struggle. The brain later gets to say “I told you so”. The warning signs were there, but does a starving person bother to look at the expiration date on the food that has been laid out before them? It just felt so good to feel alive, wanted, valued and loved again.
We didn’t jump in right away. We talked. We laughed. We shared stories. The battle between my brain and my heart was intense. I tried several times to stop, at least slow down, just THINK beyond the intense feelings. My brain wasn’t about to give up. When my 8 year relationship didn’t fight for us, my brain conceded the battle and let go. I left my lonely relationship and I fell. Hard.
In the end, I was one of the lucky ones. My lesson has a positive ending. I am stronger, smarter, and healthier than ever after jumping head first into the new relationship with the one they warned me about. It lasted three years of intense highs and heart breaking lows. We tried relationship counseling and while it didn’t save our relationship, it made a huge difference for me in learning what constituted a healthy relationship. I started to make changes in what I allowed and made better choices and valuing myself. Our relationship ended with an ultimatum for him to get help for his alcoholism (he didn’t). The final straws were the bruises on my arms from when he grabbed me too hard and didn’t let go even when I cried out (yes, he had been drinking). The love and devotion and promise of forever was undone by his unreadiness to address his addiction and anger, and my unwillingness to allow my kids and myself to live in it. I didn’t leave because I didn’t love him. I loved him immensely. I spent a good long time missing him (the great parts about him were amazingly great and that is who I saw the majority of the time). I held tight to my values and desire to be a healthier person and held even tighter to my commitment to my kids – even if sometimes it was just by my fingertips. I cried more tears than I knew I even had. My determination to be a healthy, stronger person kept me single and working on myself. He found someone new in a matter of weeks and was married to her in a matter of months. A year later he was arrested for domestic violence. He lost everything and moved out of state.
I stayed in counseling. I even went back to school. Four years later I had my counseling degree and my passion was lit to help others create, nurture and grow healthy relationships; with ourselves and then with others.
They warned me and they were right; he did drink too much and he did get violent and I loved him madly, deeply and desperately. With the help of a great counselor, my family and a few close friends, I realized that I loved me and my kids more and summoned the strength to let go and learn.
Love is powerful. Loving someone who is unhealthy is incredibly difficult. The biggest lesson here is; you must love yourself first. Your love won’t save someone else from themselves. Your love is transformational; but it is you that is transformed. This is an incredibly important love lesson and some love lessons are hard learned.