“So what’s going on?” This was the first thing my new therapist said to me after we exchanged initial greetings. I looked down, away from the small screen of my phone (which was propped up on the napkin dispenser that sat atop my dining room table), took a deep breath, and said “my relationship”. I’d initiated teletherapy with a psychologist with kind eyes because I felt that I was at a breaking point of…something.
“What about your relationship?”
“I want to learn how to be better in it and be more supportive while my boyfriend struggles with some issues.” I’d said it out loud. Finally. After months of interrupted sleep, panic attacks, crying fits, and a less than healthy dependence on wine, I could say it. I had a problem and I needed to go to therapy to be better for him. I was too impatient. I demanded too much. I wanted to get married and we’d spent hours chatting about what our wedding and reception would look like. But he wasn’t “there” yet. And the problem was me. As I poured out all of these details, my therapist dutifully took notes and nodded. Then asked something incredibly important. “Why don’t you tell me about him and your relationship, objectively?”
I furrowed my brow and began. I included the months of him being attached to his ex. The texts and flirting with other women. The emotional distance. The financial instability. The unwillingness to help me when asked- unless it was his idea. But he was a great man, though, I insisted. And she agreed, saying that people can be good but we first need to be honest about them.
I agreed but was frustrated. This session wasn’t going the way I thought it would. I needed tools to learn how to be better. Instead we started talking about some of my current coping skills. And as we neared the end of the 1.5 hour session, she gave me homework. And it was the most important piece of homework I’ve ever gotten, though I did not take it seriously. Perhaps she could tell that I was a ticking time bomb and needed my to brace myself for the boom that would come just 2 months later.
The assignment? To write down three coping skills in the event that we do break up. “We need to make sure that you’re going to be ok if/when this ends.”
Because two months later when I decided to end things, the timer on my mental health breakdown hit zero, and on one painful and life altering Thursday afternoon, I broke. I nearly died.
Long before I met my ex, a series of painful occurrences in my life contributed to depression and anxiety. I’d struggled with body dysmorphia and disordered eating for over a decade. And I was remarkably good at hiding all of it. I took care of people. I helped others. I was successful. But within, I had a horrific relationship with the person I was and the person I wanted to be. So while that relationship was the straw that broke me, it had years’ worth of help.
This is why this blog is incredibly important to me. I write, as I always have, from experience. I’ve seen the good, bad, and despicable sides of relationships. I’ve been engaged and been cheated on. I’ve been emotionally abused and manipulated. But I’ve also been treated with immense kindness and love. I’ve been spoiled and wined and dined. Much like life, romantic relationships have peaks and valleys.
Ultimately, it’s the relationship with yourself that must remain steadfast and immovable. Give yourself space to make mistakes and space to forgive. Cry when needed. Fight when needed. Delete numbers and block contacts when needed. You belong to yourself, first and foremost. I used to tell my ex that he was “my person”. And that wasn’t true. I am my person.
“you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that”warsan shire