In Messiness I explained how I need to help and serve others – I need to feel needed and valued in a relationship and I often look for reassurances, it’s not something I assume. I have an immense fear of failing or disappointing others, of not being enough. I’m sensitive, and my feelings are easily hurt if I begin to feel rejection, betrayal, or possible abandonment.
The problem is, until the last few years or so, I didn’t even realize what I needed in relationships. I casted my net and gave of myself and tried to find connectedness. I’d be myself and help and give and try so hard to fulfill other’s needs, to be the person they needed me to be and gave little value to my own wants or needs. I always put their wants and needs above my own. I’d develop hopes and expectations that they’d give me some indication that I was valued, too, but rarely let myself need others or tell them what I needed. And those expectations I had most often let me down. I wanted something in return that was often unrealistic. Assumptions also played a part – assumptions about why the person behaved this way or thought that way in the relationship – and in my mind that most often meant I felt as if I wasn’t valued, that I was rejected in some way. I was too shy to ask about it or to stick up for myself. I rarely told anyone my feelings were hurt. I didn’t protect myself in those ways – I was willing to risk my feelings, but not willing to risk hurting anyone else’s. I let myself get hurt over and over. I guarded myself from needing others, because I don’t think I ever believed or trusted anyone would ever stay. In my experience, they never did. No one would ever continue to value and love me deeply, that requires time and effort, and especially not if I hurt their feelings, because that would be way too much.
That fear of rejection and abandonment and betrayal has been at the core of my relationship issues my entire life. Feeling worth and self love, those are at the very center, even in my relationship with M. I didn’t love me. I didn’t acknowledge or value my own feelings and needs. How was anyone ever supposed to value me and what I had to offer if I didn’t value myself?
Being this vulnerable with M has allowed me to sort and strip away so much of that stuff – layers of destructive ways of thinking and doing. It’s allowed me to process and feel all of it, to keep what works, let go of what doesn’t, and create new ways when needed. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m more grounded and I can more easily see destructive patterns when they arise. I can more easily see when something is triggering those feelings of rejection or betrayal or abandonment, to give value to my feelings, try to protect myself in healthy ways and allow M to help to protect me….and even to explain to him if something he’s done has triggered those feelings and how to avoid it in the future, no matter how much it hurts in the moment, in any circumstance. To me, that’s HUGE. To be able to understand those core needs, communicate them and go forward is an amazing feeling.
We aren’t perfect. He and I are both going to screw up, make poor choices, challenge one another (yeah, I do that sometimes), and fall backward every down and then. This recent experience I wrote about in He Listens regarding follow through and walking away helped me to understand so much about myself and about M. He made a mistake, as he’s going to do, then tried to give me space, because that’s what I used to imply I wanted if he was the one who hurt me. Now, that wasn’t at all true, it was a test (how terrible is that?), and now it couldn’t be further from the truth. I never want him to walk away. No, I need him to never walk away. It triggers those feelings of rejection and abandonment, making me feel unworthy of his love and care. But….we needed that situation to recognize those things. That discussion led to more discussions, more baring of our souls to one another. It prompted us to review our rules, to discuss our parameters more deeply, define our expectations more clearly, detail our need for structure in ways that work for us, to better establish accountability and follow through in much more tangible ways. I even wrote to him in my own terms my contract to him, my commitment, my definition of my surrender to him.
So, do I dislike the mistakes? Yes. But I’m grateful that we’ve built a way for us to accept one another’s imperfections, to always communicate, to be our true selves and always be open and honest…because we know and trust that the other is speaking truthfully from the heart, with no ulterior motive other than to express and continue to build. We have the freedom to speak, even if it hurts our feelings, even if we stumble, because the framework of authenticity and respect and honor is solid. It’s a never-ending cycle of living, unlearning, learning, and experiencing. It’s not always easy, but it’s the most fulfilled we’ve ever been.