Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Thank You... To The Exes

With each heartbreak, I come away learning something about myself. There's always that initial sadness. The feeling of failure and hopelessness. It's taken me months to pull my thoughts and feelings together and I've figured out what I want to say. It's thank you. Thank you to the exes.

When a relationship ends we often find ourselves going over and over in our minds how things could have/should have been different. I question whether I should have paid more attention to the red flags. Seen the man for who he really was. But, I tend to look for the best in people and am more forgiving of their faults than I should be. And yet, at 35, I realize that without the experiences and heartbreak, I could be in a very different place than I am now. But I like where I am now, so that's okay with me.

I was married for 11 years. It feels like a lifetime ago. I got married at 19 and thought I knew everything. Only now do I realize how little I actually knew. It was a convenient relationship, but not a great one. I loved him because I knew nothing else. And then he cheated, and my world turned upside down. Pregnant with our first child, I was terrified of being a single mother before I'd even given birth. I was afraid of trying to make it on my own financially. We tried to make it work but in the end, the relationship did not survive. Trust, one of the only things we still had at that point, was gone and not coming back. Six years after the affair, we divorced. So to him I say thank you. Thank you for teaching me that I can stand on my own, that I can provide for myself and my son.

There were a handful of other guys that I dated, but then I met "Guy" (my brother's not-so-affectionate nickname for him) and thought I'd found love. He was sweet and loving and also a raging alcoholic. Never having dealt with such drinking before, I tried hard to be better; to not make him angry. It didn't work. I stayed in it too long, but eventually realized that this wasn't love. This was hurt and pain and heartbreak. I ended it just in time... before I lost myself completely. Thank you for the lesson that abuse is unacceptable and that love shouldn't hurt.

Emotionally broken from Guy's verbal and physical abuse, I found in "Hippie" (another sibling nickname) a quietness and gentle spirit. He reminded me to not sweat the small stuff and to get outside and enjoy the world around us. Unfortunately, that tendency to focus on the good qualities and overlook the bad resulted in me falling for yet another alcoholic and drug user. "Is this the best I can do?" I asked myself. Of all the relationships I have been in, this ending was the most difficult one for me to deal with. The connection that we had was uncanny. I saw such potential in him and our relationship but in the end, in spite of him professing his love for me I realized that for him it was just the convenience of a place to live and a person to adventure with. He had taken advantage of my giving nature and tender heart and when I asked him to stand up, to grow up, he bailed on us immediately. The realization of that was devastating. It took months of self evaluation and reflection for me to realize that I owed him thanks. For reminding me that not all men are abusive, to enjoy life and to not stop seeking love.

Some of my well meaning family and friends have poked fun at my bad choices in men over the years. They joke that they need to approve of the next guy that I date. The reality is while I may regret the amount of time spent in the relationships, I could never regret the relationships themselves. They each provided valuable, though often difficult life lessons. Life is what you choose to make of it... I just happen to choose to make the best of my choices - and my mistakes.