My Relationship Sent Me To Therapy
My relationship sent me to therapy. Actually, two romantic relationships sent me to therapy for radically different reasons. I thought the first was love. I really did. 2 years of sacrifice, of learned silence, of negotiation within myself as to why I should stay. He said he loved me, and I’m sure he did. He loved the version of me I’d transformed into over the time we were together to keep him around. I’d learned how to silence the voice that said I wasn’t happy, to put his desires before mine, and his priorities above mine. If he said he only had one night to give me each week, I’d find a way to make that okay. My only goal was to keep him. If he didn’t want me, who would?
Slowly but surely, I let myself drift away from myself. That’s what surprises people most when I tell them about that time in my life. For someone who is such a proud and public feminist, I let any semblance of equality and partnership in that relationship turn into a single-party system of power and control. He had it all – and I’m sure that’s why he loved “me”. He wasn’t really loving me – he loved himself. And that’s who it was all about. It happened slowly over time. Two years, to be exact. Every little decision opened the gates for the next. Every justification gave way to an internal shift in priorities. Fear spoke louder than logic or emotion and I formed myself into a woman I no longer recognized. At the end of it all, he did what he’d always done – he chose himself. And I was left to clean up the mess.
It took a full 9 months to understand what had happened and who I’d become. I had to pick up each piece of who I was like glass shattered on the floor. The most challenging part was realizing some of those “I would never do that just for a guy…” beliefs I’d had were no longer true statements. They’d have to be replaced with new phrases like “I did that once, and I lost myself. Here’s why I’ll never do it again…” Above all, the most challenging part was sitting down with my therapist and attempting to understand what it meant to be loved in a romantic relationship. My perspective had become so twisted and foreign that I didn’t even know where to start. It was like a pile of necklaces that have become so knotted and tangled around each other that you can’t figure out where to begin. One knot at a time – that’s how it all came undone.
The broken pieces of glass had been made stronger and I put them back together to create something that felt more like solid concrete. I was stronger, healthier, and I knew how to communicate what I wanted and needed. Therapy made me into the woman I am today, and I am eternally grateful. I felt joy again, I felt capable of establishing boundaries again, and the anger I felt toward my ex had evolved into a feeling of… nothing. The only place he lived was in my past. I was a whole new version of me and I felt fantastic. Then, I met my current boyfriend. Back to therapy I went.
This time, it was for all the best reasons.”This guy doesn’t expect me to do anything. What do I do with that? He wants to spend time with me as much as he can and I don’t have to apologize for everything. How do I even work with that? PLUS, if we disagree on something he wants to, like, talk about it instead of just making me feel wrong. WHAT?!”
I was baffled. He was a relationship I didn’t believe existed and, friends, I had to work through some STUFF to understand how to function with it. He was amazing… and I was panicked. It was then that I realized how much learning I still had to do. I may have found a new way to be me, but I still had to form a new understanding of a healthy and happy relationship. No manipulation, power dynamics, control, or silence. I was good enough as I was. This man wasn’t asking me to hustle or sacrifice or submit to him. He just wanted to know me, and it was terrifying. I was a nervous wreck for the first month we dated. Each day brought a new reason why I wasn’t good enough, a new reason to break-up, or a sense of panic whenever he reminded me that I didn’t have to apologize. I sought help and he was there to support. It’s been almost a year now and we’re better than ever. Therapy is still a part of my life and so is he.
Two relationships have sent me to therapy for radically different reasons. Through it all, I’m proud of myself for doing the work. My time in those sessions helped me heal from the damage one boy did and taught me how to love myself again. I released a lot of shame, anger, pain, and confusion. Therapy empowered me with a toolbox of coping mechanisms to combat anxiety and perfectionism while learning how to communicate those feelings to someone who genuinely loves me. It took time and a heap of kindness poured over myself, but the best personal-growth requires both. My relationships sent me to therapy and I’m stronger for it. Don’t get it confused – therapy is the life-raft, not an indication of weakness.