How I Stopped Breaking Up and Started Making Up
What I Learned about Commitment That Made Me Stop Running Away
By Stefanie Herron, Laura Doyle Certified Relationship Coach
Every week, my boyfriend would drive six hours to pick me up. Then turn around and drive six hours back.
Now that was love.
Especially since we’d argue most of the way home. Only with the utmost restraint did I manage not to hurl myself out of the car.
I did, however, hurl myself out of more than one perfectly decent relationship. If my beloved didn’t behave according to my standards, I was gone, girl!
Once we arrived at my true love’s after our mad commute, I would regularly find a reason to pack my bags and leave—for good this time! I’d only make it across the state line before answering the phone and turning around.
As a result of the repetitive stress injuries my drama inflicted on the relationship, it eventually degenerated. Demanding that things be my way then running away every time they weren’t was not serving me in my quest for commitment.
Rather than dwelling on having wasted two more of my precious childbearing years, I believed I’d learned something valuable from this experience…
Never date an artist!
Our irreconcilable differences were too numerous to list. For starters:
- I’d make dinner and he’d continue toiling away at his desk, refusing to come when beckoned. I’d sit at the table alone, fuming as the food got cold.
- When he did come to the table, he kept working. Once, he took me on a trip to exotic lands, where he had the nerve to get inspired to write a novel about me and stay in his head throughout dinnertime.
Well, that’s all I can think of right now. Oh yeah, and he was a cat person! I’m allergic.
Today I can laugh at my pre-surrendered self who saw these trivialities as deal breakers. I had such a deep fear of being alone that I would find any pretext of running away before someone else could abandon me. Or allow me to feel my aloneness even when we were together. Or actually love me, with all my imperfections.
Easier to decide he wasn’t enough than to recognize that the inadequacy lay somewhere within me.
Plus, my comfort zone required a certain level of drama. He couldn’t be “the one” or I’d have to take Benadryl or get acupuncture on my cat chakras and start feeling serene. No, that would not do.
So I fixated on our differences. And added to my list from previous relationships: Never date someone depressed or insecure. Never date a pothead. And, again, never date an artist.
I took comfort in telling myself I was closer than ever to identifying the type of person I could actually get along with.
Unfortunately, now that I’d ruled out a large percentage of the male population, I worried that my chances of finding him were dwindling.
In my next relationship, well-meaning friends shared what they had learned, like, “If you want a baby, do not marry a waiter” and, more forebodingly, “Stay away from Latin men—they’re so jealous!”
By some stroke of fortune and googly eyes—and the suspicion that the problem was not artists or Latinos—I ignored my friends. (Their love lives weren’t going so great either.)
I even ignored the voices in my head sounding similar alarms:
- He eats meat, you don’t—brring!
- He drinks, you don’t—brring!
- He works nights, you work days—brring!
Despite our glaring incompatibility, alarm bells became wedding bells, and the Latin waiter is now my husband and the father of my two children. (He has yet to show me his jealous side.)
My hard-won research on what I didn’t want in a man proved in vain.
After years of inflicting and receiving heartache, I came to realize the true problem. It wasn’t you (or you or you, ghosts of boyfriends past).
It was me.
When I ended up feeling the same turmoil and loneliness no matter who I was with, I had to take a look at my part. If I didn’t do something to change, I’d be doomed to keep reliving the same story.
My anger became my teacher. Every resentment offered me the choice to be either a victim or an active player. If he was always at fault, then I would ever be the victim.
If I had the humility and courage to see what was happening on my side of the street, then maybe I could be empowered to change what was happening in my relationships.
And change I did…
Like the ghost of boyfriends past, my husband doesn’t always come to the table when I invite him. So I eat without him.
I’ve learned how to say what I want and, just as importantly, to let go of my expectations. While my vision of family life means sitting around the table together the way I did growing up, the cost of “enforcing” that expectation isn’t worth it (not that I could if I wanted to).
I can set the scene for the kind of mealtime I want, coming together with my boys at the table. I am fulfilled, whether my husband eats with us or not. If I depended on him to make me feel complete, I’d be mighty lonely every time he works at night. Instead, I feel mighty grateful when he is off and joins us.
Today, I have hopes instead of expectations and, as a result, gratitude instead of resentment.
My husband, now a realtor too, can be something of a workaholic himself. So I express my abundant gratitude for him working so hard to support me so I can stay home with our boys.
When my hard worker gets home, he isn’t always gazing-into-my-eyes present with me either. So I do things to make myself happy rather than sitting around waiting for him to please me. When my Goddess of Fun and Light is in the house, suddenly he is gazing into my eyes again.
My adventures in relationship madness drove me into the arms of Laura Doyle and her Intimacy Skills™. Now that I have a marriage that is peaceful, passionate, and surprisingly sane (my children have yet to see their mommy wanting to fling herself from moving vehicles), I suppose my research paid off after all.
Only, it was not about him at all.
It was not about who not to be with.
It was all about me and what not to do.
Now that’s love—the empowered kind.