What’s in a relationship, who leads, and how or with what do they lead?
I’ve been with my partner for 6 years and used to blame him for quite a list of things, such as not being emotionally supportive, not understanding me, and not giving me what I thought I needed. I pretended to accept things as they were, even though I was secretly fuming with a poisonous resentment that was eating away at me and draining my energy. Like some kind of self-appointed martyr I assumed that I was always the one leading the way, moving us forward, pulling us up. I kept going round and round in a never-ending maze of mental confusion, wondering how I could ‘solve’ our relationship, as if it were an emotional crossword, the key to which always felt just out of my reach. If only I could spend every hour while I was asleep – as well as the daylight hours – thinking about it, then surely I could solve it, I thought to myself over and over. I went and spoke to counsellors, supposedly taking responsibility but subtly blaming my partner, and always frustrated at having to solve ‘our relationship’ by myself. But the relationship with me was where I needed to start…
Sorting Myself Out and Looking Within
As it turns out, there was no solving or fixing to be done – not mentally, at least. It sounds crazy to me now, but at the time I couldn’t see that first of all I needed to sort myself out – the last place on Earth I’d thought to look, because in my arrogance, I’d assumed I was getting along just fine: I wasn’t dying or debilitated by disease. But if I’d come down from my head and mental thoughts and into my body and feelings, I could have seen all the evidence telling me that, actually, things weren’t so great with me – and maybe that’s where I should start. For starters I felt just how anxious I was most of the time, but just thought that anxiety was who I was; part of my identity and something I’d have to put up with and learn to manage. I felt so sensitive and kept wishing other people would stop reacting so I wouldn’t have to react to their reactions! I was exhausting myself trying to perfect and control my external environment so that I could feel less stressed out. I only ever seemed to feel amazing when I’d done a brilliant piece of work, or was complimented on what I was wearing when I’d made the effort to dress up.
When I abandoned myself in stressful situations and let myself be owned and run by anxiety, I expected my partner to step in and rescue me, and got upset when he stood strong and didn’t pander to my emotional dramas. Now, finally, I’m beginning to take responsibility for myself, learning to stand firm and stay with myself rather than abandoning myself into an abyss of tears and overwhelm.
I realised from looking within that what I wanted from my relationship was what I’d being denying myself – a greater connection to myself and to others, tenderness, love and appreciation for myself as the amazing woman that I am.
Finding Tenderness and Love Within
I used to feel so frustrated at my partner for not treating me with the tenderness I felt I deserved and wasn’t receiving from him. But as my awareness of this fact grew and the heavy fog of emotional reaction began to clear, I started to question how loving I was being towards myself:
- How could I expect anyone else to treat me tenderly, if I was beating myself up, being harsh on myself and pushing and driving myself with determination to do everything?
- Why was I waiting for him to show me tenderness, gentleness and love first, instead of being and living all of those qualities myself?
- What does love look like? – Is it aligning with my partner’s post-work bad mood, so that we can connect through it and I can feel good by ‘helping’ him? Or is it calling it out, and not allowing an insidious and negative energy to run through our home and end with me feeling tension and stress in my body.
Tender ME; Our Tender Relationship
Now I’m starting to let go of the control and experiment with what happens when I take the lead by being myself – truly tender and gentle – first.
How much more amazing would I feel and could our relationship be, if I could hold this love and tenderness within myself no matter what, rather than lose myself in reaction and judgment to his reactions, knowing that I am more than enough as I am already?
What has happened has been a true transformation of our relationship from blame and resentment to a deepening of our love and appreciation. There have been uncomfortable confrontational moments as I re-learn to stand up for myself and express what I’m truly feeling, instead of acting out the safe and known pandering routine. But also there has been more tenderness, gentleness and consistent connection. And most of all there’s a stronger and growing deeper love and respect for myself in expressing and leading from my heart, and feeling how incredible it is to be the powerful, graceful and truly tender woman that I am finally allowing myself to be, and in my relationship too.
by Anonymous, UK
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to finding Love within.
Naturally, Tender Me by Amina Tumi