When I was twenty-seven I was in a five-year long relationship. The woman was (is) beautiful, kind, smart, athletic… she was basically perfect. But yet, despite what I tell you, there was just something in me that was screaming and gnawing at my soul that I wasn’t where I needed to be. This is about my journey through that… and a little more.
This seems shocking to read, right?! Most people thought what you’re thinking right now, “Why the fuck would you potentially question that type of partner? Hot and smart? You idiot.” All I can tell you is that it just didn’t feel right. Knowing what I had (her), and feeling what I felt was a great source of pain for me… because my intellectual mind was saying, “This is what you’re supposed to want”.
And my emotional brain replied, “But it’s not what you want.” That gap made me feel sick.
On the day we got engaged my world imploded. I looked at her as we shared the joys of her reply to my invitation to matrimonial bliss, and all I could think to myself was, “I think I’m supposed to be more excited than this.”
For the next three months my stomach was in knots…
My nights out became later, my beer consumption increased. I would sleep in our spare room and tell her I was feeling sick, when in actual fact I was secretly searching the internet for the answer to:
“How do you know if he/she is the one?”
Not surprisingly I wasn’t the first to search this subject. I stumbled upon many articles and forums with women buzzing about… the odd man would enter the conversation, with his digital head down, shamefully searching for an answer to a question most of us (especially men) are scared to ask.
But that’s where I found myself… among the often frequented, but not often spoken about, alleyways of the internet. (maybe a couple porn sites too…)
It was in that darkly lit forum that I would share my story with what I now consider saviours and angels. I would spend hours reading the stories of others and their answered questions. And honestly, I was really searching the depths of my desperate soul to understand why I felt the way I felt.
In the mornings my fiancé and I would have coffee and as she would walk out the door to work I could feel the shame and guilt wash over me… I felt like an awful person to have brought someone down this path while feeling so much trepidation and uncertainty. I would look at her through the mask of contentment I wore… An actor who was playing far too many roles; roles that weigh heavily on the soul.
It would be in the second month of our engagement that I would be asked three questions that would forever change the course of my life (of which I’ll share my answers):
1. Would you be okay if she left you tomorrow? Yes. Yes I would. Actually, I would be more than okay. I would feel like a million pounds lifted off my shoulders and the burden of responsibility to those around me to get married by ____ years old, have kids by __ years old… all of that bullshit would be gone and I could finally scream, “FUCK THE SYSTEM”. I have written before about how in these moments when we’re afraid to leave, we try to force our partners to leave. We drink, we respond sharply, we distance ourselves, we lie, we cheat. We even wish they would cheat on us, and some of my clients/readers have even admitted to having wanted their partner to die.
My gawd the lengths we will go to avoid hurting others and listening to our souls… all to not experience the pain of failing in relationship, and more specifically, being the one who ended it. But alas, I digress to the next…
2. Can you imagine what the altar would be like waiting for her, whatever your “altar” may be? No… I cannot. And even the idea of being at the altar hurts my stomach. It makes me scared, nervous, anxious… The challenging part about these feelings is that I was sold my whole life that “men are just afraid of commitment”, so that’s the message that I used to make this anxiety make sense. But I can tell you today, from my lens of clarity and understanding in looking back at my experience, that some fear related to relationships is healthy and normal, but terrifying anxiety is not. And a fear of commitment, whether you’re male or female, can have many pathologies… but don’t be so quick to dismiss your feelings and anxieties because someone one day shamed someone from leaving by saying they’re “afraid of commitment”. This fucking comment makes my blood boil because it’s so dismissive and lacks any sort of curious inquiry…. But that’s a whole other article.
The third, and most powerful question I have ever been asked:
3. Can someone else love her better? Yes. Absolutely 150% yes. This is the one question that kicked me square in the balls. And I’m not talking the kind of kick that grazes the left nut… I mean the winding up, take a run, field goal in the sacro-illiac.
It hit me. Finally. I saw it all. I was so scared to leave. I had been on a journey searching for an answer that I had always known was there. I was searching for the answer to be anything but what I knew to be true.
I look back now and I can see that I was so terrified of hurting her… I was terrified of letting go of someone so amazing. I was petrified of not meeting the expectations of my community, my friends, my family, and… loosely, deep in my subconscious, my religion/God.
But in order to maintain this facade I was not only hurting myself, I was lying to and hurting her. Sure, I deserved love that made me scream from the rooftops, but more importantly, in that space of my fear and cowardice, she deserved it more. She deserved truth. She deserved to be loved for the fabulous and amazing woman that she was and is today.
(SPOILER ALERT) I ended it. Ok… you knew that was coming.
It was both one of the most challenging conversations I’ve ever had to start, and also one of the most beautiful moments of my life, because I finally, despite all of the pressure and all of the reasons I should’ve married her, chose me.
That decision, up until this point in my life, has been one of the most powerful decisions I have ever made. I acknowledged my pain. I acknowledged my heart. I saw the child in me, who was so scared, and I grabbed his hand and told him, “It’s going to be okay, we’ve got this. I’m not sure what the future looks like, but you are finally free of the emotional anvil that has plagued every cell of your body.”
I want to tell you what it means to leave. I want to tell you what it means to let down someone you love, hurt them, and also know that it’s the right thing to do, and necessary. I want to be able to answer all of your questions and lead you to the same peace I feel. But I don’t think one can verbalize such an experience. It must be had. But I’ll tell you where it led me:
In the days and months after I left the relationship I was pissed. People I loved, and thought loved me, pushed me away. Some people talked behind my back, some people shamed and threw words that felt like daggers. Many told me I was:
“Afraid of commitment”
“Afraid to grow up”
And that I had “Peter Pan Syndrome.”
Some told me that I would never find anyone like her again.
These types of people will always exist… In a way I think they are a test to see if we’re truly willing to stand in our truth and in our integrity. I see them now as people who were put in my path to test my fortitude and to build my resilience. You must know for yourself too that they are driven by fear because our choices scare them. More specifically, my choice meant they could be left someday. My choice challenged the system that says:
“You work through anything and everything.”
“This generation treats love like it’s disposable”
“You made a commitment”
What I’m most grateful for though is that people loved me. People held me up when I thought I had no future. Even strangers saw the human in me; that I was hurt, confused, and lost… and loved me for it. I will be forever grateful for the friends and family I have…for their love was so much more powerful than the messages of those living in fear. They were the hope I needed to take one step, even if it was small, everyday.
The challenge with our world (among many) is that, unless there’s some form of physical and mental abuse, no one has support for the person who leaves. I’m certainly not a victim of the experience, but we’re so inundated with these messages around relationships and marriage needing to last forever that we treat those who leave as if they’ve murdered someone. As if they’ve failed at something there is no space to fuck up with.
So, needless to say, when I left, I was pissed at the people who lied to me. Because I finally saw that we hold marriage to this ideal that “You marry someone and you stay with them forever. Maybe in love, maybe not. You work through everything…that’s what marriage is.”
The love part didn’t matter though, because our ability to “stay together” is what we’ve made determine our self worth.
Want the evidence? Look at how we celebrate anniversaries instead of the quality of a relationship. When was the last time you heard someone say, “With every passing year we raise our communication game. I have never known her as well as I do now, and I’m so happy to support and love her on her journey and in her dreams.”
Instead we hear, “Oh, you made it to twenty years!! Amazing!!”
Followed by whispers… “I heard she’s banging Ben, her trainer… and he’s been humping Teresa for years.”
We have been lied to about marriage. We have been sold a story that is so filled with holes that I can’t believe the revolt has taken so long.
Want the truth?
- Most relationships don’t last forever (you already knew this…come on…)
- Not all people who are married are happy. A lot. Many. More than we’re willing to acknowledge.
- Most people don’t actually know how to be in healthy, loving, emotionally expansive relationships.
- If previous generations think we leave too soon, it is equally as safe to say that many people also stay far. too. long. As in, they die, in misery. Married though. So at least they die with jewelry.
This is why I don’t want one of those relationships. They are fake, full of shit, lack emotional connection, and are really just a couple people living together who fart, do laundry, and maybe eat dinner at the same table.
I want more. I think we all do… it’s just that no one has taught us how to even create a deep and fulfilling relationship. There is no education on relationships, and for that reason most of us will follow the path we’ve been sold by our cultures, religions and societies that say we have to marry “this” type of person, who’s “this” gender, “this” colour, and/ or “this” religion. Fuck that. This is why our hearts and souls scream to us at night, we’re all on antidepressants and, as Brene Brown said, injecting our ass fat into our faces. We do drugs, drink, seek fleeting romances, all because we’re terrified of going against a system. We’d rather live completely out of alignment with who we are so that we don’t threaten the lives of those around us.
For just over the last ten years I have studied relationships; What makes them work, why they don’t, and the intricacies of human psychology and why we do the things we do. And I studied all of this from a very selfish place: to understand myself and how the fuck I got engaged when I knew I didn’t want to. Crazy. Expensive. Fucking. Choice.
Your life lessons don’t have to be expensive (although most are). I want you to know that you don’t have to do shit you don’t want to anymore. You are not a prisoner because of a decision you made when you didn’t know what you know today. You can love however the fuck you want. You don’t have to marry in the same religion, culture or colour. You can marry a dude, a chick, or both. You can get peed on in the bedroom, you can lick butts and you can make deep, soulful love. You can be true to yourself.
The response to this by those fearful, scared people I mentioned before is generally a giant reaction that it’s going to make everyone sluts and that it means people will be selfish and destructive… people are destructive when they don’t feel loved and accepted for who they are. When people are unconditionally loved, they don’t need vices and pain outlets. (Antidepressant, sleeping, and diet pill sales are gonna plummet!!) So my only caveat to all of this advice is that you live a life of integrity and with kindness. When you’re kind to others, you’re kind to yourself.
In the thirty-eight years of my life I have been the funny kid, the athlete, the chubby kid, the pretty boy, the heartbroken guy, the player, the man whore, the college bro (I had frosted tips and wore abercrombie….gawwwwd), the pharmaceutical rep, the white picket fence checklist guy, the booty caller, the blackout drinker, the intellectual, the poet… and now, after all of that, I am me.
That journey didn’t come easy. Or free. Or simply. It unfolded and continues to unfold exactly as it should. I didn’t know why I needed to leave my engagement, but I had to. I didn’t want to leave the security of my job to become a writer and a relationship coach… but I had to. I didn’t want to run an annual conference when I didn’t know how, but I had to. I answer the call each time I get it because I now understand that we don’t get to be certain and to be in love with anything; people, jobs, dreams… all of them require vulnerability. They require leaping and letting go of what we know to be true. They require trusting. Yourself. The universe. Your heart.
Today I have a job I love. I have a partner I love. And I have never felt more connected to myself, the people around me, and now, to you. I know you may not have all of the answers today, but I promise you, one day, each leap will make sense, you just have to take it.
Trust. Trust. Trust. And love. A lot. You got this mutha fucka. Now go get it.