Let me level with you from the start. I am not a relationship expert. In fact, I have previously been an expert in exactly what not to do in a relationship.
I’ve accepted being treated poorly, like I wasn’t valuable or worthy of consideration. I’ve spent too much time trying to make thing works at any personal cost, trying to patch up things that were beyond repair, and trying to figure what was wrong with me.
If you’ve been reading my work recently, you know that isn’t the case anymore. My entire life has changed – and nothing more so than my love life. Recently, a friend’s partner reached out to me for advice because his lady is unhappy, and for many of the same reasons I was. So I’m going to put this out there for men who have found themselves with a strong woman, so you at least have an inkling of what it is she wants.
I’m pretty fresh out of a relationship that crashed and burned for a lot of reasons. But the main reason I ended it?
I didn’t get the kind of support I needed. And not only that, but I didn’t think I would ever get that kind of support that I so. desperately. wanted.
Surprised? Well, I can’t say I’m shocked.
This isn’t the 1950’s, right? I don’t need a man for financial support. I am capable. I am strong.
From your perspective, it probably looks like I’ve got everything handled over here, and well, that’s because I do. I’m a single mother of two with a successful business, living in a beautiful place in the city. Cue up the Beyonce, because this independent woman has it together on her own terms.
And I love it. I love knowing my life is this way because I made it that way. From the apartment to new friends to how my business works, these choices are entirely mine, and that makes me feel powerful.
Along with this new found empowerment, another choice I’ve made is to embrace transparency. I’m not talking about “blunt honesty” which is just an excuse for airing opinions without kindness. I have chosen transparency because I want all of the parts of my life to fit together without me having to make excuses or allowances for them. I want my life to be a clear representation of what it is I say I stand for.
With no room for excuses and nowhere to hide from the consequences of my actions, I’m continually putting myself in a position that forces me to stay honest. There’s no barrier, no walls left there to protect me. And that leaves me very vulnerable.
And guess what? That’s what I want from you. I want you to be just as vulnerable as I am.
Vulnerability isn’t always pretty. Staying open means you’re just as likely to feel pain as you are love. And that is terrifying, especially as you try to maintain it over a progressively longer period of time. You get deeper into a relationship, you feel things more deeply. That’s just the territory you end up in, and the only way out of it is by backing off or moving through it.
But sometimes, even with the chance to step away, scream your head off in a car, and pound your fists against the dashboard, you’ll still experience an evening that leaves you raw and crumbling. No matter how irrational the fear, no matter how obvious the insecurity, there you are, cursing yourself for letting this happen and trying to figure out what’s next.
But you know what’s next. Either you put up new walls and pretend it doesn’t hurt, or you stay open, feel what you’re feeling, and figure out how to move on to at least some marginal acceptance.
The deeper I get into this relationship I now find myself in, the more I have to confront triggers, demons, and all of the baggage I’ve been carrying around for a very long time. I don’t want the frustrating, selfish feelings that come up – pangs of jealousy, fear of driving him away, the desire to possess him. I refuse to let those feelings define this relationship.
Finally, I think I understand Woody Allen’s quote, “To love is to suffer.”
It’s a strange thing to accept – at least in theory – whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Not long ago, I realized I had this deep-seated desire, this need, for a masculine counterpart. There’s a part of me missing without it. Acknowledging that need is difficult because it means there is in fact something outside of me that I can’t have without another person. It doesn’t get more vulnerable than knowing you want someone who might not end up wanting that, too.
And I feel that failing to incorporate someone like that into my life, I am missing something of incredible value.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not afraid of being alone anymore (because now I know there are much worse things). I am capable of being alone and living a good and fulfilling life that way. I enjoy my own company. I can take care of my needs.
And I know I would like to share a life with someone else. That I want to build a house and garden and build communities wherever I plant myself. That I might want more children. And more immediately, that I would only choose to be with someone I felt there was a chance I could share that with.
Given all that, I have to accept that if this ends, it will hurt worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. And yet, here I am, willing to be destroyed for a chance at the Real Thing.
Let’s be real.
I’m a big tough girl. I’ve got it covered. I have things handled.
And guess what?
I love it when I don’t have to. I love knowing that if I need to step out for a minute, you’ve got this. I appreciate when you plan things so I don’t need to. Sometimes, I can’t hold it all together, and knowing you’ve got my back? I can’t tell you what that means to me.
Yeah, it’s important to me to know I can get things done, to know I can keep the ship afloat when things get rough. Chances are I became this way for a reason. Whether it’s my rough background or fucked up childhood or a history of people telling me I’d never make it out, knowing I’m independent is a part of me I won’t let go of. (Because I can’t.)
But let me tell you a secret. Can I tell you just how wonderful it is to think there exists this kind of relationship where I feel so held, so considered in the midst of everything else you’ve got going on? How amazing it is to know I can lean into you? To be in a relationship where I can feel strong and supported?
I became strong because I had to. Knowing I don’t have to be so strong around you? That is a gift.
The fact may be that I don’t need you.
But guess what? I want you. You get to stick around because I choose you. Just like every other aspect of my life that has undergone careful consideration, I am choosing to be with you.
And really, I think I’m stronger when I’m with you.