Growth is what happens after we make a conscious decision not to go through the same thing while expecting the same outcome. If you’re like me, this can be quite challenging because you find yourself becoming numb to the impact of the end result after experiencing it time after time.
Fellow navigator, you may grow accustomed to being called out of your name, shamed because you don’t look like the next top model, and ridiculed because your skills are not as sophisticated as the one he dated before you. His words pierce because they are said from a place of hurt and pain. He is unsatisfied with himself or the surrounding circumstances, so he takes his frustration out on you and verbally assaults your abilities, character, and physique all in one fell swoop. And you, not wanting to go back to life as a party of one, dwell on his words until you begin to believe them.
Despite having entered into a relationship knowing your value and all you brought to the proverbial table, you allow one conversation to strip you of your dignity and self-respect. It might be ok if this had been a one-time thing, but you know it wasn’t. In fact, this is a regular situation you find yourself in. Of course, the lead male character is played by different men, but you are always cast for the supporting female role. Like sandcastles on the beach right before the tide comes in, you’re built up only to be washed away. As you go from relationship to relationship, you become more desensitized to his words. How can all the men you date know so much about your character flaws? Are your insecurities that obvious? You really are lucky he’s still with you, even though you’re not good at many things.
Does this sound remotely familiar? It does to me. While some aspects of the aforementioned story are fictitious, the underlying message resonates to my core because I was that woman. Regardless of all I brought into a relationship in the beginning, those things became less important as I made him and his needs more of a priority than my own. I allowed myself to believe that all relationships required compromise, so I had to put him first. Fellow navigator, this is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves or permit others to tell us.
Until the man you’re with expresses his intent to exclusively pursue you, he gets to be whatever number you assign him on your priority list. Realizing that I was about to go into another cycle, I pulled back.
The first time you find yourself at that fork in the road where you must decide to continue living life as usual or do something else can be rough. At least you know what the outcome will be if you choose the familiar route. Going the other way means potentially losing the one person who seems to get you. But does he? Does he really? If he understood, cared for, or valued you, would he really just stand by as you lost more and more of yourself trying to become what he wants? That, fellow navigator, is what we don’t talk about as much.
In the process of getting to know someone or dating, we see important character traits in them. Whether good or bad, they give us much insight into the true nature of that man. A man who cares for you will not be able to stand watching you lose your joie de vivre, especially if it’s because you’re too busy attending to him. One of the things being single until this point has done is allowed me to spend time with myself to learn about my character. There are things about myself that I absolutely love. I know that the absence of my smile is always a marker when things aren’t right in my world. Because of that, I’ve learned to pay attention when a relationship no longer brings me joy. When the sound of his voice, his presence, or his contributions no longer leave me feeling happy, I know that something is wrong.
To regain control of the narrative, I ultimately walked away from him. It was emotionally painful, but I experienced a freedom that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Once he was no longer my primary focus, I began to laugh and smile. My love for those things I used to do returned, and I unlocked new gifts I never knew I had. There were nights of endless tears and thoughts of going back to him, but I told myself I couldn’t. When I felt weak and like I was going to regress, I leaned on God’s strength to get me through. He wanted better for me; this man was not His best. That singular truth helped me get out of what would have been an otherwise toxic relationship.
Fellow navigator, I’m not suggesting that you become a cynic when it comes to relationships. No, I’m merely asking you to firmly hold on to who you are. While it’s ok to make small compromises for the man you’re dating, you shouldn’t be made to feel as though your needs don’t matter. Have you ever been in this sort of position? How did you pull yourself out of it? Tell me about it!