I appreciate his narrative and others like it. But I also realized how that often when we talk about relationships going wrong we only talk about the mistakes on the part of the men in those relationships. I recognize the trend of relationship violence being men-to-women. But that is a trend and not the whole story. My friend's candor in his discolure inspired me to go through my own romantic history and identify the sexist, abusive, and manipulative behaviors I've engaged in as a woman.
Today I wrote many things that are too personal to share on this blog. What I wrote contained numerous details of my past and present relationships. Enough to compromise the anonymity and emotional well-being of the people I share(d) relationships with.
Instead of posting the whole thing I'm just going to share some of the insights I came to:
- Essentially I drove headlong into relationships with the secret agenda of "make me lovable!"
- Initially these relationships would seem absolutely spectacular. I would suddenly seem like a whole person. Everything would be shiny, happy, and gloriously intense. Each of these loves felt as if they "completed me". It was so novel to me to be seen as a whole person that seeing myself this way made me feel kind of high.
- I was much less likely to say "no" to someone I was dating because I framed all their attentions toward me as loving.
- At my most insecure anything that took my partner's focus away from me immediately kicked off a spiral of thought that always ended up in the same sodden conclusion. I saw myself as unequivocally unlovable and deeply unimportant. It didn't matter what it was that took my partner's attention or how earnestly they'd professed their love to me previously. I was convinced in some part of me that I was unlovable. That part of me still exists (current/recent partners will corroborate this).
- Because of my own insecurity, I've been clumsy, and I'll say it, abusive in some of the ways I've sought validation from my romantic partners. I would come on strong. The words "LOVE ME" streamed so loudly though my veins, I couldn't listen for other people's boundaries. I've violated boundaries because I came into interactions seeking only to be validated. And for that I am so so sorry.
I pride myself on the work I do to be more intentional and ethical in my relationships. But that pride doesn't mean hiding or never mentioning my mistakes. While crafting this post I experienced a strong impulse to defend my past transgressions and then compare that to the actions of others, or frame it differently, so that I might not come out sounding so bad. But really that's the "not enough" insecurity talking. I know now that I don't need (your) love/approval to be "lovable" (I'm a human and therefore lovable). And honestly it doesn't matter that my bad behavior was "not that bad" it matters that it was harmful and that I want to do better.