Walking Away and Finding Myself
On my fridge there’s a magnet urging, “Leap and the net will appear.” This once pleasant yet vague message has recently assumed new significance in my life.
This spring I ended a three-year long relationship, a great love, with the man I believed I would marry. Our relationship was beautiful and sustaining until it became sickly. Until we each brought our personal baggage to the table and it grew monstrous, threatening to devour us both. Until we began our prolonged, exhausting dance in which I stepped toward him, he stepped away, I stepped toward him, and on and on.
I hate to leave, I hate to be left, and I hate to give up. I viewed ending this relationship as indicative of my own failure, so I refused to let it go. I bought and read books on relationship issues. I saw counselors, and in talking to them tried to discover what I was doing wrong. And time and time again, I expressed my willingness to compromise what was important to me. Toward the end I felt like I had compromised myself down to just about nothing at all, until I looked at myself and felt no familiarity with the person I was seeing. It was this that finally led me to leave the relationship, and my vision of a marriage to this man.
When I walked away, I thought I would mourn what I lost. I did not realize what I would gain: walking away from this relationship urged me back toward myself, toward remembering who I am and what I value. Walking away showed me how much I cherish laughing with a partner, and how freeing it feels to know that underneath each conflict sits a foundation of trust. Walking away reminded me never to feel guilty or ashamed for insisting that I deserve a partner who believes enough in our relationship to commit to it. Walking away let me experience the freedom of living on my own, of not needing to consult anyone else about how and where I spend my time. And walking away has illuminated the presence of my steadfast circle of friends and family, people who love me for who I am. They are the net that appeared when I leaped.
I do not regret any of the time, effort, and love I gave in this relationship. I am proud of my ability to love someone else, but I now understand that, just as you wouldn’t use cement to mend a hole in a sweater, and you wouldn’t use a hammer to repair a wristwatch, you shouldn’t use love to fix something that love cannot fix.
I believe that loving another person should never force you away from who you are. I may not have had the correct tools to fix my relationship with this man, but as I walk back toward who I am, I know I have the necessary tools to build, repair, and nurture my relationship with myself.