At almost fifty-three, I am finally realizing a pattern that continues to haunt me. It is difficult to admit that you fell not once, but several times for a certain type of behavior from people. I think of myself as an intelligent woman, but for some reason, my personality, my soft heart, seems to draw these people to me, or me to them. My lesson is to recognize the signs and learn to deflect the charms of these people, send them peace, and move on without being drawn into their web. I am pleased, though, to find that I have grown stronger, more confident, and I credit that to hard work- but also to my relationship with my husband, Dan.
I see with Dan that I finally broke the chain of becoming involved romantically with men who are controlling and narcissistic. My father had these behaviors in spades, and throughout my life I have gravitated toward that type of man. They seem to prey on my emotions, my nurturing characteristics. They know just how to draw me in and keep me coming back for more. When I finally break away from it, it seems so clear. How could I have missed it? But when I am in the midst of it all, I am blinded by the charm that emanates from this personality type. It is both fascinating and incredibly frustrating to me that this cycle has repeated itself with major relationships in my life.
What a difference when I finally found myself in a healthy relationship with Dan. We are partners, equals, and there is none of the power struggle that I have experienced before. The frenetic energy is gone. It is deeply liberating to feel the freedom of a relationship that is not based on a need for someone to always be superior, to always be right, like there is some sort of competition. That type of relationship can never work long-term, because it is inevitably out of balance, and I refuse to live that way anymore. These unhealthy relationships have not always been romantic- they have also happened in student/ teacher roles, or in situations in which the other person involved was in a position of dominance. It makes me think carefully about my own relationships with my students- I would never want them to feel strings attached to my teaching. I often tell them that I know I am successful in teaching them when they don’t need me anymore, when they have the skills to be musically independent of me.
And that’s the key, isn’t it? We shouldn’t need anyone to be happy or successful. We need to be happy on our own first- then our relationships with others have a much better chance of thriving. Our work in life is to love, to grow and change, and our relationships often end up being a catalyst for it all. I believe that relationships should bring us joy…and when they don’t, perhaps it is time to reexamine them and readjust our sails. Balance is important- when one person is always the one who gives, and the other is always the one who takes (emotionally, time-wise, energy-wise, etc), then problems will inevitably arise. If both parties are committed to the relationship, sometimes you can work together and find common ground, recover balance. And sometimes you just have to realize that there are people who can’t or aren’t willing to effect change…and then you have to decide what is best for you.
Here’s to a New Year of healthy relationships, of growth, and of change. I am grateful that I am no longer afraid to look in the mirror and recognize areas I need to work on in myself (there are so many)…and to be strong enough to know when I have grown past a relationship that has become detrimental to my happiness and wellbeing. Another beautiful part of life is the challenge that comes with interacting with all different kinds of people in endless variety. A rich and complex puzzle. Relationships are our greatest teachers, and I am an eager student with so much to learn.