Last night I was sitting at a local restaurant enjoying a vodka martini, which is a normal occurrence on a Monday as it has become my alone or #Bachelorette day, when I met a nice couple sitting next to me. After a few drinks and small talk the girl leaned over while her “boyfriend” was in the bathroom. She looked at me and said, “he cheats on me and lies, but he’s so charming and nice right?” I’m sure as it always does, my face said exactly what I was thinking but I calmly replied, ‘so is he cheating or are you not in a committed relationship? That’s under your control.’ I disengaged because I didn’t really know what to say and more importantly didn’t want to get involved at that moment in time. 

Coincidentally, or perhaps serendipitously, yesterday was the three year anniversary of the end of the most toxic and disappointing relationship I have ever been in. Why do I remember the date every year? Because it was not only the end of a relationship with a man, but it was also the end to relationship with a part of myself I didn’t recognize. I wanted to share the major things I have learned from that experience and the self discovery process it initiated. 

1. A “Charming Guy” is no guy for me

I was dooped good in my last relationship. “Charm” when used in courtship or potential courtship has become an extremely undesirable quality to me. I don’t want to be charmed, I want to have a genuine look into to someone’s being, what they stand for, their manors, their morals, and who they truly are in that moment. Charm to me is now connected to deception or manipulation of the truth. While I guess it does have its place in certain situations, I’m not interested in someone who is generally charming. Of course someone is “nice” when they are charming, that’s the whole shtick. Save your charm, I’ve learned to see right through it. 

2. I can’t truly love others when I don’t love myself

This was a key lesson I learned after this break up. I had no identity anymore and had no idea who I was. I didn’t even like, let alone love what I saw when I looked in the mirror. Not only was my physical body out of sorts, but my career, social life and passion for anything had been wiped away. I knew about 6 months prior to the break up that I didn’t love my partner, but I had fallen into the cycle of what I had convinced myself was logical and wanted to make it work. We already had a relationship, a dog, plans to move in together, etc. How I actually felt had little to no relevance. 

I first learned I needed to trust my instincts. Why did I stop loving my partner 6 months prior to the breakup? That is precisely when he started dating someone else and I knew it, I could feel it in his energy and behavior. I always said it was one thing to cheat and a whole other thing to carry on two long term relationships with two people, neither of which knew what was going on. I didn’t even believe how I felt, so how could I genuinely share it with others? I knew exactly who he was, but had no idea who I was. Cue the 2+ years of self discovery (and it really takes THAT long). 

3. Control is key and I need to choose my own destiny

A common theme among the more controlling relationships I have been in as well as my observations of others’ experiences is the intentional breakdown of the controlled person’s identity. If a person has no personal identity, then they don’t work to make their own decisions to maintain that identity. It seemed that this guy hated everything I loved: my closest friends, watching hockey, and Santa Barbara (I mean really, who dislikes SB!?). Once I pretty much stopped engaging in the activities I loved, I then just did whatever he wanted to and adopted his way of life. I was so blinded in the relationship I didn’t realize till after it was over that I had given up all my passion and drive. This all was an attack on my mental health and became emotionally abusive. 

As traumatic as the breakup was, literally something you’d see in a soap opera, I came out with an amazing sense of relief that there was more out there for me. Since then I started my own company, which is now growing exponentially; I’ve lost 30lbs and completely transformed my look to one that I really like; and I have an incredibly colorful social life filled with tons of amazing people and experiences. At that moment on 6/22/12, I took back my control and I started to control my destiny again. 

4. I’m not normal and that is not only Ok, it is awesome

People are astonished when I tell them I didn’t REALLY internalize and accept that I am different until the last couple years (really the last year). I had spent my entire life trying to be normal, likeable, “what men want” *barf*, social, etc. etc. A lot of that time, especially during this relationship, included self medication, denial, depression, anxiety, and confusion. I didn’t really recognize and cherish that I see the world in a different way and think unconventionally because those things are chopped up in our society to be weird, insubordinate, mean, cocky, foolish, and a whole slew of things I’ve heard in the past.

Quite frankly, looking back at this lack of self makes me want to cry, especially in light of the number one killer of women ages 13-19 worldwide now being suicide (WHO). Luckily, I had a very successful life in general with a very supportive familial backbone which was my saving grace. That being said, I had managed to make it to age 25 with no idea who I really was. I knew the facts like my culture, some of my talents, my degrees, but had no handle on my deep down values and desires in life. How could I ever be in a relationship or have an accurate “picker” in this hazy condition? Answer = I couldn’t. 

5. Having things and money does not equate to wealth

This was a huge point I learned very specific to this situation. While people don’t like to talk about finances until marriage, there are huge red flags I learned to take note of. This guy was obsessed with stuff. Perhaps because he was a poor child or because he saw no internal value in himself, but the boats, cars, cameras, and stuff was out of hand. I’m very clear now that I want to be with someone who takes risks, but is very responsible and excellent at assessing investments. 

That being said this accumulation of “stuff” signified far more than just a string of poor investments. It was an example of him trying to fill a void. My poison at that time was food and drink, his was boats and cars. Neither one of us had any metaphorical or real wealth in our lives. He brought out the worst in me which stopped me from true success. To make matters even worse he was incredibly arrogant, rude to people, had to be the smartest, and overly self confident, which rubbed off on me. I have always been on the more confident side, on the exterior at least, but looking back I was just a terrible person in so many situations when I was with him. 

6. My biological clock is not ticking

What a crock right? Sure there is science and now technology that explains and controls aging, prime baby making years, etc, but this whole idea as it has perpetuated as a societal norm is a load of crap. And I of all people fell into its grips. I had to date one person, I had to get married, I had to have kids, I had to make house. Three years later it is hard for me to even type those arbitrary life milestones as they seem so much less desirable when compared to my life goals and objectives. I have never even really wanted kids, so why was that forced onto my radar? Really now, WTF!?  Really now, WTF!? 

I of course have no disrespect with regard to how people choose to live their lives, but there is no reason I have to follow suit. If I want to enjoy my time, date several people and experience all they have to offer then so be it. If my match walks into the wine bar tonight and we are together forever, so be it. All these timelines and personal expectations had muddied my life and worst of all I was so incredibly unhappy. 

His situation was not my fault and mine was not his fault. None of this was anyone’s “fault.” I had fallen into a cycle that I could write an entire book on with him being what pushed me overboard. I needed that plunge into the cold and murky waters of life so desperately. I don’t hold any feelings of hate or resentment as I want everyone to be their best. This situation forced me to learn about myself, be with myself, grow, be successful, to love, and to move forward with my life. 

I share my story in an effort to encourage others to share theirs as it has been key to the healing process. You never know who you will impact.