The top 4 things I do differently (and why I don’t hate Valentine’s Day any more)
“Love never dies a natural death.
It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source.
It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals.
It dies of illness and wounds;
it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
Anaïs Nin – Criminal Minds (season 8, ep 14)
I didn’t feel loved or cherished by my (now ex-)husband..
.. so I did my deep work and met a wonderful new partner..
.. and I STILL didn’t feel loved or cherished once the honeymoon period was over.
And I genuinely couldn’t see how I was contributing to the awful, painful script we played out day after day.
After all, I was a great communicator, I did my inner work, and my reactions to his behaviour were justified!
But you don’t know what you don’t know, right?!
Maybe you’ll relate to my story and not feel so alone in your situation.. and you’ll find out what four things I now do differently that changed the game for me.
When my ex-husband and I were together, I absolutely hated it when he celebrated Valentine’s Day.
We were poor – looking for lost coins down the back of the sofa for grocery money poor – and the idea of him wasting our precious little reserves on over-priced scentless roses (or whatever was considered ‘Romantic’ with a capital R) riled me!
And the idea that THIS day was the day for romantic gestures.. would he even have been doing that without the expectation set by card and chocolate companies? 🧐
I used to derisively call it “Hallmark Day” instead of Valentine’s Day. 🙄
And so not loving it made sense, right?!
With hindsight, I understand the dynamics a lot better now.
It wasn’t about the obligatory romance, or even about the commercialisation of love.. it was more to do with what happened the other 364 days of the year.
🥲 I didn’t feel heard or that my needs mattered.
🥲 He invalidated my feelings to try and shut me down (and avoid his own uncomfortable feelings).
🥲 He policed my escalating reactions to him shutting me down (or minimised what had happened) rather than be accountable for his behaviour.
🥲 He’d say he was going to do things (saying ‘yes’, to appease me and/or avoid talking about the subject) and never do them.
In short, he played the role of ‘naughty boy’ to my role of ‘authoritative mother’.
Well, I can tell you, that’s not sexy!
And not romantic!
And it’s exhausting!!
And it only got worse over time as nothing was changed on either side of the script we were playing out.
And we just couldn’t seem to change the script.
At the time, I didn’t even know that I didn’t have the basic skills I needed to be able to navigate these conversations in a way that I could’ve been heard. I thought I was a skilful communicator!
I wasn’t expressing my needs as a vulnerable request (which he would’ve been able to hear and respond to), and instead, I issued demands and commands that left him feeling emasculated and ‘not enough’ and left him with a sense that he didn’t have any agency in our relationship.
I didn’t even know how to soothe my own nervous system when I was triggered [by his stonewalling, projections, or minimising] and felt righteous and completely justified about my escalating reactions in the moment and filled with remorse afterwards.
As you can hear, his behaviour was pretty 💩.
[He eventually changed, years later, long after our marriage ended, and owned the impact his behaviour at the time had had on me.]
But mine was equally ‘toxic’. Something that I realised towards the end of the marriage, owned and changed, but too late to make a difference.
After our divorce, I did a lot of work on the ways I had contributed to our crazy-making dynamics.
And I applied that, and learned and course-corrected so much more when I began dating again, and even through the few casual relationships I had.
And I thought that was it.
I was better and it’d be plain-sailing in my next ‘conscious’ relationship.
And then I met Jol..
I’d spent years doing my work, recognising my patterns, and was sure that things were going to be different!
And for a while, they were blissful.
The most exquisite connection I’d ever experienced in my life.
I felt so met at every level.
It was the BEST RELATIONSHIP EVER.
With the BEST PARTNER EVER.
But.. this bliss was short-lived!
Lo and behold! 😆
The exact same dynamics showed up.
And some worse ones!
And I managed to react to them in the same old ways..
And I still hated celebrating Valentine’s Day!
For the exact same reasons. 🤦♀️
A relationship isn’t built on the occasional grand romantic gesture.. it’s built day by day through small and considerate acts of love and kindness.
** SPOILER ALERT ** Some of my most painful patterns were triggered in this relationship too.
And Jol sure managed to ‘help’ me find the worst version of myself and ‘helped’ me see how poor my boundaries, communication, and attachment wounds still were.
(of course.. he was just playing out his own stuff, but it did give me the opportunity to see my own stuff more clearly and then to change it).
Because, unlike in my marriage, I had better mentors, tools, and relational skills to deal with these shadows in me than Past Me had!
And enough experience to know where I was contributing to the shittiness I was experiencing
(even when I felt like I was on a runaway train heading for a wall and couldn’t stop myself repeating the same old patterns – at least I was now aware of what I needed to work on, which is always the first step)!
So much about this relationship is different to any I’ve had before.. and that’s because I’ve been different and have learned the skills to deal with things differently..
.. those early days were the WORST! 😱
We both do our work.
But someone had to choose to start.
So I started.
And for a long time, I drove that change, by changing my own script.
But eventually, we reached a tipping point into something better.
Something more stable, more peaceful, more reciprocal.
We’ve had a bumpy ride at times.
But things are fundamentally different now..
(and could be for you too)
- For a start, I know that my needs matter as much as Jol’s and I treat myself as if that’s true and I don’t accept less from him or anyone else. Especially from me.
- I learned how to communicate in a truly skilful way.. and very often, that means humour, not the ‘skilful communicating’ I thought I was doing before 😬
- I know how to deal with his stonewalling, projections, and minimising (basically, any of his tricks to avoid feeling shame) without letting it completely derail my mental health or push me into escalating and becoming someone I didn’t like, like it used to.
- And if I do get triggered and feel that fire shooting up my spine, obliterating rational thought 🤯. .. I know how to step away, soothe my nervous system, and come back calm and able to sort things out.
Most of the time, anyway 😉 #human
Well he’s changed a lot too. Not always as fast as I think he should or wish he would 😆 but I love how cared for I feel so much of the time.
In the specific and detailed ways I feel most seen, understood, and loved.
He’s really stretched as a man to show up in more considerate ways, show more love in actual actions, be in integrity (aka do what he says he’ll do), and so much more.
So now, when he adds a cryptic event to my calendar for
Valentine’s Day, I’m excited to see what he’s planned!
I know it won’t be over-priced, scentless roses 😉
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Let me know in the comments, or leave me a message in the chat box at the bottom of the screen.
I’d love to hear from you!
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