Every ‘expert’ needs help at some point in their life, and I had got to that point.
7-yrs ago I stepped into my relationship with what I thought was very open eyes, I knew what I was getting in to. We had discussed our differences and at the time, I thought we were on the same page having agreed on how we would accept our differences, and the maturity to allow each other to be the individuals we were, yet at the same time embrace and co-create an “us, we ours” going forward.
I looked to my partner for taking the lead seeing as he was older (15yrs), had been married before, had been a husband, was a father and envisaged the same picture as I had – us being a family.
Having come from a twice divorced home growing up, I was very conscious of not wanting to create the same experience for his daughter as I had. I knew what it felt like to have some strange woman come into your home, your place and ‘take away’ your father. I did not want to force or impose myself on her but rather for her to accept me over time.
She was at an age (18yrs) where she didn’t need a mother no one can ever replace your mother as I well knew from having lost my mother at 7yrs old. She had already established close bonds with her friend’s mothers who were like mothers to her, and she had a very close relationship with her dad – a part of me wished I had with my dad and admired in him as a hand’s on and involved father.
Moving into a new home together for me was a great opportunity to establish a foundation to start building on the “us, we ours” and to settle into family life.
Having worked with couples and relationships for the past 12yrs, I knew full well that the honeymoon romantic phase of a relationship always seems perfect at the time but, at some point we would be moving into the next phase of our relationship and that’s where the real work starts.
About 3yrs into our relationship I started to realise that we had possibly not established clear boundaries going forward as to our relationship and us as a family. Little signs of where we weren’t aligned and on the same page started to creep in.
In my mind we were as much of a husband and wife as anyone else despite not having the official piece of paper to say so. We owned property together, were in each other’s Wills and policies. My view has and always will be that you don’t need a piece of paper to show you are committed to someone, you show it every-day in your thoughts, actions and behaviour and this is how I choose to live. I referred to him as my husband as that is how I saw him and the position I held him in.
Yet 3yrs in, my partner was still referring to me as his girlfriend, his daughter, his home, my friends, his friends – not ours. We had many discussions around this, him often saying it was ‘just a joke, to get a reaction from me’ but it did not give me any sense of comfort in that I was seen as an equal in the relationship – rather an outlier.
Many a time we would have discussions and agree on something (at least I thought we had) only to find those decisions replaced by decisions he subsequently made with his daughter. I constantly felt like my opinion or views were never considered, and so over time it felt like we were firmly established in a “them vs me” situation, something I had set out trying to avoid based on my personal experience growing up.
Being a relationship ‘expert’ it’s easy to see things from an outsider perspective but when you’re in the thick of it yourself, all rational and logical thinking goes out the window and defences take over, and we were stuck in a reactive and defensive spiral.
Putting myself in my partners shoes, I can understand how he felt, that I was always criticising him as a parent. He felt I was always finding fault with how he was handling situations and his parenting approach, yet that was never my intention. In hindsight, I was fighting to be seen as his partner, as his equal, that I had value to contribute, instead of the invisible outlier which I was now starting to feel both in my relationship and from a career perspective.
I have been blessed in that for many years now I have known what my passion and purpose is, and that is to be a catalyst for change for others. To hold a safe space for others to think aloud, explore, discover, come to terms with, resolve, help or let go of.
It was in the very early days of our relationship that I decided to take the leap of faith and follow my dreams and passion full time, thinking I had my partners support and blessing. We had discussed how it would impact us going forward especially on a financial level. Yet on deep reflection, I still very clearly remember the look on his face in that very moment, even though he said he supported my decision, he didn’t fully buy into my vision and I felt that he didn’t really believe I could succeed at it.
At the time I didn’t realise just how big our differences really were at a fundamental level, and that we had very different belief systems. He is a Scientologist and I am Spiritual Chrisitan (I believe in God and the greater Universe, that we are all inter-connected to a higher purpose and being whatever that may look like for you and don’t believe in imposing my beliefs on anyone but rather accepting each for who they are, and what they choose to believe in).
I did not realise then that any form of “psychology, pop-psychology, therapy or self- help” practices were invalid and dismissed in the world of Scientology. In essence, my entire world, everything that is fundamental and core to who I am was dismissed and continued to be dismissed for the duration of our relationship.
We had many, many, discussions on these topics, often ending in heated arguments ultimately resulting in another small piece of my Soul shriveling up as I fought to be visible and acknowledged, that I was serving a purpose and doing some good in the world and for greater mankind. Yet, he was able to acknowledge and validate others in similar fields and industries.
I knew we were stuck when I had got to the point of desperation, feeling I had tried everything I knew possible, both professionally and personally to try and get us to shift out of the place we were stuck in and move forward. Begging, crying and pleading for us to seek help, to go for therapy or counselling with no reciprocation.
At the same time my partner was going through his own dark journey having been retrenched from his corporate job, feeling lost, not knowing where to next and the limited career options he had available due to his age. Engrossed in his own world, thoughts and concerns as to how we would provide a stable environment for his daughter. I was completely unaware of this as it wasn’t something we never spoke about.
Being a single parent is not easy, especially as a dad, something he was so used to doing having been a single parent for so many years on his own. This is partly what contributed to our situation over time, he was so used to being a single parent and having to only make decisions for himself and his daughter he didn’t know how to let anyone else in, or share that responsibility with someone. Leaving me feeling shut out and that I had no value to contribute having not ever been a parent myself.
I was the perfect partner, independent, could take care of myself and get on with things and life, one less thing for him to worry about, he could just carry on doing the same he had always done – be a single dad. As much as I stood back and didn’t want to impose myself in his relationship with his daughter, I didn’t realise just how hard it would be to find a place in that dynamic.
Here is where I begun to realise we were not on the same page and did not have the same vision for our relationship going forward – there was no “us, we ours”. His sole focus had been and continued to be on getting his daughter established in life. Something any parent would be concerned with.
My frustration was playing out in not feeling like a priority in his life or being seen as an equal partner and that there were never any discussions or plans about our future, where we were going as a couple and as a family. I felt like my life was on hold, indefinitely.
The more I felt invisible and invalidated in our relationship the more I turned towards my friends and sport to fill that need.
It’s ironic how we both experienced the same thing just from different perspectives. My partner felt my friends were more of a priority instead of him and he felt like the outsider. While I felt like the outsider with his relationship with his daughter.
Our communication had got to the level where it was superficial, functional and the walls had become too high to break through. I was in a very dark place and I had not realised just how much it had affected me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
I was constantly being plagued with injuries and illness, I felt numb and empty inside, I had lost my confidence, my self-esteem, self-worth and it was affecting my business which was on the on the brink of failure. I was constantly seeking his validation in so many different ways, as a woman, as his partner and in the work I did – yet never getting it.
After several attempts of trying to get help with turning my business around I had to face the reality that I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t address the source – my relationship.
So I did what everyone needs to do at some point in their life, seek help. I took myself off to therapy. I could no longer deny that I had reached the end of the road and was completely shut down. I had to let go to save myself and pull myself out of the deep, dark place I was in. I felt like I had regressed to a fraction of myself.
The last year and half of our relationship felt like we were living past each other, it had got to the point where it felt like we were house mates and nothing more.
It would be easy to lay all the blame on my partner for our relationship falling apart but I know that is not true, it takes two to make, and two to break a relationship. I’ve had to walk my talk and practice what I preach and teach to others. I had to help myself.
I’ve had to face some real truths and process being a failure, my hurt, pain, anger, disappointment, fears, sadness, relief and letting go.
I’ve had to acknowledge that:
- I alone cannot save my relationship, it needs two willing participants.
- I placed unrealistic expectations on my partner to take the lead just because he’s older and has experienced marriage before and therefore knew what to do to build a family.
- When there are fundamentally different belief systems between two people, it will result in clashing views and value systems no matter how much you think it won’t.
- One should not have to seek validation from your partner. Being supported, nurtured, and acknowledged is normal and healthy in a relationship.
- Just because my relationship failed does not mean I am a failure, even if I perceive my industry and peers to judge me so.
- Imposter syndrome is real, even more so when you feel you’ve failed at the very thing you have tried to establish yourself as.
- The term ‘gaslighting’ comes to mind, albeit subtle and continues to sit with me when I get flashbacks on events.
- I could’ve tried harder to have a better relationship with his daughter, children always take the lead from their parents or primary care giver’s and she was only taking her cues from how we approached and responded to our situation – him protecting her and me keeping my distance.
- Had I known the dark place my partner was in from losing his job, I could’ve helped and supported him differently to the ways I thought I was supporting him.
- There are many things I could’ve done differently when it comes to my reactions and how I approached things and I will work on this going forward into my next chapter.
I’m still on my journey, some days are good, other days not so much. I’m still processing and reflecting on the lessons and insights, practicing compassion, understanding and forgiveness, both towards my partner and myself, and trying to find myself again in the process.
For every beginning there is an ending, and for every ending. there is a beginning. It’s a start and I am a work in progress.