During and after my divorce, many friends said to me, “the universe gives you what you need when you need it.” But what happens when the universe gives you an emotionally abusive, narcissistic, alcoholic boyfriend in your post-divorce relationship?
What I ultimately learned is that it wasn’t the universe that brought him to me. I was the one who brought the relationship, along with all the hurt, on to myself.
Here’s What I Learned from my First Post-Divorce Relationship:
During my time with this man, a dear friend told me that people reveal their true selves to you, but you have to be ready to see them for who they really are and not what you want them to be. At the time when I met him, I had been separated from my husband for over a year and we were deep into the divorce process. When he came into my life, I was a lonely, wounded human.
His pursuit and ultimate seduction of me made me feel all the ways a woman wants to feel — smart, sexy, desirable, special. He was the key to saving me from empty, meaningless relationships. He was the key to making me feel alive again. But the combination of seduction and desperation is a dangerous, yet intoxicating one.
So I allowed myself to be blind to reality. He showed his true self to me over and over again, yet I ignored the signs and measured my self-worth by how he felt about me. I also measured my self-worth by how I could save him from his troubles: addiction, alcoholism, and depressive behavior to name a few.
Some women define their value by their romantic relationships.
It is still true today, despite living in the 21st Century, that women often feel that their value in relationships depends on how well they can be the caretaker and the problem solver. Many women feel that their value is measured in their ability to be agreeable, understanding, and forgiving.
I gave up myself and my own needs in relationships so that I could prove how committed I was to being the nurturing woman that my partner expected of me. If I stuck with him through his mess he would see that and love me more, right? This is how I felt in my marriage and how I approached this new post-divorce relationship.
One day, I finally started to believe that basing my worthiness of love on how someone else felt about me completely undermined my ability to evolve as a human.
Staying with this man, who allowed me to believe I was to blame for every disagreement, who disappeared for days after binging, who cheated on me, and who lied to me over and over again, meant that I loved him more than I loved myself. And I couldn’t live with that.
My mom always said to me for as long as I could remember that I should never depend on a man. She meant financially, but this idea took on a much deeper meaning when I was in the shitstorm of trying to get out, but feeling too weak and like I wasn’t enough.
Now that I’m out of that toxic relationship, I often encounter women who are divorced and in relationships where they make excuses for being with someone who isn’t meeting their needs.
And to that, I say what my dear friend said to me: that you decide on what you see when someone shows you who they are. You decide if you want more and if you deserve more. You decide who determines your worth.
Heather White is a divorced mother of 2 amazing kids, Educator, Nurturer, Loyal Friend, Runner, Seeker of truth and meaning.