I knew what I wanted to write in part 2 of this series, but the hardest part was painting the picture that would help convey my emotion. To be honest, I wanted the second iteration to be released the next day but I couldn’t quite write it. It actually wasn’t until last Thursday on my therapist’s couch that I figured out how to tell the story.
The couch of a therapist is such a cultural symbol of comfort and vulnerability. I know this because my first session I sat in the corner like the lady my mother raised. Hands together neatly on my lap clutching the tissue that would remain dry for only a few moments. As the weeks went on, I settled into that spot, releasing inner secrets paralleled by the physical release of perfection. But last Thursday I walked in…took off my pink heels and actually put my feet on the couch. That is when I knew.
So it is only right that I take you back to the moment on this very couch that I came to one of the biggest realizations of my dating life. It was a Thursday, and at this point in my journey I wasn’t as settled into the routine of therapy that I am now. See, the part about therapy no one tells you is that the therapist really doesn’t solve your problems for you, they just help you admit to yourself that you may have bad habit. And sometimes the power in admitting is simply saying the words out loud.
During that day’s session, I had the uncomfortable but necessary task of talking through all my past relationships…an exercise to help find patterns. As I poured through details, it felt familiar. I had told these stories a million times…to myself…to future lovers…and to women who told the same stories back to me. As I strung together pain, betrayal and insecurity into sentences punctuated by tears and silent disappointment, I was reassured that they were the same tales, just with different people.
My tale of love would always begin with me opening up wide for hearts that were unconditionally sealed shut. I would give and give, and they would take and take and tear and break the pieces of me that I so fragily offered up.
In my relationships, I knew my place. I loved in silence, they received in silence but glowed on the foundation of my love everywhere else where I wasn’t allowed to be seen.
Take a second and let all that weight sink in.
Pulling myself back, I knew she was asking me a question. I could read her lips, I heard it the two times before, but I only stared back..
“Why did you stay?” She gently repeated one last time.
I knew the answer.
I had trained myself to give a specific answer about believing in love and forgiveness. But today, the new answer on the tip of my tongue was one that I deeply felt for the first time. And as I let it go, the weight of its truth was the most freeing thing ever.
“I stayed in every relationship regardless of how bad it got, and how I was disrespected, abused or cheated on…because I needed to prove to the world that a woman like me could be in a relationship, or at least to prove to myself that if even for a minute…I could hold a man’s attention”
And then I cried, for the rest of the session.
And even as I typed that out, I cried again. This time, not because it is freeing but because this reality is still the prison of many women.
The world will tell you that you are not beautiful enough, culture will tell you that your body isn’t appealing enough. Your own thoughts will reaffirm what everyone else has said.
So we settle.
We settle into situations, we downplay our needs, our wants, our own confidence. We make homes in the insecurity of others and in turn blanket ourselves in the warmth of their disrespect…but at least we are warm.
I don’t know when I fully changed the way I approached relationships, and what I would tolerate. Maybe it was the endless girl power mantras from my friends. Maybe It was the familiarity of pain, or maybe it was the moment I realized…
Stay tuned for Part 3 – Who Could He Have Chosen Instead…
Body Positive fashion and lifestyle blogger.