Life after divorce means eventually dating. It means eventually loving. Catch up before reading further with part ONE and TWO.
So there I was, exclusively dating M and loving him along the way. We talked about our futures, we started using "we" instead of "I". The signs were all there. After all, we loved each other!
It made me fully aware that I could love again, which is something that honestly scared me for a long time. After being hurt so badly by my ex, could I ever trust or love someone again? Well, I learned the answer to that was a resounding yes! Not only could I, but I did. I found myself really caring about M and going out of my way to do things for him and be there for him in any way that I could. I'd sacrifice sleep or blogging or a night on the couch watching Grey's Anatomy reruns to spend time with him. And things were great!
There were the typical feelings of coming up short for someone. I worried I wasn't good enough for him or that I didn't live up to what he really wanted in a serious relationship. But as time passed, I started feeling that I wasn't satisfied anymore. I started stressing out over things I couldn't control and prayed fervently. M had some things going on that he needed to work on and focus on, but I truly believed he'd get it all taken care of, somehow, someway.
Little did I know that those feelings would eat away at me little by little. I called my sister constantly to ask her what I should do and to justify my feelings, that this is what a new relationship feels like. I had a few talks with M and he reassured me about a lot of things, but nothing improved. In four months, he only took me on ONE date. He didn't have time for me anymore unless I was able to show up while he was at a scheduled function each week or just made myself available in the middle of the night when he was awake. For a while, that's what I did, but it got old quick. I wanted more. I needed more. I needed more than he could give me.
I learned that not only did he not have time for me, but he didn't have money, time, or energy for me. He was dissatisfied with his job and constantly complained about it. He had some habits he needed to really focus on and improve. He also had some medical things to take care of. But nothing changed. Excuse after excuse, I'd let it slide, thinking it would pass. I mean, I loved this man! And then all of the feelings I felt with my ex-husband came flooding back: having to fix his problems, stressing over his situations, bending over backwards to be there when it was convenient for him. But when I needed him, he was nowhere to be found. He didn't reciprocate the actions, and we all know that actions speak louder than words!
I felt I deserved more, that I deserved better. I certainly deserved to be treated better. I refused to settle for someone that reminded me of my ex, that had the same behavioral patterns. And then, one day, I finally made the decision that I needed to end things with M. It was over. I might have cared about him, really cared about him, but I no longer loved him. How do you continue loving someone that fails to meet your expectations, when your expectations aren't very high to begin with? You don't. At least, I didn't. And then, for the first time in my entire life, I took matters into my own hands and broke up with him. Before that day, I always stayed in toxic relationships until the guy left me. I just really, really don't like hurting people. But having been hurt enough recently, I wasn't going to allow myself to suffer any longer. I broke up with him, and it hurt him. He was taken aback by the words I said and that I was actually ending what we'd built. I wondered if I'd regret it or constantly think to myself if it was the right thing to do over several days or weeks or even months. But the reason I knew and know it was the right decision was because a weight was lifted almost immediately. I no longer felt the stress that his life brought to mine. I no longer felt burdened by having to fix his employment or financial situation. I was no longer disappointed by him, and I felt free.
My relationship with M taught me a few things: that I could love again, that it's okay to put myself and my needs first above hurting someone else, and more of what I needed in a significant other. It also taught me a lesson in love. Did I really love him? Was that really what love looked like? It felt natural, because it felt like I had with my ex-husband. But is that real, true love? Giving and giving and giving, being disappointed and let down, and feeling the constant stress of someone else's problems...is that what love is all about? I learned the answer to those: no.