I want to talk about ghosts… specifically the “ghosts of boyfriends past”. Most of us don’t realize how haunted we truly are, or the ways in which our painful pasts can block us from finding happiness.
As you know, I have been hurt a lot over the years, for which I am thankful. The pain has served me well in that it’s given me invaluable insights into relationships (and provided me with a plethora of content to write about!), but I also recently learned the extent to which I never fully processed and let go of some of that toxic baggage. They say time heals all wounds, but I find that is only partially true. Time makes you forget, it makes the memory more distant, but it doesn’t automatically heal the wounds left behind. Healing from a devastating breakup isn’t a passive process– it is something you need to actively work on. A relationship is going to unfold in only one of two ways: it will either last forever or it will fall apart. In order to get the relationship that lasts, you have to come to terms with all the ones that didn’t.
Right now, I am fortunately in a happy, healthy, loving life… and a single lady. I am single because I am focus on my goals and school. I’m not looking for a relationship but instead, I am saving myself for the right one at the right time.
However, in the beginning I had a really tough time truly trusting anyone (that included my family and friends). More importantly, I had a hard time trusting myself and my own judgment.
Even though I knew my fears had absolutely nothing to do with anyone, I couldn’t get past them. I knew these feelings were coming from me because he did nothing to make me think he was anything other than fully committed to making the relationship work. But sometimes seemingly small, innocent things would trigger my fears and insecurities.
For example, anytime he would try to reassure me by saying “I’m not going anywhere,” I would feel my guard reflexively come up and I would become a bit more distant, withdrawn, and uneasy. He was understandably hurt by this and thought I didn’t believe him, or didn’t trust him, but that wasn’t it.
With a little self-reflection I was able to pinpoint exactly why it was happening. Many years ago I was in my first serious relationship and I fell hard for a man who wasn’t in a place to love me the same way I loved him. He loved me as best he could, but his life was too much of a mess for him to truly give himself to someone else. Even though he was there, I never fully “had” him.
When my insecurities would flare up, he would tell me not to worry and that he “wasn’t going anywhere.” I would feel instantly calm and secure. Even though the relationship was far from ideal, I believed he would never leave. I believed he couldn’t live without me, just as I couldn’t possibly fathom a world without him. The relationship had its ups and downs…and even though the downs were becoming more frequent and long lasting, I believed we would power through. I believed we were in it together and would make it work. But we didn’t. Instead, my greatest fear became a reality….he left me for someone else and showered her with all the love he was incapable of giving me. Saying I was devastated doesn’t do justice to the state I was in. I was graduated from my vocational courses and got the job on the spot at the time, which made it very easy to escape from my pain. Rather than process what had happened, I partied like there was no tomorrow. I made sure to leave no open space for the pain to slip in. I was going, going, going, no time to stop. No time to think, or worst of all, feel.
In the years that followed, I became hardened and my once open heart was now unable to feel anything for any man I dated. One by one they would fall hard for me, but I would feel nothing. There were a few guys who managed to stir something inside me, and I would inexplicably fall hard and fast. My stomach would be in knots waiting for the next text, I would endlessly analyze everything he did to determine whether or not he liked me, I would constantly plan and plot what I would say and do to win him over. But nothing ever came from those “relationships”– save for me being left devastated — because the only guys who could get me to feel anything were the emotionally unavailable ones.
My objective mind couldn’t see this, though, because my attraction to these guys was rooted in my subconscious. My last relationship had instilled a belief in me that I was unworthy of love, that I would never get the guy I wanted, that no man would love the real me… so I sought out guys who weren’t in a place to love anyone, really, and was proven right time and time again. That’s the thing about the subconscious, it always seeks validation, even if it’s in the form of a painful reality. What happened to me is something that happens to many women after a toxic relationship and crushing breakup: I internalized faulty beliefs about myself and never challenged them.
Two years after my last relationship that “broke” me, I realized just how deep the scars were. I realized I had adopted a set of beliefs about myself that lived in the depths of my mind and sabotaged my efforts to find the love I’d always wanted. So I decided to dig deep into the darkness to purge these beliefs. I looked at that relationship through an objective lens and realized the way it had unfolded had absolutely nothing to do with who I am.
At the time, I thought he’d left me because I wasn’t good enough… because I was lovable… because I was too worthy for him.. because I was too available for him. I also stopped trusting my own judgment. I had stayed with him even though he was clearly bad for me. I had trusted him based on the few words of assurance he would provide when I was feeling insecure, and ignored all the glaring red flags. How could I trust myself not to make the same mistake again? As a result, I became a woman who believed she couldn’t trust her instincts, who couldn’t trust men, who couldn’t open up and be vulnerable and let anyone else in.
As I’ve written about before, good relationships bring all your unresolved issues to the surface. Even though I had done a lot of internal work before I started dating any guy, there was a lot more that needed to be done. It started with realizing that every relationship is the complete opposite of the last one, and I am a completely different person now, so it is absurd to think I would repeat the same mistakes. The subconscious doesn’t operate from a place of reason and logic, it operates from a place of emotion. What I needed to internalize was that even though certain things felt real (like that he was going to just leave me out of the blue one day, and I needed to be on guard at all times lest I miss some warning sign), they were not reality. Feelings aren’t facts, and when you look at a situation objectively, you often see just how silly and unfounded your beliefs truly are.
Once I realized what was happening, I was able to challenge some of those old faulty beliefs and replace them with newer, happier truths. I was able to finally relax and let love in. My family noticed the change immediately, and hopefully with a new relationship coming in the future, will improved drastically.
If you’ve been hurt in the past, try to see if you can identify any old wounds you’re still carrying around with you. Think about how you interpreted the situation at the time and see if you can spot any faulty beliefs about yourself that may have developed. Then do whatever you need to in order to correct those. It isn’t always easy, but is so worth it.
I owe more to that experience, as awful as it was. But, it honed me, strengthened me, made me proud and gave me standards I hadn’t had.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful feeling to be in love with someone but it’s also empowering as hell to be able to have the confidence and maturity to really love yourself wholeheartedly.
Sometimes it’s the mistakes and pain that turn out to be the best parts of life! Don’t lost hope.. keep loving and be grateful.