This post was originally published on DivorcedMoms.com.
Life, I have realized, is just a never-ending series of catch and release. A continuous wave of holding on and letting go, and learning when to do each one.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, this catch and release process of life has been one I learned the hard way in terms of relationships and love. I passively allowed myself to be sucked into situations I never should have been in, and then, I held on when I should have let go.
Sometimes, it’s not just the situation that’s damaging. It’s our own inability to determine when to let it go that destroys us.
In my relationship with my husband, this abusive and toxic cycle of catch and release seems to never end. And I’m tired.
The continuous game of rescuing and releasing, saving and setting free, is emotionally exhausting. It’s a sick game. A game with ever-changing rules. A game that I participated in for many years.
Since separating from my husband over a year ago, I have been on a quest to unhook myself from the piercing grip of an unhealthy love. The sting of that hook doesn’t die just because I broke free, but I am learning that although the unhooking hurts, that wound will heal. Leaving the hook in simply to avoid the pain of allowing it to mend only ensures the wound will stay fresh.
Relationships are difficult not just because it’s a meshing of two imperfect people, but also because the people we allow into our lives and our hearts mirror back to us ourselves. They represent everything we believe we are, and everything we believe we are not.
My relationship with my almost ex-husband has taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined. We choose partners based on our beliefs about ourselves; good or bad, conscious or unconscious. We draw in what we put out.
When I met my husband, I was broken. I expected him to complete and heal me as I tried to do the same for him. Many years ago, I realized that part of what was so painful about our relationship and the stabbing words he used to hurt me was that they reflected all my deepest insecurities and fears about me. About who I was.
He confirmed the belief that I was worthless. That I had no value. That I wasn’t enough.
Through his choices and the behaviors I accepted from him, the lie that I was disposable was solidified. The fear that I was broken beyond repair was staunchly woven into my soul. I stayed with him trying to fix those things about myself that he mirrored back at me.
And so I tried. I tried so hard. I tried to rescue him first, because I thought that maybe if I rescued him, then he could rescue me. When that didn’t work, I tried to be enough. I tried to be a good enough wife. I tried to step lightly and to make him happy. I tried to change myself to fit him.
None of that worked either.
I finally realized that the broken things in him were not my fault; and though he reflected what was broken in me, staying together was not going to fix either of us.
I finally had to realize that although there were of course many things wrong with him, what lead me to that relationship in the first place was all that was wrong with me. And, if I didn’t dedicate myself to healing the broken pieces of me, I’d forever find myself in the same sick patterns of catching and releasing unhealthy men, who in turn, would continue to catch and release me.
So I’ve spent the last year working on myself. I’ve taken a long hard look in that mirror he held in front of me and rather than running from it or blaming it all on him, (though there’s been some of that too), I’ve tried to dig deep. I’ve tried to dig in and dig out those broken pieces that continue to stab my soul. I’ve tried to stop breaking my own heart by continuing on in the same cyclical patterns of destruction.
I’m trying a new approach. Because as fun as this marriage and divorce thing has been, I’m really not interested in doing it a third time.
If you find yourself in this same toxic pattern of catch and release, like so many of us do, maybe it’s time to look in. Maybe it’s time to stop running from the mirror our chosen partners have held in front of us, and see what it is we believe about ourselves to end up in these unhealthy places.
Although there may be a lot wrong with the people we’ve allowed into our hearts, maybe the root of those choices lies within us. Until that root is removed, the same unhealthy fruits will be birthed in your life.
I’m still going through the weeding process. I still see evidence of unhealthy roots in my life. And I’m still sifting through the lies I believe about myself that manifest themselves in unhealthy behaviors and relationships.
I have committed to myself that until I dig up those roots, I will not even entertain the thought of another relationship. The broken reflection of this one is still causing me pain. But I finally know that no one else can fix that. It starts with me. It starts with my beliefs. My choices. My wounds.
I refuse to stumble around the world believing the same lies that lead me down these broken paths. They have served me well in that they have shown me what I needed to see about myself. And now, I’m doing something about what I’ve been shown.
When that hook is cast, I will no longer lunge for it simply because the gaping wound from the last hook has not yet fully healed. Sure, it hurts when the air hits it. But eventually, if I leave the hook out for long enough and continue doing the work, the gash will heal. There will be a scar, and I will wear it proud because it will remind me of all I’ve recovered from. It will reflect healing rather than brokenness. It will reflect wholeness rather than emptiness. It will reflect strength, endurance and faith. And it will be proof that although I attracted unhealthy hooks, I’ve released them, and there is no longer space for them in my life.
When we practice healing, wholeness and self-love, that is what we will draw in. Sick and unhealthy behaviors will no longer lure us in because we will have attenuated the wounds from the inside out. We won’t be perfect, and neither will the people we love. But we will make better choices because we will reflect who we really are, not who we think we should be. We will accept others for who they are, because we will have done it for ourselves first.