Relationships aren’t always easy. Deep down I knew that you should make time for yourself and nurture other relationships, but quite simply, I didn’t. I was with my ex for ten years and managed to sleepwalk through my life. I never thought I was neglecting myself, in fact it rarely occurred to me.
I spent so much time talking to him about his hobbies and achievements, that I didn’t cultivate my own. My anxiety consumed everything, so I thought maybe having jobs and achievements wasn’t an option for me, as that was something other people did. Having a stable relationship was one of my few ‘successes’ – a thought that now gives me the rage. We are conditioned to want to tick things off from the ‘life list’ by the time we reach a certain age, but it’s all meaningless as you have to walk your own path, not compare yourself to others.
This behaviour suited him down to the ground. He’d spend hours talking to me incessantly about his work, bouncing ideas off me, which at the time made me feel valued. Now I just want to shake my past self and scream: “What are you doing? What about what you want, what you’re interested in?!”
Now I can see in full technicolour how unhealthy our relationship was. I was as wrapped up in him as he was in himself. I spent ten years living with him in a new town, and only made one sort-of friend. But as an introvert I thought that was fine, and I used to sit and muse about how I never felt lonely. I didn’t consider what would happen if one day we were no longer together.
But then one day came and he cheated on me.
So I left him and it felt like a weight had been lifted. Sure, the anxiety was still there but I felt free. The oppressiveness of our relationship had left an empty space. And yes, I felt bereft as ten years is a very long time, but I channelled my energy into doing the things I enjoy. I’m studying and filling my head with the knowledge I crave. I’m writing – something that I used to find so difficult that I’d criticise every word I typed. The social connections are coming more slowly, as frankly social anxiety is a bitch. But I’ll get there.
I’m writing this post to gently remind you that it’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to think about what matters to you most and how you can make it happen. And to know what your personal boundaries are so people don’t walk all over you – it’s so, so important. It’s okay to shout from the rooftops, “hang on, what about me!” That doesn’t make you selfish – as you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Now I feel empowered. I’m happily single and focusing on me, and I will never sleepwalk through my life ever again.