Have you ever felt resentment or anger towards someone who hurt you in a relationship? If you have, you’re not alone. I have too. Let me tell you the story of how I got through it.
In 2012, I met the most amazing guy on match.com. We’ll call him David. He was tall, dark and handsome, a Texas native, proud veteran, boisterous, and he made me laugh until it hurts. That’s what got me, the laughter. We also shared a passion for international travel, family, great food, and football. He had never been married and I was divorced but open to remarry. When we met, he was living in Virginia temporarily for work and was considering moving back permanently. However, once his temporary assignment ended, he returned to his permanent home in the middle-east. We decided not to date long distance at that time but kept in touch as friends.
Eventually, he ended up getting a job offer that he couldn’t refuse where he lived and decided to accept it. Before he started the new job, he took a trip back to VA to visit and invited me to a Redskins game. We had a blast. There was a different chemistry from when we met before, and enough for us to consider a long distance relationship. After that date, we spent the next year traveling the US and the world together which was one of the best experiences of my life. He was not only an amazing person to be around but a lot of fun. But something nagged our relationship. He sporadically made comments that felt condescending and critical. You name it, he had an issue with me…my car, my choice of school, the fact that I was divorced. We got into arguments. I cried a lot. I tried to reassure him that the person he thought I was…I really wasn’t. By the time a year had passed, the criticisms were getting exhausting and I was tired of trying to ‘sell’ myself…but I continued to do it. I didn’t realize it at the time but the resentment had started to build up.
Our last trip was during the holidays. We did every fun thing that we could think of. There were no arguments. I met his parents, and we had a really amazing time. He changed his flight twice to stay longer with me in Virginia. I was starting to feel like we had gotten to a good place…finally. The day after he arrived home, he called me to say that he wanted to end the relationship (sandwiched in between criticisms). Needless to say, I was angry and hurt about the breakup but more so, how he treated me when we broke up.
I don’t want to portray myself as a victim because it’s never one person’s fault that a relationship fails. However, I recently had an epiphany about my relationship with David after meeting Corey. Stay with me…
Corey and I had an instant attraction and clicked immediately. I loved that he was down to earth, very real and that we could talk about anything. Whether we were at the gym working out together, going to a play or eating dinner we had a ball. I really liked him. There were no pretenses with us and his attentiveness to me showed me that he had the biggest heart. Before we started dating, he told me that he was recently out of a 3 year relationship and doing his best to cut off all ties with his ex (eventually he did). He also shared that he had started smoking cigarettes occasionally and drinking alcohol more excessively than what he was used to. He had been alcohol and smoke free for 10 years but was now struggling with addiction again. For what it’s worth, I’m not anti-alcohol, I am a social drinker, but I am anti-alcohol abuse.
One day, after having been around him several times where he smelled like alcohol or cigarettes, I thought about how much I detested smoke. I also realized that I could not relate to coping with my problems in that way. I felt that anyone who did was, in a way, beneath me. I had been making comments to him about how much I disliked it, but admittedly they probably came off as condescending. I asked myself, why can’t he just cry, or go exercise or deal with his issues in a more productive way? Why would he date a heavy drinker for 3 years when he struggled with alcohol? …And why does he smoke anyway…eeew nasty…
In that moment and in those thoughts, I realized that David (my ex) had felt the same way about me for my choices in life. I also realized, that I was totally judging Corey in the same way that David had been judging me. I felt superior to Corey in the same way that David felt superior to me. It didn’t feel good to be judged but yet I was doing it.
The moment I realized what I had been doing, before I could apologize to Corey, he called to tell me that he really wasn’t ready for a serious relationship right now. I knew that he was dealing with a lot, and agreed that he needed some time, but was hurt because I liked him and he had handled my feelings with the utmost care the entire time that we were together. I woke up sad the day after we broke up and decided to write. In a previous acupuncture treatment with Joy, she had talked about how therapeutic writing is. I had gotten away from it. I didn’t have plans for what I would write, I just opened my laptop and typed whatever came out.
I ended up writing a letter to David. I told him that I missed him, and that he hurt me. As I was writing to him how great of a person I am despite all of his criticisms….the next line brought me to tears. I told him that I am not my flaws. I am not my divorce, or my student loans, or my age…I am a beautiful, fun loving woman made in the image of God. When I wrote this realization I was sobbing. For the entire year that we had been apart, I never realized that I had been carrying this burden of my flaws around. I had accepted his judgements about me. As a result, I had resented him. As I was sobbing and writing, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. In that moment, I also realized how beautiful Corey was on the inside, just like me. His honesty, his presence his vulnerability was priceless and even though I had judged him I quickly realized that he was not his flaws.
The long and short of these stories is this: When we accept other people’s judgements about us, it puts us in this prison of only seeing ourselves through their eyes. When we place judgements on other people, we put them into our own prison. We don’t see them or ourselves as the beautiful people that we are…only our flaws. You see, judgement is reflected back to us like a mirror. We tend to be judged at the same level of intensity that we judge others. I don’t know about you, but I want to have a healthy body, free of the emotional toxins of anger, frustration, or insecurities. Judgements, whether received or given, are really a reflection of insecurities we have about ourselves. There’s good news! We can break free of these insecurities and here’s how:
- Don’t accept bad things that people say or think about you. There is a difference between feedback and judgement. Feedback is given with the goal of building up. Judgement is meant to tear down.
- Don’t label other people or their situations in a negative way, instead take time to exercise empathy with them. If you can’t empathize, sympathize. Ask them how you can show support. Know that until you walk in their shoes you’ll never be able to understand their struggle.
- If you’re ever in a relationship where you feel like you’ve been criticized or judged, or that you’ve given it, and you feel heavy, write a letter. Don’t judge yourself…give yourself permission to just write. You don’t have to deliver the letter but it will allow you to express your feelings raw, uncensored and freely.
- Last but not least, continue to build yourself up at all times. Write down all the things that make you fabulous and believe them! Remember that no matter what, you are not your flaws. Love is contagious. As you remember all of the great things that you love about yourself, you will unconsciously spread that love to others.
T.A. Young is a Human Resources Professional based in the Washington, D.C. area. She loves traveling, yoga, and volunteering.