Love From the Shadows

Romantic relationships have been the forum of my deepest pain and darkest shadows. Before my son was born over seven years ago, I had spent decades chasing love. I wanted to feel special, loved, and worthy, and that experience was only going to come from having a husband. One man after the next was my next possible prince. If I was not living in a constant state of chasing, longing, and self-wounding around love, I wasn’t myself.

Eventually, I was blessed  with a man who would one day become my husband and the father of my son. For years I raced after him as he went in and out of my life. I felt that we shared something exceptional— like me, he had a deep commitment to spiritual practice and growth. Like me, he’d been abandoned by his mother and raised by a grandparent. Like me, he had never felt valued or worthy of love, and had a deep sense of being rejected. And like me, he was a wounded child in an adult body. The stage was set, and the drama played out.

Today we are divorced and co-parenting a very beautiful boy together. Since our separation, I have made great strides in healing my chasing behavior (with him and any other men). After our split I set out to discover what is love and a loving relationship. From this curious position, I’ve learned to love myself unconditionally and to celebrate my beauty in ways that have nothing to do with conventional ideas. I’ve accepted that my idea and expression of love is not monogamous in the way our contemporary society defines it, and have come to revel in my need for freedom within love. I no longer have the desire to call someone “my one and only” love. I have no desire to have someone deny or hide parts of themselves to make me feel safe and secure. I only desire to be my full self in my relationships and to spend time with men who bring the same. I trust myself enough to grapple with whatever darkness may present itself within unscripted romance. I like my own company, and I’m no longer afraid of being alone. That said, there are still the ghosts that haunt me and remind me that I’m not at the finish line yet.

Recently my ex started a new relationship, and I find that I’m having conflicting feelings within myself. It’s as if I’ve grown and healed but didn’t’ think he’d experience his own level or healing. I’m watching myself as I experience feelings of “I don’t want him, but I don’t want him to have anyone else either”. I witness myself be pissed that he is doing inner work with his new partner that he wasn’t ready to do with me and my old demons are resurfacing with a vengeance. The obsession, self-loathing, suffering, jealousy, and judgment that I’ve “left behind” are again at my front door. Rather than do anything about it, I’m sitting in the stillness with my feelings. Beneath the chaos lies a deeper knowing of who I’ve become, the woman who’s emerged since our divorce and because of our marriage. I’m a woman who no longer relies on validation and love from others, exclusively and primarily. I love myself, and that includes the part that is disturbed by my ex engaging in a new relationship. I will admit it’s scary; and I’m wondering whether it’s how a recovering addict might feel as he’s tempted to drink or use again.

Yes, the wounded little girl inside wants some attention, but I won’t let her take over this time. I can only say I’m profoundly grateful to see myself so clearly, and to be able to fall into my commitment to healing and self-love. This is some of the most difficult inner work I’ve done; the desire to be the chosen one is so clever that it’s very challenging to identify. But today grace has allowed me to see more of myself, and I’ll take the gift. Today I chose myself just as I am.

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