In The Language of Letting Go, Melody Beattie writes, “If we’re out to show people we’re the best thing that ever happened to them, it may be time to see if they’re the best thing that ever happened to us.” This sentence resonated with me because I have spent my entire relationship focused on how good I am for my boyfriend, and how much I wish he could see that; I was less focused on how good he is for me—and this is new for me, by the way. In my past relationships I was focused 100% on how good for me the guy was. This time around I felt like I’d become less self-centered, more loving and compassionate, but really the pendulum just swung too far in the other direction. I felt that because I hadn’t committed before, that I needed to just find someone, love and accept them for who they are, and just stay committed at any and all costs. I didn’t fully realize that in order to love and accept someone else for who they are, I need to love and accept myself for who I am.
Just to clarify, I don’t mean to suggest that I simply found someone off the street and decided to commit to him. This particular man is someone I love very much. We have fun together just doing nothing. He’s funny and smart, and we have similar interests and similar tastes in movies and music. We both love the outdoors and have an interest in spirituality. We just connect. At the same time, he has mood swings that affect our relationship. Sometimes he becomes depressed and withdraws, or he becomes manic and makes promises he doesn’t keep. He wants to commit, but he can’t because he’s afraid it won’t work out. I had this idea that if we just moved in together so he could see how good life can be, it would work. What I wanted was stability and security, and that can’t happen by moving in together.
In another passage, Beattie writes:
This work readies us for a change of heart, an openness to becoming changed by a Power greater than ourselves—God.
The path to this willingness can be long and hard. Many of us have to struggle with a behavior or feeling before we become ready to let it go. We need to see, over and over again that the coping device that once protected us is no longer useful.
[These] …are old survival behaviors that once helped us cope with people, life, and ourselves. But now they are getting in our way, and it is time to be willing to have them removed.
Trust in this time. Trust that you are being readied to let go of that which is no longer useful.
My “old survival behavior” that once served me was to be quiet, don’t cause any disturbances, and make myself available and helpful when requested (or hinted at) to do so. It came from childhood, of living in a chaotic environment where others were entitled to express their feelings, while I was not allowed, or did not allow myself, to do the same, for whatever reason. It wasn’t my role. That wasn’t my personality. But I can’t live like that anymore. I have a voice, and I need to use it.
My behavior came from a fear of instability, an idea that if I’m just good enough, quiet enough, helpful enough, this will become a stable environment. But the thing is, my behavior doesn’t cause or control the other person’s behavior. No amount of hiding will quiet the disturbance of another.
My preference is that he and I work this out together. That he gets the help he needs, and I get the help I need, and we learn how to communicate in a healthier way. It won’t be easy, but we cope, because any relationship takes work, and we get through it. It gets easier as time passes, as we practice. But I don’t know if that’s the path we’ll take. I am no longer so sure this is right for me. I think I am finally starting to let go. And that scares the hell out of me.
Because the question is, if that’s no longer to be my way of life, then what is?