And The Truth Has Set Me Free

It takes maturity to, “…know when to hold ‘em/Know when to fold ‘em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run….”. Kenny Rogers made that very clear in his song, “The Gambler”. For the past two and a half weeks I have allowed my past to keep me emotionally bound. Today I received enlightenment and got back my power. Before today there was a glimmer of hope regarding the possibility of reconciliation with the man who had recently captivated my heart. Today, I see our truth with a clarity that I did not have the day before.

Last night, while speaking with a dear friend, she intoned that we (women) have a tendency of thinking we are the best person for the men whose lives we enter. Her words, powerful and true, pierced my heart because I had fallen prey to such patterns of thought time and time again—including this present moment. Despite the continuous arguing this man and I had done in the “last days”, I still felt like he should return to me because he will never find a woman to love him as deeply as me. While there may be truth to the depths of my love, that doesn’t mean that I am the best woman for this man (and vice versa). In reality, the past few weeks have been a mixture of feelings. One minute I wanted the man I loved to come to his senses and call me back to his heart. The next minute I wanted to forget his name and his remembrance in my own heart. Now however, I don’t feel one way or the other. Now, I have come to the realization that the man that I had “fallen” in love with was incapable of loving me to the degree (on the same frequency) on which I was currently living.

Unable to get him “out of my system,” I brought him up in today’s therapy session. I shared with Sarah that he had sent me an arbitrary email two days ago. I went on to point out that the sight of his name in my inbox sent waves through my spirit because it felt good to be thought about. But what I had failed to think about in those fleeting moments was that his reaching out to me in the past three weeks had been inconsistent and unemotional. There were random emails here and there, all with seemingly no depth. Before I could continue to relay my confusion with E, Sarah interjected.

“What was your relationship with your father like? I know it seems out of context, but I think it will bring you some insight.”

It took me a moment to gather my thoughts before I relayed my memories. “I followed my father around like a lost puppy. If he was out tinkering with something in the garage—his motorcycle or the lawnmower, I found a reason to be out there because I wanted to be in his presence. But he was never really around. I mean, he would come home from work and we’d all eat dinner at the table together, but after that he’d be in the family room watching television—usually Westerns—I hated Westerns, but I suffered through them because I wanted to be around him. Basically though, he was always gone—bowling, hunting, fishing, out with his motorcycle group. He wasn’t really around physically; he most certainly wasn’t around emotionally. We aren’t close. In all actuality there was a time when I called him out of a sense of responsibility. Over the years however, our relationship has developed and I call because I want to know how he’s doing.”

“It sounds like you didn’t get the attention you needed from him.”

“No,” I said in a somber tone.

Sarah responded with, “You see attention [from men] as a reward.”

Eureka. There it was–the source of my dis-ease, my dysfunctional way of relating to men had been borne from the lack of an emotional investment/connection from my father. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not pointing a finger of guilt at my father. I am merely acknowledging that the dysfunctional pattern of relating is tethered to a basic need that was never fulfilled in my childhood. No one is at fault. There is no blame to place. There is only forward progression into a future where healthy relationships and ways of relating exist.

That being said, the conversation went back to E. I went on to share with Sarah how I had expressed my dissatisfaction in our relationship in an email in mid-May. I noted how I didn’t feel that he included me in his plans. I also pointed out how visits from his female friends made me feel uncomfortable and devalued. Most noteworthy was the following paragraph where I shared how I wanted to be treated.

I deserve a man who is going to consider my feelings when he makes decisions.  I deserve a man who includes me in his life, not just when it’s convenient for him, but on a regular basis—either because he chooses to, or because he makes the sacrifice to do so.  I deserve to be treated with respect, to be honored and appreciated.  I am not asking for the world, but for the “simple things”.  I deserve to be with a man who isn’t trying to maintain the life of a single man while enjoying the privileges of a committed man.  Yes, each person in a relationship should have outside interests, but you can’t be committed to someone only when it’s convenient, or when it fits into your schedule.

It was at this point that Sarah drew a diagram of how she envisioned E’s idea of a “relationship” versus what I desired in a “partnership”.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 20.38.20

E’s way of relating involved a “me” and “you” mentality. My vision of relating served as a “partnership” where WE were on equal ground. It was becoming more and more clear that E was incapable of relating to me in the manner that I desired. He was incapable of including me in his decision-making. He didn’t see me as his equal. In a partnership two people are in tandem. In a partnership there is a sense of equality. In a partnership WE supersedes “you” and “me”.

It was making perfect sense that I had been making snarky remarks in the “last days” when I asked E (the Thursday before our relationship ended), “What are your plans for the weekend?” And his reply was, “I’m going to Orlando to see a friend.” Individuals in a partnership include one another in their plans. They consider their mates in decision-making. E’s inability to ask me to join him in Orlando was a clear indication that WE weren’t operating at the same relational frequency.

I sat there with a most pensive look on my face when Sarah very casually asked me, “Why do you love him?” I thought, what do you mean? Is this some kind of trick question? She continued, “Is it that you can say ‘I love the way you make me feel or I love the way I feel when I’m around you?’”

“Hold on I said. I need to write that down.” She repeated the phrase and I allowed it to penetrate my thoughts. “Any time a man showed some interest in me I would lose all sense of control.”

“It’s because you see their attention as a reward.”

The pattern was more and more clear. The dysfunction could no longer be masked. In that very moment I knew in my heart, in my spirit actually, that E was not the man for me, and I was not the woman for him. There was no longer a need to wonder about the possibility of reconciliation. He, in his pre-formed ways of relating to women, was incapable of loving me as I desired and deserved to be loved. So long as E had a “you” and “me” perspective for a “relationship”, he and I would continue to bicker and argue over the same things. I have finally accepted him as he is. E is not a bad person. He is simply a man whose way of relating does not match mine.

I leave you with scripture that has comforted me, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32). The truth is truly freeing.

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Where Is The Path to Forgiveness?

Co-authors Stasi and John Eldredge noted in the text Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul that, “Until you forgive, you remain their prisoner.”  I have been harboring ill feelings (unforgiveness) towards another human being for the past seven months.  Why?  You ask.  Because he was one more man on the growing list of many who have discarded my heart, love, and affections.  Recovering from the rejection and loss hasn’t been easy.  It’s never easy to bounce back from disappointment.  But it is true that time heals all wounds.  What I have learned is that some wounds take longer to heal.  To this day I am unable to watch one specific commercial because it reminds me too much of the last man who walked away from me.  Because I turn the channel or divert my attention each and every time that commercial comes on, simply proves that I haven’t completely forgiven this man.  I have backed myself into a corner and the only way I can get out is to forgive him.  But the truth is, I don’t know how to get onto the path of forgiveness.

The last man’s rejection left me feeling like the fourteen-year-old version of me.  Once again I was that girl searching for guidance from a father that wasn’t available—physically or emotionally.  Each time a man has chosen to leave, the pain of that initial rejection from my father resurfaces, and I once again question my self worth.  When my father divorced my mother he divorced himself from me too because our relationship hasn’t been the same ever since.  While we have made some headway over the years, the little girl that lives inside me wants her dad(dy) to be there to shield, rescue and comfort her from the harsh realities of life.

I remember vividly the moment when I knew my father wasn’t returning—not just from the trip he’d gone on—but to his family.  My family had recently returned from a three-week cross-country vacation in our motor home.  My older brother had just graduated from high school, and I was fourteen years old.  My father had left for Michigan (not sure if it was business or pleasure that time) and when he didn’t come back when he was expected, I knew that my nuclear family would be forever changed.  One night I awoke to odd sounds downstairs.  Slowly, I crept down the stairs to find my mother on the floor in the living room shredding—quite literally–my father’s hunting rifles.  Without making a sound I sat there on the steps for a few moments.  My mother must have been in a trance because she never noticed me, never heard me, never turned around, and never stopped hacking.  As she hacked away at the guns, I knew with all certainty that their marriage was in serious trouble.  When my father finally returned home a week or two later, he merely came to retrieve some personal items.  Just like that I had become a statistic.  I was one of those kids whose parents divorced.  I was one of those kids growing up without a father in the home.  Sure, he lived in the same city, just a few miles a way in fact, but from that moment forward our relationship was strained.  I was a girl without her father’s guidance.  I was a teenage girl who was clueless about navigating the interests of the male species.

I think I’ve spent the past twenty-something years running from the pain of being the statistic—the 50% of North American children whose parent’s divorce.  Along with that, I presume that I’ve subconsciously, and to some degree, consciously feared that every man who walks into my life will do the same thing my father did—unexpectedly leave.  It’s the classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  Psychologists define this phenomenon as the process in which an individual’s expectations about another individual eventually lead the other individual to behave in the way that confirms their expectations.  This is to say that I expected every man who entered my life to also one day exit my life because they were men, just like my father, not capable and/or interested in maintaining their commitment.

I don’t want to be a closed flower or a caged bird.  I don’t want to be hard and calloused.  I don’t want to stop feeling.  But I do want to know love, security, protection, passion, and commitment.  I want the freedom to love without the fear of being rejected.  I want the freedom of being quirky.  I want the freedom to express myself without being misunderstood.  I simply desire to be free from other’s judgments.  I seek to live a life without regrets or condemnation.  I admit to making my fair share of mistakes.  I am far from perfect, and I’m okay with that.  I want to also be okay with life’s disappointments without them decimating me emotionally and psychologically.

I’ve come to realize that I’m that little girl who’s craving for her father’s attention.  I’m the same little girl who followed her father out into the garage or out into the yard.  I’m that same girl—only now a woman—seeking her father’s validation and love.  If my father had let me, I probably would have followed him everywhere.  It didn’t matter if he was tinkering with one of his motorcycles or playing with a turkey call, I wanted to be right there stealing away some of his love, time and attention.  Perhaps I’ve been doing the same thing all these years later.  Though every man has been different, the desire has remained the same—maintain the commitment and give me the attention and love I didn’t get from my father.

Today I’m asking God to heal my heart once and for all.  I’m asking God to give me all the love and attention that I lacked from my earthly father.  I undoubtedly love my earthly father, but have come to understand that we cannot go back in time to reclaim what has been lost.  I forgive him for his humanity and hope that he can do the same for me.  If there is one thing I have gleaned over the years, it is that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have obtained.

As I close, there are questions that I need God, The Father, to answer.  What is it that makes me special?  What do you see in me?  What makes me captivating?  When the answers to these questions are revealed, I am confident that the constant yearning in my heart will dissipate and a peace I’ve never known will fill me to overflowing.  And so I ask you dear reader, what question(s) do you need The Father to answer?