Thank you…

merakigirl.wordpress.com

Thank you for ripping my soul apart in so devastating a manner that I have no choice but to stitch myself back together – properly this time.

Thank you for showing me exactly the type of man who will never deserve a space in my heart again, ever.

Thank you for showing me that I am strong beyond comprehension – something I have never believed about myself.

Thank you for showing me that I am capable of the most incredible and all-encompassing love that a person has to offer.

Thank you for showing me the greatness of the love I have to give and how to keep that so fiercely guarded that I never waste it on another undeserving boy playing at being a man.

Thank you for showing me who you are and teaching me how to listen out for someone who is narcissistic and subversive, in effect teaching me exactly the toxic type of man whom I need to stay away from. 

Thank you for teaching me how to not be so selfless that I (almost) forget who I am.

Thank you for teaching me that I cannot pour all of my love into another in an attempt to heal them.

Thank you for replacing me so easily that I had no choice but to excise the cancer that is you, move on and keep moving on, every day, one foot in front of the other.

Thank you for teaching me that my boundless love does not come from me (it comes from a Source so much bigger than me), and that despite pouring all of myself into you, I’ve in fact gained more than you could ever have taken away.

Thank you for teaching me that I am not hateful – not in the least – because even after all this, I don’t hate you.

Thank you.

Fight Club: How To Fight A Fair Fight In A Relationship

Fight Club: How to Fight a Fair Fight In a Relationship

Relationships, especially romantic relationships require work, they require love in action, they require compromise and a necessary element of working out our issues comes in the form of a fight.

A fight does not have to be a screaming match, nor does it necessarily have to be something we look at negatively. A fight that is fair, has boundaries and is constructive can do your relationship the world of good, clear the air, set things straight and often bear some pretty tasty fruit aka make-up sex.

If you want your relationship to be one that weathers the stormy days, then implementing some clearly defined boundaries when you fight is essential. Though not an exact science because no two relationships are alike, here are some practical and helpful guidelines to ensuring that you are not only heard but that you hear what your partner is saying, which will in turn help you to address concerns levelled at you and most importantly, deal with the issue at hand and move forward. No one wants to fight over the same thing time after time, it’s frustrating, not at all constructive, demoralising and largely unnecessary.

Fight Club Rules
1. You do not talk about fight club
Aside perhaps from trying to gain perspective and guidance from only your closest and most trusted confidants do not get caught up in the trap of bad mouthing you partner every time you have a disagreement.
Constant bad mouthing will create a negative and one-sided perception that you would not appreciate were the shoe on the other foot. After you’ve kissed and made up, your relationship may lose credibility in the eyes of your friends.

2. You do not talk about fight club AT ALL on social media
This really should go without saying but having witnessed couples having a go at each other whilst still together or shortly after having broken up, it warrants repeating.
Break-ups can be messy, emotional, and traumatic events for the couple going through a separation, yet are largely storms in teacups taking place in a land far away for bystanders and friends.
If you condemn your partner or ex on a public platform, prepare to be judged for every utterance, which can severely affect relationships with mutual friends. Always remember, when you fling mud, you’re likely to get some on yourself.

3. If Someone Says Stop, The Fight Is Over
No two people have the same temperament, tolerance levels and attention spans. To expect your partner to sit through an overly detailed account of everything they’ve been perceived by you to have done wrong can be exhausting. When tensions rise and you are nowhere near to resolving the conflict, you may need to take a break and calm down.
No one likes to be shouted at. No one likes shouting because they feel they are not being heard either. When it stops being constructive, take five (or fifty) minutes to breathe. Come back to resolve the issue when you are both calm. Be respectful of your partner’s desire to take a time out and conversely, don’t leave it for too long if you know your partner likes to sort things out and move on faster than you do.

4. Only Two People To A Fight
There are two people in the relationship, there should only be two people involved in any given argument. The moment you involve a friend or family member in your intimate relationship, things are going to get messy. If you are arguing about what a third party said or did, look at the incident in and of itself and put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
If someone close to your partner offended you, for example, speak to that person directly and do not take it out on your partner. If a friend says something that is unwarranted of your partner, have your partner’s back and do not undermine them because you want to put on a show for your friends. This will damage the trust aspect of your relationship in the long term.

5. One Fight At A Time
Multi-tasking is an illusion – so are 2-in-1 shampoos but that’s a story for another day. Give arguments the attention and closure they deserve to prevent them from rearing their ugly heads time after time. It is not constructive to dredge up long buried events, especially if you are using that event as a form of defence against a gripe levelled at you by your partner. That tactic is tantamount to emotional manipulation and has no place in a healthy relationship. It may be that you don’t like what your partner has said; however when we face the truth about ourselves and the effect our actions have on others, it can be painful. Put your pride in your back pocket and commit to working on your flaws as much as you would like your partner to work on theirs. If one person is doing all the compromising—which in fact is no longer compromising but sacrifice—it’s going to cause resentment and that is relationship cancer.

6. No Fists, No Weapons
Ever.
If you or someone you know is trapped in an abusive relationship, please contact one of the following organisations;
Lifeline South Africa’s National Helpline on 0861-322322
Stop Gender Violence Helpline on 0800-150150
POWA – People Opposed to Women Abuse on 083-7651235
Family & Marriage Association of South Africa on 011-9757106/7

7. Fights Will Go On As Long As They Have To
Though do whatever you can to prevent an argument lasting past bedtime. Take the time to listen to your partner. Too often we listen with the intent to respond and are busy formulating our counter argument before that person is finished speaking. This will cause undue frustration.
I once heard of a couple who fought over text message in different rooms of the house, so they did not shout at each other, talk over each other or have their children witness their spat. They did have some guidelines like one message at a time and at intervals of a minute. This may not work for everyone but find a method that helps you minimise fallout, as it were.

8. If This Is Your First Night At Fight Club, You Have To Fight
It’s much easier to lay down some ground rules for a fight before you actually have one. Some rules that I apply to myself are as follows;
Never use absolutes (pun intended) – No matter how valid your point, you will derail your entire argument by using absolutes.
Cruelty is unnecessary – In my experience, cruelty is only ever used to detract from a valid argument. Don’t fall into the trap. When you calm down you will likely regret having said something awful and you will be unable to take it back.
Afford your partner the same courtesies you seek – For instance, if you hate being spoken over, do not interrupt your partner. If you don’t like being sworn at, do not swear at your partner. If you expect your partner to change minor behaviours, you should be prepared to do the same.
Do not use accusatory language – Speak in the first person, say ‘I’ more than you say ‘you’ and try not to point. If you appear to accuse then your partner will go on the defensive and is less likely to listen to you.
Apologise when you are wrong – When you realise you are wrong, apologise, sincerely and do not use the words “I’m sorry” as some sort of fix all that you bandy about to get you out of trouble or the words become meaningless.
Make amends – If you have unintentionally hurt your partner and are sorry, make amends immediately. Find out what your partners love language is and make it up to them.

If you still find yourselves unable to navigate the stormy seas, you may want to enlist the help of a relationship counsellor.
Before you balk at the idea of therapy, take cognisance of the fact that your car needs fuel, oil, and regular services to keep it in good mechanical health. Your relationship is the same. You can take precautionary measures and stop problems before they start or you can address the problems when you encounter them. Long gone are the days where couples therapy was perceived as a failure or something to be ashamed of or laughed at. In fact, it demonstrates your desire to maintain and in many cases, improve your relationship.

You often hear it said that ‘all you need is love’ and I am not here to argue that. Love is essential but you need more than love to preserve your relationship and couples therapy is one of those tools that can help you do that.

The Narcissist Question

Write

“You sound like a bit of a narcissist.”

This was directed at me by someone who read my blog recently, someone who took offence to a past post. That this person turned out to be someone I knew is neither here nor there. I’ve never believed I was a narcissist but it’s been rolling around in my head enough to prompt me to explore it.

This is an autobiographical blog. I would hazard a guess that the vast amount of blogs on WordPress are of an autobiographical nature.
I use this blog as a tool to work through my experiences and considering that all other comments on this blog have been positive, I take that to mean that someone else out there is able to take what I have been through and perhaps use it.

If we look at the word itself, Wikipedia will tell you that ‘narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.’
I would say that hardly describes me but I’m honest enough to say that perception is subjective.

In any event, if my blog is to help me unpack things that have happened in the past, to analyse them and use what I’ve learned to be better, do better and keep from repeating the same mistakes, could I not just as easily have used a diary?
Diaries are private. No one else reads them and no one else takes offence because no one else is privy to what is contained in its pages.

A blog on the other hand is used to talk to an audience, and those who may believe they are the ones being spoken of don’t get to have their say to justify their position in your experience.

“I would not be concerned with the secrets, the lies, the mysteries, the facts. I would be concerned with what makes them necessary. What fear.”
— Anais Nin 

Using this quote from Nin is three-fold;

Firstly, it is far easier to lie to oneself than it is to lie to another.

Secondly, Anais Nin and her autobiographical diaries fell into complete disrepute and are now referred to as ‘the liaries’ which go to illustrate the fact that more often than not, we choose to remember things because of how we perceived them without doing enough to try to see the wood for the trees.

Thirdly, the reason I changed the names of all people involved is because it was never about those people. I was after the ‘why’, the ‘what’ that made the secrets, lies and ultimatums necessary. I don’t believe I have glorified myself or demonised others, again perception is subjective and I would welcome constructive feedback if this is not the case.

Further to this, I had accumulated a lot of baggage through from my pre-teen years right up to my late twenties and I was starting to self destruct. I took a lot of what happened in my earlier years, internalised it and concluded that it must have happened to me the way it did because I was not smart enough, not pretty enough, not genial enough, not funny enough or not caring enough.

It was during the short time I spent with my therapist that started the journey of self exploration and something ignited when I got an unbiased opinion from someone who could understand and translate the behaviours that my ex-husband and I were exhibiting, having met us both of course. I was no longer to blame for all of it.

I got to see things from an entirely different perspective and my journey thus far has been one of continued self exploration and the healing that comes along with that has been immense. Piece by piece I have been able to put myself back together without throwing up walls  – something entirely new for me.

~~~~~

Switching gears slightly at this point but this topic goes to the behaviour exhibited by the person who called me a narcissist.

If we look at the way men and women are taught to communicate you will see that women have historically not been encouraged to be honest by society. We are taught to use makeup, clothing and behaviour which forces us to walk a tight rope between two extremes. In the case of clothing; if we dress too conservatively we are prudes and if we dress too provocatively we are whores.

With regards to self-expression, we are to maintain a blank emotional canvas upon which men, (primarily and/or traditionally) can unload their own emotions, thoughts and desires.
Any deviation from this garners comments like ‘crazy’, ‘irrational’ and ‘hysterical’ and teaches young girls that their feelings are not valid or that we should be wary of them, lest they prove too much for a man to deal with which in turn makes us less desirable.

So women who write and who explore are pushing back against this accepted norm to the ire of both men and women. I include women here because they see those of us going against the grain as ‘tree-shakers’ forcing people out of their comfort zones and into introspection.
Some would go so far as to say that woman who explore are breaking new ground and to label someone as a narcissist simply because they choose to write of their own experiences is at best, banal and at worst, gas-lighting.
(This really is another topic all together and is something I am researching and will write on sometime in the future having had experience with this phenomenon).

If you don’t know it, gas-lighting refers to a form of abuse whereby the abuser attempts to make the victim doubt their own experiences, thoughts and emotions. This is most commonly used in relationships where, for instance, a husband will label his emotional wife “crazy” when she is upset over his behaviour, either real or perceived. Instead of addressing the issue together and working through it, the husband has forced his wife to go on the defensive, where he can negate anything she says that does not suit him by virtue of her being ‘irrational’ and/or ‘crazy’.
This also sets up a false reality that emotion and logic cannot co-exist and places the burden on the wife to prove that she is not crazy and that her emotions are valid.

This behaviour develops not because the husband actually believes his wife is crazy, but rather because she is upset which is undesirable. He  likely cannot deal with the fallout of his actions or that he is being made to feel like he has to answer to someone, either real or perceived.

I will, in time write about my own experiences with gas-lighting, how I dealt with it then, how I have learnt from those experiences and how I deal with it now.

In conclusion, I would assert that in the context of the word, who said it and their attempt at gas-lighting that no, I am not a narcissist.
Also I completed a few internet questionnaires and my results were astonishingly average and so based on that scientific assessment *tongue in cheek*, I can put this question to bed and move on.

Thank you for reading.

 

Do I Dare to ‘I Do’ Over?

204632376788718620_JibMNzYY_c

I have always believed in marriage. Perhaps for all the obvious reasons; the pinnacle of commitment, of love and a declaration to the world and to God of your promise to love, honour and cherish your partner. The cleaving of husband to wife, the creation of a family, forsaking all others, committing to love this one person, for as long as you live–or until things break down so irretrievably that you end up in the divorce courts.

It’s been a year since Mr M and I started dating and the inevitable mid to long-term future discussions have started to come up with more regularity. It is clear as day to me that I have met my lobster. The one person who is so well matched to me in so many ways, who is able to engage on emotional, intellectual and physical levels I have never before experienced. Having spent years in an emotional wasteland of a marriage with a partner who was unable to engage on an emotional level, Mr M has truly been a revelation. I will never be able to adequately put into words how deeply satisfying and rewarding this relationship is. All of the friends who knew me then and now have said that it’s been great to see me find someone who is ‘able to keep up’ with me, who is emotionally available, genial, funny and intelligent. Which is not to say that my ex was none of those things, just that Mr M is the epitome of those things.

I credit Mr M in large part with how quickly I have been able to truly move past some of my previous hangups and put down the baggage. I am living the adage: It is not time but love that heals.

I have been afforded the opportunity to bask in the warmth of a love that is honest, respectful and nurturing; indeed it is only when we trust and are trusted, that we feel secure enough to love with abandon. To let go of all desire to control, secure in the knowledge that by relinquishing control we afford love the opportunity to effloresce.

We have all seen those who try to tame, control, cage and trap. In some ways, we have all been that person at one point or another. Unsure of ourselves, insecure in our abilities, we tried to exert control in small or large ways in our own lives and in the lives of others. Oft times not borne out of a desire to subdue so much as a misguided attempt at showing how much we care and that we wanted the best for our partner.

For me, it took a divorce to grow my emotional intelligence. I did not get married to control but I believe I went about some things in the wrong way during my marriage, in my ignorance of what love truly is. However, as painful as it was I would not trade any of it because of who I have become as a result of that loss, the people and love I have gained as a result of the journey I undertook and the relationship I now delight in would not have been possible had I relented and had a baby. Indeed if I am honest with myself, my marriage would have ended regardless of having had a baby. I cannot, nor do I, speak for Gerald but I am sure that given space and time, he would look back and agree. The ultimatum to have a baby or get divorced was his way of trying to exert control. He is now involved with someone else and they have a baby. It seems he has everything he ever wanted, and I am truly happy for him. It is because of the love I had for him that I can admit that. I always wanted him to be happy, it just turns out he is happier without me and that is not the end of the world for me.

It is with all of this in mind that I consider what it is that I want out of a marriage and why it is so seemingly important and I believe that it’s the opportunity to do it over again and do it right with a partner who is as invested in the journey as I am.
I still believe in everything that marriage stands for, that hasn’t changed, but Mr M’s view on marriage is not the same as mine. He too is a product of divorced parents and views marriage more as an archaic institution that makes people lazy in their love. I can’t say I entirely disagree. I also have friends who see marriage as ownership. I’d go as far as to say that they don’t understand marriage in the same way I do but perhaps the converse it true of me, certainly it would be so from their perspective.

And so, it is with my desire to relinquish all control in mind, that I free myself from the need to be married, because it’s not a need at all. I do see myself married one day but if it doesn’t happen I ‘m not going to try and force that situation because it suits me more than it suits Mr M. I am certainly not going to sell the house because the light bulbs are not working.

As Mr M once said to me; A woman cannot change a man because she loves him, he changes himself because he loves her. And our love has changed us both, in many ways, for the better and for us, this is enough.

Thank you for reading!

I See My True Colours

Image

I saw this picture on the interweb and it struck a cord with me. It’s glaringly obvious that through your trials and tribulations the best and, of course, the worst in people will become evident.

What struck me though, is that the same was to become evident in me.

I was warned right in the beginning, just as the divorce wheels were set in motion, that people would pick sides. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come, both positive and negative. While the positive had me in awe, the negative stunned me to my core.

The greatest surprise was watching an eleven year friendship come to a sudden and abrupt end. All the laughter, tears, love and care that I had ploughed into this living, breathing entity, started to evaporate. Julia and Harry (not their real names) both of whom I had introduced to Gerald, decided to remain friends with him. I would never have expected them to suddenly cut him out of their lives, however this is exactly what they ended up doing but to me. I heard completely by accident of their attendance to parties and social gatherings at my ex’s house–which is categorically not what I was hurt by. I was hurt by the fact that Julia was not upfront with me. Because she did not volunteer this information, I immediately felt she was keeping it from me and all I felt at the time was betrayal. Something to note is that we stood up for each other at each other’s weddings. The chasm that opened up in me was massive and it quite simply, broke my heart.

On the converse, however, the two other friends I have, who I now consider my closest confidants and heroes, truly stepped up to the plate. I was afforded a safe place to unload, cry, make jokes about and mourn this loss. The strength, wisdom and candour of these women buoyed me to calmer waters where I was able to get perspective and differentiate the wood from the proverbial trees. Something I have battled with my whole life. This is one lesson that has stuck with me. Instead of getting embroiled in the details, there is much to be gained by taking some breathing space to assess the situation from a distance. Your perspective is much clearer and you are able to recognise your own role in what went wrong with any given situation. This may seem obvious to some but some things take others longer to learn.

It did help that I was distracted by a budding romance, pretty soon, in fact, after the divorce. Not to cheapen that relationship but for various reasons, it was not to be one that would last. We came from vastly different backgrounds, faith systems and race groups. Try as we did, the emotional weight of that relationship became too much for me to bear. At one point, I realised that relationships should not be 80% hard work and 20% smooth sailing. It lasted longer than it should have because I was determined to make a success of it. To prove–to whom I’m not sure–that I was not ‘the problem’. My expectations were probably unreasonably high. That’s a lie, they were too high.

I had just reached a plateau of my first real coming of age. I had learned so much about myself, pieced so many of my past experiences together, made peace with a vast amount of emotional baggage that I had been carrying around since childhood and was expecting him to be at the same level. He wasn’t. He also began to display some, shall we say, unpleasant character traits. In the end, he ended it, tried to reconcile but this time, I had the presence of mind to put myself first.

This is for me, the greatest lesson of them all. I am driven by intimacy, in relationships in particular. I will often self-sacrifice for a relationship, be it romantic or platonic, that is not symbiotic. I hold the relationship itself close to me and so wish for it to be meaningful, that I allow people too much liberty to take what they need. The end result is that eventually my reserves are so depleted that I end up depressed, wondering what is wrong with me and feeling altogether unfulfilled. The only person to blame for this is me. People take because of how much I give. It’s up to me to audit how much I allow people to take.

This learning curve and subsequent self awareness has allowed me to build new relationships that are far more nurturing and balanced, that allow me to lean back. I would like to say thank you to those people for showing me, truly, how colourful and beautiful life can be.

You don’t see it at the time, but what comes after the dark is the bright light of  a new dawn, a new chapter of promise and hope.

Thank you for reading.